Chicken Brined in Lapsang Souchong with Sumac Onion Confit
Serves 2-4. The number of people served will depend on the appetites of the diners and the size of the chicken thighs. Chickens thighs are getting bigger each year. The packages of thighs used to test this recipe include large thighs up to 9 ounces. One of these large thighs can be enough for one person.
Time requirement: Preparation and cooking the chicken will take about 45 minutes. However, make the brine 24 hours in advance so you can brine the chicken for 6-24 hours. Preparing the brine will take about 30 minutes.
The brine, what you will need:
1½ quart water at the boil.
3 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons loose leaf lapsang souchong tea.
2 tablespoon honey.
1 orange thinly sliced.
6 fresh thyme sprigs.
Bring the water to the boil in a 4-5-quart sauce pan. Add salt and tea to the boiling water. Boil 1 minute while stirring. Then turn off the heat. Add the honey, orange, and thyme and allow the brine to steep for 15-20 minutes. After the brine has stepped, add 1½ quart ice cold water. Place in refrigerator and chill. When cold add four chicken thighs. Leave them to brine for 6-24 hours.
Before you are ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the brine. Pat dry with paper towels.
To cook the chicken, you will need:
4 chicken thighs brined in the Lapsang Souchong brine, dried with paper towels.
1½ teaspoons ground sumac.
1 shallot minced.
1 garlic clove minced.
2 medium onions (5-6 ounces each) thinly sliced.
½ teaspoon salt.
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
1 ounce of raisins.
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar.
1 tablespoon water.
1 teaspoon za’atar.
¼ cup pine nuts or blanched almond slivers.
Warm serving plates.
Parsley for garnish
If desired, boiled rice to accompany.
Spray a non-stick 10-inch pan (which you can cover) with spray oil. Heat until the oil is beading and beginning to brown. Add the chicken thighs skin side down and cook for 4-5 minutes to get a nice browning on the skin. NOTE: because of the honey in the brine, the chicken may brown faster than you anticipate. Watch the chicken carefully. After it has brown on its skin side, turn the chicken over and cook 3-4 minutes on the second side. Remove the chicken to a plate and sprinkle with 1½ teaspoon ground sumac.
Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of rendered fat from the pan. (If there is less than 2 tablespoons fat in the pan, add some cooking oil.) Add the onions and turn the heat to low. Sprinkle the onions with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Cover the pan and cook the onions slowly over a low heat for 8 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium and add the shallot and garlic to the pan and cook for 2 minutes stirring the frequently so that the garlic and shallot soften but do not brown or burn. Add the 1-ounce raisins, ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon water, 1 teaspoon za’atar, and ¼ cup pine nuts. Now place the chicken back to the pan, skin side down. Cover the pan and cook an additional 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, turn the chicken skin side up and continue to cook covered for 8 minutes. If the pan appears dry at any time, add a little water a tablespoon at a time.
After cooking 8 minutes skin side up, remove the cover of the pan and test for doneness. The thighs are done a 175-180 degrees F. If they are not done continue to cook them. When they are done, remove them to a plate. Divided the onions between your serving plates and place the chicken atop the onion and serve. Garnish with parsley for some color.
I like to first place some boiled rice in the center of the serving plate and then add the onions and chicken.