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Q&A: The effect of brining chicken

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is said to be ill. His youngest son is poised to succeed him.

Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is said to be ill. His youngest son is poised to succeed him.

North Korea situation unclear

With the news that Kim Jong Il supposedly has pancreatic cancer, is there a chance Euna Lee and Laura Ling could be released if something should happen to him? Would his younger son be more inclined to release them if he took over?

Unfortunately, we know very little about the youngest son, Kim Jong Un, rumored to be in line to succeed his father as leader of North Korea, so it's hard to gauge how he might handle Washington's requests for the journalists' release.

However, given his youth — he's 26 — and apparent political inexperience, it's likely Jong Un would have a tight circle of hand-picked military and political advisers giving him guidance should he take over as leader. Those advisers are likely to ensure he sticks to the party line established by his father, leader Kim Jong Il.

A South Korean newspaper, the Dong-a Ilbo, reported last month that Jong Un is already overseeing the case of the two American journalists, who were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegal entry and "hostile acts." The Associated Press has not been able to verify the report.

The effect of brining chicken

I watch the Food Channel a lot and some of the food preparation for chicken calls for soaking it in a salty brine. They also tell you to put salt on eggplant and tomatoes to remove the moisture. Why doesn't it dry out the chicken?

The key is not the salt but the period of time exposed to the salt. The traditional trick for softening up firm vegetables or drawing out moisture has been a couple of dashes of salt. But brining requires an extended period — anywhere from two hours to several days — that causes a chemical breakdown within the chicken.

According to On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, brining liquid should be between 3 and 6 percent salt, about one cup of salt for every gallon of water. Kosher salt is preferable and dissolves faster, but table salt is fine. The chicken should steep in the mixture in a plastic bag, with the whole bird submerged.

The effect is twofold. The salt helps loosen muscle filaments, which makes the chicken more receptive to liquid. And the salt and protein in the muscle interact chemically to increase the meat's water-holding capacity.

The meat will become saltier but will also allow the permeation of other herbs and spices and often will require shorter cooking time. This makes for more tender meat. Besides poultry, brine can also be used in the preparation of fish and pork dishes.

'Worst Week' won't return

Can you tell me the status of Worst Week that was on CBS last season?

It wasn't renewed, but, according to the Web site tvshowsondvd.com, a DVD of the complete series will be released Sept. 8.

Q&A: The effect of brining chicken 08/02/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 2, 2009 5:30am]

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