You could make this without brining the chicken, but it elevates the flavour, seasons consistently and increases the moisture content of the flesh, making the meat incredibly succulent. It's also quite a forgiving method if you overcook the bird a little. Roasting the sprouts gives them a delicious, nutty character, which works beautifully with the sweetness of the honey.
200g table salt (non-iodised)
2.5 litres water
1.6kg (size 16) chicken, preferably organic free-range
8 slices pancetta, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic
1/2 white onion, finely diced
5 slices sourdough rye, toasted or grilled and rubbed with a garlic clove
1 handful parsley leaves, chopped
4 sprigs thyme, picked
40g grana padano, finely grated
200g creme fraiche
75ml white wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
50 brussels sprouts, trimmed
4 tbsp honey
1 tsp celery seeds
1. In a non-reactive container that will fit the bird reasonably snugly, completely dissolve the salt in the water. Submerge the bird in the brine, making sure the cavity fills with liquid. You can weigh the bird down with a plate to keep it submerged, and if you need more liquid simply add more water with dissolved salt (keeping the same ratio). Refrigerate overnight or for at least eight hours. When ready to cook, remove from the brine and dry well with a paper towel.
2. Preheat your oven to 180C fan-forced or 200C conventional.
3. Fry the pancetta for about two minutes in a pan over high heat. Add the garlic and onion and fry for about three minutes or until softened (you can add a splash of oil if the pancetta doesn't render out enough fat).
4. Put the pancetta mixture into a bowl. Roughly tear in the bread and add the parsley, thyme, grana padano, creme fraiche, vinegar and some pepper (you won't need salt) and combine well with your hands. Fill the cavity of the chicken with the stuffing and truss the legs together. Season the skin with pepper but no salt, rub with oil and place in a dish with enough space around it for the brussels sprouts. Roast for 40 minutes.
5. After 40 minutes, toss the sprouts in a little oil, season and scatter around the bird. Roast for another 35 minutes. Drizzle the honey over the sprouts and scatter over the celery seeds and cook for a further 10 minutes. Rest the chicken for 10 minutes before carving and serve with the stuffing, sprouts and juices from the pan.
1. Always use a non-reactive container for brining, such as food-grade plastic, stainless steel, ceramic or glass (never use aluminium).
2. Dissolving the salt in cold water isn't always that efficient, so just stir the salt through some warm water before adding cold.
3. You could use mascarpone in the stuffing instead of creme fraiche.