This recipe makes enough brine for 4 chicken breasts. Double the amount if you are making more.
The mashed potatoes serve four but can easily be doubled up or halved.
I like to buy my chicken directly from the butcher. There are many reasons to buy your meat directly from a butcher or at the farmer's market, one of them being unbeatable freshness. For this dish I usually get boneless breasts that still have their skin and the wing tip. I make this dish with chicken breasts because I like the onions better this way. They still glisten in schmaltz but come out less greasy than with dark meat. You can use any part of the chicken you prefer, but stick with either all breasts, thighs or legs so your roasting time is even. Regardless of what you choose they need their skin still on.
You'll need 1-2 pieces of chicken per person. I like to roast extra. You may also want to. Left over onions and chicken are particularly good as an open-faced sandwich on crusty bread.
1-2 pieces of chicken with their skin still on, per person
2-3 large onions
For the brine:
1/2 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups water
2 cups of ice
4 cups of water
For the mashed potatoes:
1 cup Kosher salt
6 large potatoes
2 cups whole milk
1 cup of heavy cream or one more cup of milk
2 stick unsalted butter
To make the brine:
Heat 2 cups of water, the sugar and the salt in a small sauce pan. The sugar helps tenderize the meat and the salt seasons it. Once the sugar has dissolved remove the pan from the heat and add the ice. Let this mixture cool completely in the fridge.
Brining the chicken:
When it comes time to brine put your chicken in a large ziplock bag or bowl, add the cold concentrated brine and four more cups of water. Let the chicken rest in the brine inside the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour and a max of 4.
Roasting the chicken:
About 20 minutes before you roast your chicken remove it from the refrigerator and take it out of the brine. Toss the brine and pat your chicken dry with paper towels. Let your chicken lose its chill for about 20 minutes before you roast it.
In the meantime preheat oven to 400°.
Peel 2 of your onions. Slice them in half. Quarter the half and then slice those quarters one more time. Essentially you are cutting each half of the onion into eighths. You want your slices to be about a 1/2 inch thick so they cook through at the same time as the chicken. Place them in a single layer on your baking dish. If you need more, slice another onion. Lightly sprinkle them with kosher salt (about 1 1/2 teaspoon).
Place your chicken on top of the onions and roast it for about 40minutes. The exact time will depend on your oven and whether you chose breasts or legs. The internal temperature of the chicken should be 165°. If you don't have a thermometer another indicator that your chicken is done is if you see clear chicken jus soaking the onions.
When your chicken is done pull it out of the oven and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes.
To make the mashed potatoes:
The key to great mashed potatoes is boiling the potatoes in more salt than you'll think is right. Potatoes are salt thieves. If you don't salt them properly from the start you will never be able to make them taste right at the end.
Rinse your potatoes first, then place them in a larger pot with their skins still on. Add the salt and cover them in water.
Boil your potatoes until you can pierce them with a fork (about 20 - 30 minutes).
Drain them and let them cool for a few minutes, but you'll need to start working with them while they are still kind of hot. Slip the skins off. They should peel right off. Use an old clean kitchen towel if you need to.
Next break them up a bit and either mash them up or rice them into a medium bowl. If you want a really smooth mash you'll need a ricer. In my book it's worth the kitchen space to have one, and I live in a tiny NY apartment.
Warm your milk, heavy cream (if using) and butter. You want the butter to melt and the edges of the milk to simmer but do not bring it up to a boil. It will make a mess, and if you burn your milk the potatoes will not taste good.
Stir the milk and butter bit by bit into the potatoes. The potatoes will tell you just how much of the dairy they need. You may need to add a splash more or hold back bit. Add a little more salt if you think it needs it, but they should be perfectly seasoned thanks to that cup of salt.