Chicken breasts infused with a spiced lemon, sage, and honey brine retain their tender juiciness as the aromatics release during roasting. By cutting the breasts in half length-wise, the fragrant yet mild brine penetrates the meat without over powering its natural flavor.
Since a significant amount of the packaged meats that many of us use for sandwiches and salads contain nitrates or preservatives, I developed this recipe to help maintain a healthy diet throughout busy workweeks. Even the uncured organic sliced meats still contain natural preservatives, and I question the health benefits of meat cooked weeks ago that can stay ‘fresh’ in a package of plastic for over a month. This recipe takes only a little preparation and almost no time to cook, and the resulting juicy sandwich-sized cooked breasts are worth the time.
2 tablespoons lemon zest, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, gently toasted
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups cool filtered water
3 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless), cut in half length-wise
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Prepare the chopped lemon and sage, and place these ingredients in a gallon-sized plastic bag or large stainless steel bowl with the honey, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, salt, and black pepper.
2. Prepare the chicken breasts by placing them on a cutting board and cutting the breasts in half lengthwise, so that you have six breasts halves.
3. Place the breasts in the bag or bowl with the spices and seasonings, and turn them around in the container to distribute the ingredients.
4. Add the cool filtered water to the mix and close the bag. Shake the bag until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. If you are using a bowl, mix the chicken and brine with a spoon until all is distributed.
5. Place the chicken in a refrigerator for 48-72 hours.
6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil a large roasting dish with a generous amount of olive oil.
7. Pull the breasts from the bag or bowl, shake off the brine, and place them in the roasting dish. Add salt and pepper to taste before placing the chicken in the oven.
8. Roast the breasts for 12-15 minutes, or until they are just cooked through. The breasts will cook quickly, so it is important to check them often after the first 10 minutes of cooking. The flesh will be slightly pink because of the brine. Pull the breasts from the oven when they are still tender and just cooked through, with no rare pink flesh.
9. If you want to use them for sandwiches or salads throughout the week, allow the breasts to cool before you put them in the refrigerator. If you plan on consuming them immediately, garnish with a little fresh parsley, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and serve.
For meatless twist, try this brine with 1-inch slabs of tofu. The brining and cooking time for the tofu and chicken are the same, but I recommend adding another teaspoon each of salt, pepper flakes, and sage. Be sure to season the tofu with salt and pepper before you place it in the oven.
Instead of roasting the chicken breasts, try grilling them. Preheat the grill to medium-high, dry the breasts with a towel, oil the grates, and place the breasts at an angle on the grill. After 5-7 minutes, flip the breasts over so that they cook on the other side for another 5-7 minutes (I recommend not trying to crosshatch the grill marks—you most likely will overcook the breasts). Once the breasts are just cooked through, serve as specified in the final step.