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Old 11-04-2004, 03:53 PM   #1
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Help me troubleshoot this recipe

I am putting this post in the general questions area because it could fit into a number of different areas plus this one seems to get the most traffic.

I am hoping you guys can help me figure out what I did wrong. I made my baked chicken and leek risotto for dinner the other night. I have made this dish about four or five times in the past and it has always come out great. Well the other night it came out good, but the chicken was a little dry. I did a few things a little different this time around, but none of them should have resulted in dry chicken as far as I can tell. I will post the recipe at the end, but here is what I did different...

The recipe called for browning the chicken in oil. I usually use olive oil to do this, but this time I had some bacon fat leftover that I wanted to get rid of so I figured I would use that. I also did put in a touch of olive oil just for good measure.

I also brined the chicken, but usually my brine is just water and salt. This time I added sugar as well. I never measure my brine so I can't say exactly how much salt and sugar I used, but I can say that I used less sugar than salt. The chicken was in the brine for 2 hours (my usual for breasts).

I used more chicken then the recipe called for. The recipe calls for one breast. I had three that I wanted to use so I doubled the recipe, but used three breasts instead of two.

The last thing I did differently was that the recipe says to put a casserole in the oven while preheating, then brown the chicken in a skillet and then move it to the casserole. Well I just got a dutch oven so I figured I would just brown the chicken in that and then move the whole thing to the oven.

I do not think any of these things would result in dry chicken, and actually the brine should have made it more moist, but something went wrong. Does anyone have any ideas? Usually the chicken in this dish is super moist.

Thanks everyone. I am sure that if anyone will know the answer it will be someone here :)

OK here is the recipe:

Baked Chicken and Leek Risotto

½ tablespoon oil
½ leek, sliced thin
1 chicken breast, cubed
1 cup short grain rice
1/8 cup white wine
2 ½ cups chicken stock
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 tablespoon fresh thyme


1. Preheat oven to 300 and put a casserole dish with lid in oven to warm. Heat oil in saucepan over med heat. Add leeks and cook till soft.

2. Add chicken and cook, stirring for 2-3 min or until it gets some color. Add rice and stir to coat well. Cook another minute.

3. Add wine and stock and bring to boil. Pour into casserole dish and cover. Cook in oven for 30 minutes, stirring halfway thru. Remove from oven and stir in parmesan cheese and thyme.

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Old 11-04-2004, 04:02 PM   #2
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*ponders* Lemme check my copy of McGee when I get home. He has a section in his book "On Food & Cooking: The Art and Science of the Kitchen" on poultry and I believe he discussed reasons behind dry meat. I'll take a look and see what I can find when I get home.
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Old 11-04-2004, 04:21 PM   #3
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Thanks Weeks!
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Old 11-04-2004, 04:49 PM   #4
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Could be the chicken.
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Old 11-04-2004, 05:04 PM   #5
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too much chicken, not enough brine??
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Old 11-04-2004, 05:08 PM   #6
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I was wondering if it could just be the chicken itself. It looked like really good stuff though, but I do know that looks can be deceiving.

There was plenty of brine. I had them completely submerged with another 5 or 6 inches on top.
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Old 11-04-2004, 05:39 PM   #7
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GB, did you cook longer than usual? Or did you leave the dish uncovered in the oven? Those would be my two checks.
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Old 11-04-2004, 06:14 PM   #8
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Believe it or not I have never used a brine for my chicken. I should try it though. Do you do this only when the chicken has the skin and bone? Does it make the chicken taste salty? What percentage you you use water to salt?

Sorry, I know this is a basic for most people, but I never learned this process from anybody or any recipe.
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Old 11-04-2004, 06:35 PM   #9
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GB - I'm thinking it was not transferring the chicken from a skillet, but using the already well heated dutch oven that you browned it in? The pot was too hot? Was the whole dish drier than usual, or just the chicken? Did you maybe pre-cook the chicken a little longer?
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Old 11-04-2004, 06:47 PM   #10
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I know that this response will not be very helpful..but I dont think that you did anything wrong..I see no reason at all not to use the same pot for browning and cooking..infact I do it all the time...why wash 2 pots when you can wash 1?!

So if you did nothing wrong..what could the reason be for dry brined chicken?? We may never know! :roll:
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Old 11-04-2004, 07:13 PM   #11
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I do not have a clue, GB, except that the chicken was over cooked. When I cube/dice breasts I always undercook the chunks and let them finish in whatever sauce/gravy I am finishing with and they stay pretty moist. Hope you solve the dilema.

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Old 11-04-2004, 08:00 PM   #12
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hmm yea probably it was overcooked. i never really baked any meaty food before except lassanea or however you spell that and salmon wrapped in a puff pastry . I usually just pan cook all my food.
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Old 11-04-2004, 10:00 PM   #13
 
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Hi GB

I've read through this a couple times.

