It’s no secret in my circle that I love salt—I’ve been known to sprinkle Maldon onto potato
chips. So it was only a matter of time before I discovered the magic elixir more commonly known as feta brine: The salty, cloudy liquid in which hunks of feta cheese float.
At first I approached it tentatively, with a splash atop a Greek salad here, or a teaspoon poured into a marinade there. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I got hooked for real—the Melissa Clark chicken story certainly didn't hurt—but I can confess that I caught myself taking a little sip straight from the container last week. These days, I'm using it in everything from pots of brown rice, to tofu prep, to salad dressings.
To me, feta brine is perfect in every way. It's salty as all get-out, subtly creamy, and best of all,
already in my refrigerator. As a rule of thumb, you can use feta brine to intensify—and seriously
elevate—virtually any dish that incorporates feta, as well as many that don't.
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Here are a few of my favorite ways to make the most of it:
Time to Brine
Feta brine makes for a killer, well, brine.
And not just for whole birds—though I do love the Melissa Clark recipe for roast chicken that Kristen Miglore dubbed Genius. I use a similar but simplified technique on smaller pieces, too, to amp up the juiciness: Take the leftover liquid from a package of feta, and submerge a couple of chicken thighs (or breasts, or drumsticks) in a plastic bag or covered bowl in the fridge for a couple of hours, before patting them dry and preparing as you otherwise would.
As I've mentioned, salt-restraint is not my strong suit in the kitchen (she said, as she reached for a jar of capers to snack on). So if you've already guessed that I don't stop with meat, you're correct. I also love to use feta liquid to "brine":
Vegetables, before grilling or roasting—especially for slower-cooking produce, like whole carrots
Tofu, either cubed and left to "pickle" in a jar for a raw feta-like snack, or as a proper brine before pressing out the liquid and grilling, to get extra crispy tofu
Small pieces of sweet fruits, like halved cherries, for use in salads and grain bowls
Feta brine also does wonders to a pot of grains or legumes.
As a general rule of thumb, start by substituting 1/4 of your cooking liquid with feta brine, to get a feel for the flavor—then, you can titrate in more to your taste in subsequent batches. (I personally max out at about 1/2 brine, 1/2 water or stock.) Taste the cooking liquid before you get going to confirm, but it's likely you won't need to add any additional salt.
Wait, There's More!
When I don't have enough leftover feta liquid on hand to brine something for dinner, or to pull off a whole pot of rice, I'll use the dregs for:
Adding a splash to doughs, like for pizza, to contribute a little funk
Blending into feta as I'm whipping it for a dip to serve with crudite
Contributing saltiness and flavor to salad dressings
I'm sure I'm missing a few clutch uses—let me know in the comments or hotline! In the meantime, I'll be stocking up on more feta...
Now, For Using Up That Cheese
What do you do with your leftover feta brine? Let us know in the comments.
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.