Recipe: Feta-Brined Chicken Breast with Rosemary
If you think boneless, skinless chicken breasts can never be succulent and moist, consider this the cooking method that will change your mind. The secret is feta. Yes, that salty, tangy cheese that you crumble over your salads can actually be transformed into a salty, tangy brine for your meat with the help of your trusty blender. What it does to the chicken is almost magical. It not only flavors the meat, but also gives it juiciness, so as it roasts in the oven it still remains full of flavor, never growing dry. Add tons of garlic (a whole head, in fact), and fresh rosemary to the equation and the result is a Greek-inspired chicken breast dinner you’ll be cheering about.
A New Way to Bring Feta to the Dinner Table
Soaking chicken breasts in any kind of brine will prevent them from drying out when cooked, as the salty solution helps the meat absorb more moisture, but a brine made from feta cheese is particularly special. The Mediterranean cheese is blended with water to create a creamy liquid for the meat to hang out in. Not only does it act like a classic brine, but it also has the added benefit of having a tangy, fresh flavor from the cheese, which actually infuses into the meat. Although the chicken won’t cook up to taste overtly of feta, that complex flavor will linger in the background, leaving unknowing diners wondering just why their chicken breast tastes so different than all the others they’ve eaten in their lifetime.
Roasting the brined chicken with a whole head of garlic and plenty of fresh rosemary adds an extra aromatic layer to the dish. The best part may just be that while some of the garlic can be broken into cloves to nestle among the chicken breasts, the head is cut into two pieces and placed in the pan to roast, becoming soft and caramelized. The only thing that’s left to do before serving the meat is to squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of the papery shell and spread them on crostini to serve alongside your chicken dinner.
5 Ways to Bring the Flavors of Greece to Your Weeknight
- 4 cups
- 4 ounces
feta cheese (about 1 cup crumbled)
- 2 teaspoons
- 2 teaspoons
freshly ground black pepper
medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds total)
- 1 head
- 6 sprigs
fresh rosemary, cut or broken into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon
Crostini, for serving (optional)
Combine the water, feta, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.
Place the chicken breasts in a resealable plastic bag or container large enough to submerge the meat. Pour the brine over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Meanwhile, remove the chicken breasts from the brine, pat dry with paper towels, and place in a single layer in a baking dish or on an aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Let sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature.
If you'd like, break off a few cloves of garlic from the head, peel, smash, and scatter around the chicken. Cut the top off the remaining garlic head to expose the cloves, cut in half horizontally, then place the 2 pieces in the pan. Sprinkle the rosemary sprigs over the chicken, then drizzle with the oil.
Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breasts reads 165°F, 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove the chicken breasts from the oven, squeeze the juice from the lemon half over the chicken, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their peels onto crostini, if desired.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.