Is a ham or turkey just too much this year? Try this recipe for Apple Cider–Brined Roast Chicken from executive chef Mouhssine “Mousse” Benhamacht at Live! By Lowes in Arlington. Born in Teflit, Morocco, chef Mousse previously served as a sous chef at Spice Market under Jean George Vongerichten before taking the post of executive chef at Meraki Market in San Francisco. His apple cider vinegar–infused roast chicken combines sweet and sour in a succulent dish. For a simple side, toss sliced apples, sweet potatoes, and fennel with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss in the roasting pan with the chicken for the last half hour of cooking.
Apple Cider-Brined Roast Chicken
2 quarts water
2 cups apple cider
2 cups apple cider vinegar
6 bay leaves
1/4 cup whole peppercorns
2 cups brown sugar
3 cups of kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 whole chickens
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 head of fresh garlic
1 pound salted butter, softened
Freshly cracked pepper
Combine the water, apple cider, apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, and whole peppercorns in a large stockpot. Bring to a simmer on medium to high heat. Once the liquid starts to simmer, slowly whisk in the brown sugar and salt until both dissolve in the liquid. Remove pot from heat, add six lemons (halved), and let cool to 145ºF.
Transfer the brining liquid to a refrigerator-appropriate container. Submerge the chickens in the brine and add ice to ensure the liquid drops down to under 40ºF within a few minutes. Cover the container with a lid if possible and place in the refrigerator for six hours.
Remove chickens from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Fill the cavity of each chicken with half of the garlic head, one lemon cut in quarters, five cubes of butter, and eight sprigs of thyme. Place the chickens on a platter or tray and place back in the refrigerator for two hours to air dry.
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Brush the chickens with olive oil, and season thoroughly with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. Place chickens on a roasting rack and roast for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350ºF and continue to roast until the internal temperature of the chicken’s breast reaches 150ºF, about 30 minutes longer.
Remove chickens from the oven and rub butter on the outside of the chickens. Place back in oven and roast until chickens are golden brown and the internal temperature has reached 165ºF. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.