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Recipe: Beer-Brined Chicken

Dark beer adds a delicate richness to a dish of tender roasted chicken with a tangy sauce.

dish of chicken on potatoes, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Courtesy of Zy Restaurant
Photo caption
Salt Lake City's Zy Restaurant pairs its beer-brined chicken with skillet potatoes featuring green beans and bacon.

Beer-Brined Chicken, Skillet Potatoes with Beans and Bacon, and Grain Mustard Glaze
Zy Restaurant, Salt Lake City

Sometimes the best things happen by accident. Take the unusual name of Zy Restaurant, which rhymes with “pie.” When chef-owner Matthew Lake was trying to think of a name for his restaurant in 2011, he grew frustrated that his wife, an intellectual property rights attorney, kept vetoing every suggestion because it was already in use.

At wits’ end, Lake started typing the alphabet, got to the end of it, and accidentally mistyped a couple of letters. He liked what he saw. Fortunately, his wife did, too.

Lake’s beer-brined chicken started out similarly. He was experimenting with different ways to flavor and tenderize poultry, when he picked up a bottle of dark beer and had an aha moment. The beer-brined chicken not only stayed juicy during cooking, but it took on the maltiness and nuttiness of the beer.

“We think of dark beer as being very hearty and rich,” he says. “But when you cook with it, it’s actually very delicate tasting. It’s there, but it’s not hitting you over the head.”

The chicken marinates overnight. Lake uses two Mary’s Air Chilled chickens, but he says you can use any brand you like. Lake recommends asking your butcher to cut off the chicken breasts, then “french” them so they are semiboneless. Remove the legs and thighs as well. You’ll use those parts, too. Save the wing tips and bones to make soup or stock.

The glaze can be prepared the day before. You can blanch the green beans ahead of time and boil the potatoes the day before, too, making it an ideal dish for entertaining.

Lake serves the chicken on a bed of crisped smashed potatoes with a piquant mustard-seed glaze. It’s a dish that’s comforting enough to appeal to unadventurous eaters yet has just enough edge to win over diners looking for something a little different. The perfect accompaniment: frosty mugs of dark beer.

Beer-Brined Chicken, Skillet Potatoes with Beans and Bacon, and Grain Mustard Glaze
Serves 4
Adapted with permission from the recipe by chef Matthew Lake of Zy Restaurant

For the chicken:
2 whole chickens, about 2 ½ pounds each, legs and thighs removed and breasts frenched
1 bottle (12 ounces) good-quality dark beer
½ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons whole yellow mustard seeds
2 whole star anise
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons kosher salt

For the mustard glaze:
2 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 shallots, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
2 quarts chicken stock
¾ cup veal demi-glace (available at gourmet markets)
Salt to taste

For the smashed potatoes and green beans:
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled
1 bunch scallions, green parts only, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 slices bacon, chopped, then sautéed until crisp
6 ounces green beans, trimmed and blanched

To prepare the chicken:
In a large nonreactive bowl, combine the beer, maple syrup, peppercorns, mustard seeds, star anise, garlic, bay leaves, and salt. Stir to incorporate. Add the chicken pieces, making sure they are submerged. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

To make the mustard glaze:
1. Place the garlic cloves in a small, dry sauté pan on medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic cloves soften. Remove the cloves from the heat, allow them to cool, then remove the skins and mash the garlic.

2. Place 1 tablespoon of the canola oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, carrots, and mustard seeds. Cook until the mustard seeds are lightly toasted. Add the mashed garlic, chicken stock, and demi-glace. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Continue cooking until the sauce is reduced, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and keep warm.

To cook the chicken:
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove the chicken from the marinade and drain well. Discard the marinade.

2. Place the chicken pieces, skin side up, in a roasting pan with a rack. Roast for about 15 minutes or until cooked through, turning the pieces halfway through the cooking. Remove the chicken from the oven and set it aside to rest.

To make the potatoes and serve the dish:
1. In a medium pot of salted boiling water, cook the potatoes until tender. Drain them, place them in a bowl, and smash them with a potato masher until flattened. Fold in the scallions and season with salt and pepper.

2. Place the 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a cast-iron pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the potatoes, allowing them to brown and crisp up. Add the sautéed bacon and blanched green beans. Continue cooking until everything is warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

3. Divide the potato-and-bean mixture among four plates. Top with a leg and thigh. Cut the breasts in half and place a half-breast on each plate. Spoon on some of the mustard glaze and serve immediately.

This article was first published in April 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.