The sugar in the brine would not have made this difference, I think, the salt is holding in the fluids, the sugar is just adding flavour...

I would be suspicious of two things...the use of bacon fat and the pre-cooking in the Dutch oven...and equally suspicious of each...

Tho' some others may have a point, if you changed your chicken to say, previously frozen meat, or a different brand than you've used before, but I doubt this is the case...

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Old 11-04-2004, 10:21 PM   #14
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The smoking point of olive oil is much lower than animal fat. You probably overcooked it right at the beginning, and the rest completed the work.
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Old 11-04-2004, 10:54 PM   #15
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Off the top of my head (after scratching it for a while) - I would guess you were 1 Tablespoon short on oil, 1/2 - 1 cup short on moisture, and brining may not have been a great idea for something that cooks in such a short time in a stewing environment.

(1) Unles you had the oil at high fry temp - the chicken is going to absorb some of it .. well, even at fry temp there will be some oil absorption.

(2) When you add the rice to the hot oil ... it actually seals some of the starches on the outside of the rice and will reduce the amout of moisture the rice will absorb ... if you have absorbed more oil in browning the chicken and have less to seal the rice .. the rice will absorb more moisture.

(3) The way a brine works is by equilibrium - the cells in the chicken allow/draw in the salty water to try to balance the sodium content within the cells to equal that in the brine solution .. that also draws in extra water. But, when you are cooking in a liquid medium that is lower in sodium than what you have drawn in by brining .. the moisture moves out, unlike in roasting where the moisture tends to stay in.

The use of the Dutch Oven instead of a baking dish wouldn't make any difference since - in either case, you're bringing the mixture to about 212-F before you put it in the oven.

Of course, there is always the "gotcha" that I don't know ... maybe you normally use fresh chicken and this time you used some that had been in the freezer to 2 years ... ???

Let's go back to square one ... did you notice any difference in the rice, or just in the chicken?
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Old 11-04-2004, 11:48 PM   #16
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you know what, sometimes recipes just ****up.
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Old 11-05-2004, 08:36 AM   #17
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Heya GB, sorry it took so long to get back to you, but I couldn't find anything you'd done wrong EXCEPT what Micheal said in point #3 above. I still don't think that would be enough to kill the moisture in the bird to that extent, though. I dunno, dude! Ask over at eGullet! ;)
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Old 11-05-2004, 09:34 AM   #18
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Thanks for all your responses everyone! I really appreciate everyones input.

To answer a few questions that have come up, Other than the things I listed, I did not change my method in any other ways. The chicken was not frozen. It was the same brand I usually get. As a matter of fact I have made this dish before with brined chicken (minus the sugar in the brine) and it has come out very juicy. I even once did a test to see if we could tell the difference between brines and unbrined chicken. I made a double batch and used one brined breast and another non-brined. It was very obvious which chicken was which. My wife and I fought over the brined pieces and we were left with a pile of unbrined chicken at the end of dinner :)

The stovetop part of the recipe just calls for cooking the chicken until it gets a little color. All the pieces were still pretty raw when it went into the oven.

Right now I am leaning toward what marmalady said about not transferring to a casserole, but even that I have some reservation about since the casserole is supposed to be preheated with the oven anyway. The pot I am using is a Les Creuset so it does hold the heat very well, and this is a new pot for me. I have never even cooked in a dutch oven before Last week so there is a little learning curve I am going through. I will try this recipe again and use two different vessels next time to see if that changes anything.

I have also almost never really used bacon fat as a fat to cook in before so I am curious if that affected it as well. Lifter, you mentioned this might be the case. Why would the bacon fat (and I did add some olive oil as well) possibly cause this in your opinion? I am very curious about this point.

If I had not made this recipe before then I would guess that Michael's point #3 would seem to make a lot of sense, but since I have made it before with brined chicken, I am not so sure.

Thanks everyone. This has certainly been a great learning experience for me and if anyone has any other ideas I would love to hear them!

(Edited to add that I went to post this on eGullet as well to get some other opinions, but they have changed their site and now require anyone who wants to post to upgrade their membership and write an essay on why you should be allowed to post. This is a little too snobby for my taste. I don't feel I should need to prove myself just to ask a question.)
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Old 11-05-2004, 09:51 AM   #19
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Well I'm not an expert on this, but............the dutch oven may be an issue, the higher sides as opposed to the casseroles lower sides may be the culprit as well, but I don't think that the fat was the problem. And I agree it was more than likely just over cooked.
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Old 11-05-2004, 10:16 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PolishedTopaz
the dutch oven may be an issue, the higher sides as opposed to the casseroles lower sides may be the culprit as well.
The casserole I usually use is roughly the same shape and size as the dutch oven, just different materials.
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