This is not your ordinary roast chicken. Nope, this chicken is soaked in feta cheese brine, the liquid gold that Mediterranean-style feta cheese comes in. Based on the famous feta-brined chicken from Souvla in San Francisco, this version is perfect for the home cook.
Feta-brined roast chicken can now be yours, without a trip to San Francisco!
What Is Feta-Brined Roast Chicken?
Because I live in San Francisco, I am often asked by friends and visitors where to eat.
The problem is two-fold for me: First, the food in this city is excellent, and it can be overwhelming to pick and choose where to eat in the limited time that most folks visit. And second, because of what I do (develop recipes), I eat at home most of the time. When I do eat out, it’s not at fancy-pants splurge restaurants, but rather at more budget-friendly, unassuming places.
Right around the corner from my home is one such place: Souvla. Their salads and rotisserie meats are some of my favorites, especially for folks who don't have a lot of money to spare.
One of their most popular dishes is a rotisserie chicken that consistently sells out each night. But like I said, this is no ordinary rotisserie chicken; this chicken is marinated in feta cheese brine! The restaurant discovered that not only does feta brine make an excellent chicken brine, it's also great way to use the liquid from all the feta cheese the restaurant goes through!
The chicken is so excellent, in fact, that The New York Times wrote about it. I adore Melissa Clark’s home adaptation of the feta-brined chicken. She's the first one to try this at home with a roast chicken and homemade feta brine. This version is a slight adaptation of her recipe!
How to Make Your Own Feta Brine
Brining – which basically means to soak meat in a salt solution – insures that meat is moist and flavorful. Feta brine is also infused with the salty, savory flavor of feta cheese which, when combined with a lemon zest and oregano dry spice rub, adds a deep Mediterranean flavor to the roast chicken.
Most home cooks don't go through enough feta cheese to have enough brine for a chicken, but you can make a feta-infused salt brine with a blender. Just process salt, feta, and water together in a blender for the best brine you’ve ever made.
Why Dry Your Chicken? (Don't Skip It!)
It may sound fussy, but it’s important that you don't skip the step where you dry the chicken and leave it on the counter for an hour, which is well within the USDA food safety guidelines. (However, if your kitchen is unusually warm – above 90°F – reduce the time to 30 minutes.)
Drying the chicken ensures the skin becomes as crisp as possible when it roasts. I dry the chicken on a wire rack so that air can circulate around it and dry out the chicken as much as possible.
While you dry the chicken on the counter, you have the added bonus of bringing the chicken to room temperature. This allows the chicken to cook evenly and quickly. If you roast the chicken directly from the refrigerator, you run the risk of overcooking the outside before the inside is completely done.
How to Tell When Your Chicken Is Done
Once the chicken is brought to room temperature and dried, roasting it in a preheated oven should take 50 to 60 minutes. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should read 165°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, pierce the thigh with a skewer or steak knife. A properly cooked chicken’s juice should run clear.
Side Dish Ideas for Feta-Brined Chicken
I like this chicken served best on a bed of baby greens. The warm pan drippings and the feta wilt the greens slightly and make for an excellent dressing. But this roast chicken goes well with so many other side dishes! Try it alongside Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan, Roasted Baby Carrots, or Green Beans with Shallots and Pancetta.
What to Do With Leftovers
Store leftover chicken in the fridge in an airtight container or resealable bags. Reheat the chicken in a 350°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces.
More Delicious Roast Chicken Recipes
- The Best Dry-Brined Roast Chicken
- Smoked Paprika Roast Chicken
- Keller's Skillet Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables
- Honey-Glazed Lemon Roast Chicken
- Roast Chicken with Apricot Glaze
Feta-Brined Roast Chicken
- For the brine and chicken:
- 2 ounces feta cheese
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 cups water
- 3 1/2 to 4 pounds whole chicken
- For the spice rub:
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, Greek or Mediterranean-style preferred
- 2 large lemons
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- To roast and finish:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 5 ounces mixed baby greens
Make the feta brine:
Place the feta cheese, salt, and water in a blender. Process until the feta cheese has broken down into small bits and the salt is dissolved.
Brine the chicken:
Place the chicken in a large Ziploc bag or other container. Pour the brine into the bag or container and seal. If the chicken is not fully submerged, turn the chicken over once or twice during the brining time. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Dry the chicken, and bring it to room temperature:
When the chicken has finished brining, place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the chicken from the brine, letting as much of the brine drip off the chicken and back into the bag or container. Place the chicken on the wire rack and discard the brine.
Using paper towels, pat dry the chicken as much as possible all over. Let the chicken dry on the rack and come to room temperature for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 450°F:
Season the chicken:
Make the spice rub by combining the parsley, salt, pepper, and oregano in large bowl. Zest both lemons and stir into the rub. Slice the lemons in half.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil all over the chicken, then sprinkle and massage the rub into and all over the chicken skin. Place three of the lemon halves into the cavity of the chicken, reserving the fourth half for serving. Truss and tie the chicken legs together.
Roast the chicken:
Pour 4 tablespoons of olive oil into a large 12-inch cast iron skillet. Heat on high until the oil starts to smoke. Carefully place the herb-rubbed chicken, breast up, into the skillet, then place it in the oven.
Roast the chicken, basting once or twice, for 50 to 60 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F. If you do not have a thermometer, pierce the thigh with a skewer or a knife. The chicken is done if the juice runs clear.
Let the chicken rest:
After the chicken has finished cooking and you've removed it from the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes in the pan. While the chicken is resting, sprinkle the feta cheese into the pan juices all around the chicken.
When the chicken is ready to be served, place the mixed greens on a serving platter. Serve the chicken on the mixed greens with the pan juices and feta cheese drizzled all over the chicken and greens, along with the juice from the reserved lemon half.