Massachusetts Pickles Get A Second Act As Brine for Chicken Cutlets

The best pickle I ever had was on the street in New York City. By that I don't mean that I picked a pickle off the pavement and down the hatch it went. But I did consume this pickle under what some might consider dubious circumstances--a vendor on an Alphabet City sidewalk who had a few buckets of full and half sours in some coolers under a pop up tent. Just a cardboard sign; not much to give the set up much of an air of officiality. But that sour pickle--it was perfect. 

Given my predilection for tangy flavors, sweet bread and butter pickles are not usually my thing. So it must have been the "spicy" descriptor in Root Cellar Preserves' Sweet and Spicy pickle blend that caught my eye on the grocery store shelf. Once I realized that they were locally made in Eastern Massachusetts, into the cart they went. 

These beauties were a hit in my house almost immediately. They are magnificent cheese plate accompaniment. They are a wonderful palate cleanser after a heavy meal, and are my go-to snack when I can’t decide what I’m hungry for. Not too sweet, not blow-your-head-off spicy, they hit that perfect middle C. So good, in fact, that I couldn’t part with the brine. 

It must be the New Englander in me to not want to waste something that could be useful (especially in the kitchen). So I kept consolidating jars of Sweet and Spicy brine until I filled up an entire jar. 

N., my partner, has long used the brine from feta cheese as a meat marinade (think chicken souvlaki). He’s the one who put two and two together after we learned that a certain company famous for it’s chicken cutlets brines their meat in pickle juice. I think he was happy to just get another jar out of the back of the fridge. 

chicken breasts in pickle brine

So into the drink they went. I brined the chicken breasts for about 4 hours and I probably could have gotten away with less. From there I followed a typical cutlet recipe: pound thin-ish then alternating baths of flour, egg, and seasoned breadcrumbs. 

Chicken Cutlet assembly line

Since it was one of those perfect early summer evenings (and N. had brought home a Provencal rosé from the package store) I whisked up a quick citrus butter sauce with capers and homemade preserved lemons to drizzle on top of the cutlets and steamed broccoli. 

Homemade preserved lemons

The chicken was juicy and tender with a subtle spicy sweetness. The extra step of the brine was definitely worth the forethought. 

Sweet and spicy brined chicken breasts with lemon butter caper sauce

I’ve heard that the pickle brining method works great with fried chicken as well. And though I’ve been a little afraid to plunge into deep frying, with the help of America’s Test Kitchen’s Online Cooking School, my plan is to give that a whorl later this summer. Guess I’ll need to stock up on more Sweet and Spicy pickles before then.

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