Boiled peanuts are enjoyed by millions of Southerners every year. Some people buy them from road side stands. But, plenty of people boil them at home in gigantic pots filled with a super salty brine that, sadly, gets poured down the drain after the peanuts are all eaten. But instead of being wasted, that same peanut brine can be reused to make a most fabulous chicken brine. The results are amazing! Seriously. Perfect, delicious chicken.
My smart significant other came up with this idea a few days ago as we were cleaning up after our annual peanut boiling/canning. We had already poured out much of the brine, when he stopped and asked, “Why don’t we use this brine for chicken?” It was the best idea he’s had all year. I immediately pulled a package of chicken quarters from the freezer.
If you have never brined chicken, you are really missing out. Whether baked, fried, or smoked; chicken is more tender and delicious after soaking in a brine. Chicken brine is usually salty and a tad bit sweet. So? The liquid left in the boiled peanut pot is perfect.
To try out our peanut brine idea I made super simple crusty baked chicken thighs. I’m sure peanut brine fried chicken would be sensational. But, the tender thighs that came out of our oven were just as delicious and moist as the best fried chicken. Not surprising, in retrospect, as the best fried chicken is usually fried in peanut oil. The flavors really go together.
The method and recipe for this chicken is super simple. I added 4 ingredients to the brine, but those ingredients are optional.
4 quarts cooled brine leftover from cooking boiled peanuts
1/4 cup brown sugar dissolved in 1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 lbs chicken parts (bone in with skin on)
1 tablespoon additional garlic salt (ie. not for brine)
1 tablespoon additionalmarjoram (ie. not for brine)
3 tablespoons olive oil or lard
Add paprika, thyme, black pepper and dissolved sugar to the cooled boiled peanut brine.
Add the chicken to the brine and cover. Let it chill in the refrigerator for 6-10 hours, but not much longer.
Remove the chicken from brine and pat it dry with paper towels. This step is crucial. If it is not dry it will not sear properly and the skin will not get crispy.
Rub garlic salt and marjoram on all sides of the chicken.
Preheat oven to 400 °F.
Heat oil in a large cast iron or heavy skillet over high heat.
Sear chicken parts in the hot skillet For 2-3 minutes on each side, skin side down first. To avoid crowding the skillet sear the chicken in small batches. Save any drippings left in the pan for chicken gravy if you are going to be serving this delicious chicken with rice or potatoes.
Place the seared chicken on sheet pan.
Bake skin side up at 400 °F for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of your chicken parts.) Average sized bone in thighs are perfect at around 35 minutes. The skin should be crispy and golden brown. The internal temperature should reach 165°F.
Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes. That should give you the perfect amount of time to make gravy or set the table.
The only way I think this could have been better is if it was soaked in the brine from our Cajun boiled peanuts, and we will find out when we open a jar of them. Now that I have tried this amazing brined chicken, I will be saving every last drop from our jars of home canned boiled peanuts for this use.