Brining: Not Just for Thanksgiving Turkeys

Brining chicken, pork, and of course, turkey, for a few hours prior to cooking adds lots of flavor, shortens the cooking time and helps your protein retain its moisture.  You just have to plan ahead. 

My method is the lazy way – I don’t bring it to a boil on the stove, and I usually only use kosher salt and sometimes garlic power. 

First thing in the morning or the night before, fill a large re-sealable plastic bag with water and about one to two tablespoons of kosher salt.  Close the bag and swish it around to dissolve the salt.  Add your protein.  As a safeguard against spillage, put the bag in a large bowl and then refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  Take the protein out of the brine and thoroughly dry it before cooking. 

Did you know you can brine shrimp?  I know - they seem briny enough.  But a 15-20 minute soak in equal parts salt and sugar for unpeeled raw shrimp really brings out their flavor. 

I have always loved shrimp.  One of my favorite birthday memories – I was seven or eight – was going with my mother and grandmother to Stewart’s Tea Room (a department store in downtown Louisville, KY) and ordering my usual:  Shrimp Cocktail and Benedictine Sandwiches.  Now I make shrimp cocktail in the broiler – way more flavor! 

For Shrimp Cocktail for four carefully split 16-20 large raw shrimp down their backs with a paring knife to devein, keeping the shells intact. 

Brine in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes in about a gallon of water, mixed with ¼ cup each sugar and kosher salt. 

Dry thoroughly on paper towels and broil in the oven for about a minute or so per side, turning halfway through. 

When you take them out, throw them in the freezer for about two minutes to stop the cooking process.  Then refrigerate them until they are nicely chilled before serving.

I use Matheny’s cocktail sauce that I get at Gelson’s but I “doctor it up” with additional prepared horseradish and lemon juice – or make your own.  When serving, you can peel them at the table or pre-peel them, which is what I prefer to do.

These shrimp are an excellent replacement for chicken for my Hail Caesar salad recipe in Salad Joy.