Sunday, November 27, 2011

Salt Crusted Chicken

Salt Crusted Chicken...
you can try this at home!!
A few months ago our family was watching a cooking show on PBS and the chef was making different foods in his outdoor, wood burning stove/grill.  Interesting!  Midway through the show he started making Salt Crusted Chicken.  Fascinating!  We couldn’t stop watching.  He basically covered the entire chicken with a thick layer of salt, and then put it in the oven to bake.  Really!!  It was riveting!  The salt was supposed to harden in the oven while baking, sealing in the flavors of the chicken.  We couldn’t wait to see how that chicken turned out.  After he pulled it out of the oven he cracked open the salt shell, and…the chicken looked amazing!  The skin was crispy, and the chicken looked incredibly juicy.  So cool!  I knew at that moment that was something I was definitely going to try in the future…once I found the courage!  A while later, I was reading one of my “Chicken” cookbooks and came across a similar Salt Crusted Chicken recipe.  It didn’t seem all that complicated, a little scary because of the massive amounts of salt needed to make the recipe, but not that difficult.  I decided that the perfect time to try out the recipe was the week that we read the Torah portion Vayera, about Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt.  With that plan I put the recipe aside, ready to make it when the time came.  As it turned out, the week that that Torah portion was read turned out to be the week I was in New York for Kosherfest…rats.  So I came up with a new plan – I made the Salt Crusted chicken the first week possible...which was this week!

I was a little nervous (read: a lot nervous) about how the chicken was going to turn out.  Kosher chicken is notoriously salty, and here I was adding more salt!  This had the makings of a potential disaster written all over it.  A friend of mine stopped by while I was making it and she looked at me like I was crazy, packing the chicken in a layer of salt!  It was either going to be really good or really bad. 

The salt crust hardened beautifully in the oven.  I have to admit I was very anxious about breaking the salt off of the chicken.  The recipes I read online also said to remove the skin from the chicken.  I wasn’t sure what I would find or how it would taste when the salt crust was removed…

Ironically, over Shabbat, I happened to pull out the December issue of Bon Appetit and guess what I found on page 110…Salt-Roasted Chicken!  Great minds must think alike!!  They even discuss it in their “Prep-School” section of the magazine.  The major difference is that they used a lot more egg whites with the salt (12 egg whites to 7 cups of salt – the article said that they recommend a 3 ½ : 1 ratio of salt to egg white) and the magazine used kosher salt instead of coarse sea salt.  Unlike my recipe they also roasted the chicken uncovered.  I think the combination of more egg whites and roasting uncovered made for a browner, stiffer salt shell – but I’m not sure that it made much of a difference in the overall result of the chicken.  According to the article the salt “locks in moisture and insulates it from direct heat”.

The outcome of our Shabbat Chicken?  It was great!  The chicken was incredibly tender and juicy, and not really salty, unless you got a piece of chicken that had a stealth salt granule that I missed when clearing off the salt shell.  While making the chicken, I wondered if there would be a difference in the flavor of chicken roasted using my oven’s “convection roast” mode and chicken with a salt crust.  In the “convection roast” mode air seals the outside of the chicken, and with the Salt Crusted version the salt seals the outside of the chicken.  They actually were very different, which I didn’t expect.  Both are incredibly juicy and flavorful but in different ways.  The convection chicken tastes more “roasted” and the salt chicken is just incredibly moist and flavorful.

All in all, this was an incredibly cool experiment.  I have to imagine that people in Lot’s time, who lived right near the salt filled Dead Sea, probably made this type of chicken a lot!  The Bon Appetit article said that you could even make fish this way…we’ll see…stay tuned….

Salt Crusted Chicken
Note:  Use at least 2 egg whites for this recipe.  You can use more if necessary.  You want the salt to be moist and “snowlike” in order to properly pack around the chicken.
1          3 to 4 pound    chicken, washed then patted dry
7          cups                 coarse sea salt
2          large                 egg whites (or more if necessary)

Preheat oven to 375° F.   Line a baking dish with a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil.

Place the salt in a large bowl.  Add the egg whites and mix until thoroughly combined.  Place some of the salt on the bottom of the pan.  Place the chicken on top of the salt, then completely cover with the moist salt – tightly packing the salt around the chicken.  Tightly cover the chicken with the foil, then bake for an hour and a half.  Remove chicken from the oven and open the foil.  Let rest open for 10 minutes.  Break open the salt shell.  Say a little prayer that the chicken turned out, then remove the skin and serve.

 The ingredients...
Pack the chicken in salt...really!
The crust hardens...
I broke it with a kitchen mallet!
The yummy chicken inside!
It's SO juicy!!
That's a LOT of salt!!
Can't wait to eat's so good!!

Kosherfest product of the Week - Pistachio Chewy Bites from Setton Farms

 Healthy Snacks                                                                             As I was leaving the house one day this week, I was trying to decide which of the amazing products to write about and also trying to decide what type of snack to grab on my way out.  When I thought of the all natural Pistachio Chewy Bites from Setton Farms – I had the answer to both my questions.  They are delicious and nutritious!  They are made with over 50% pistachios, moist antioxidant cranberries, low glycemic agave nectar, and as they advertise – light and chewy.  I think they are incredibly delicious and a perfect grab & go snack.  Hopefully they are going to be available in stores soon – here is the link on

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