You might think that salt water is the simplest wet brine—it’s just salt and water—but this one might be even easier: olive brine. While many wet brines rely on a slew of spices, herbs, and aromatics to become flavorful, olive brine is flavorful to begin with. It seasons the chicken throughout, helps the cooked meat retain moisture, and adds a deep savoriness.
Note: Because the brine itself is so salty, hold back on the salt throughout the recipe. Either season minimally or, if you’re sensitive to salt, brine for the shorter amount of time and skip the added salt entirely.
Pick a bread that you love—for me, that’s something sourdough and seedy—and leave the crusts on; these are naturally toasty and contribute bonus texture to the dish. And if you can’t find a premixed assortment of olives, feel free to swap in kalamatas. —Emma Laperruque
Watch This Recipe
Olive-Brined Chicken With Garlicky Croutons & Parsley
6 hours 20 minutes
bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
drained mixed (or kalamata) pitted olives, brine reserved
Extra-virgin olive oil
torn, bite-size bread chunks
large (or 3 small) garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Combine the chicken thighs and enough olive brine to cover them (1/3 to 3/4 cup) in an airtight bag or container. Brine in the refrigerator for 6 to 12 hours.
When you’re ready to cook, heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Pat dry the brined chicken thighs. Add a drizzle of oil to the skillet (just enough to thinly coat the bottom), followed by the chicken thighs, skin side down. Sprinkle the top with the tiniest pinch of salt (or, if you're not feeling salty, skip this).
Cook without moving until the fat has rendered and the skin is deeply golden brown and crisp, 15 to 25 minutes. You can rotate the pan and lower the heat if the skin begins to brown unevenly or too quickly.
Flip the thighs and sprinkle the olives around them. Continue cooking until the other side of the chicken is deeply golden brown and the meat closest to the bone is cooked through (165°F), 15 to 20 minutes more. Once the chicken is done, transfer the thighs and olives to a plate.
Still over medium heat, add the torn bread, toss in the fat, and spread into an even layer. Cook, barely stirring, until the bread is browned and toasty, 3 to 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and stir in the garlic and half the parsley. Nestle the chicken thighs back in the skillet and sprinkle with the rest of the parsley and a splash of olive brine.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.