The Mailbox: Chicken soaks up flavor from tea

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Sweet tea-brined chicken

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Brent Bombola of Rocklin enjoys cooking on his outdoor grill. He heard about a chicken recipe where the chicken was marinated in tea. He was hoping for a recipe.

Tom Harry of Rancho Murieta had sweet tea-brined chicken at Crossroads Chapel Hill, inside the Carolina Inn, which is on the University of North Carolina campus. He wanted to make this dish himself at home and found this recipe in the May 2011 issue of Southern Living magazine. Harry has made it many times and says it’s a good match for the Crossroads dish.

Harry prefers using chicken legs, thighs and wings in this recipe. He likes to cook the marinade mixture until the onions soften a bit to release the flavors of the marinade ingredients before stirring in the ice.

Note: The prep time does not include the cool time for the marinade or the 24-hour marinate time for the chicken.

2 family-size tea bags (or 6 regular-size tea bags)

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 small, sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 lemon, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, halved

Two 6-inch fresh rosemary sprigs

1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper

2 cups ice cubes

One 3  1/2- to 4-pound cut-up whole chicken

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan. Add tea bags. Remove from heat, cover and steep 10 minutes.

Discard tea bags. Stir in sugar, salt, onion, lemon, garlic, rosemary and pepper, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cool completely (about 45 minutes); stir in ice. Mixture should be cold before adding chicken.

Place tea mixture and chicken in a large zip-top freezer bag; seal. Place bag in a shallow baking dish and chill 24 hours. Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade. Pat chicken dry with paper towels.

Light one side of grill, heating to 300 to 350 degree (medium) heat, leave other side unlit. Place chicken, skin side down, over unlit side, and grill, covered with grill lid, 20 minutes. Turn chicken, and grill, covered with grill lid, 40 to 50 minutes or until done. Transfer chicken, skin side down, to lit side of grill. Grill two to three minutes or until skin is crispy. Let stand five minutes before serving.