Specialty of the House

CorrespondentNovember 24, 2012 

  • More information Sweet Tea-Brined Roast Chicken Twisted Fork 3751-170 Sumner Blvd., Raleigh 919-792-3535 thetwistedfork.com
  • Sweet Tea Turkey Brine 1 gallon unsweetened tea, divided 1 pound light brown sugar 1 cup kosher salt 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped 1/2 cup chopped garlic 1/4 cup whole black peppercorns 4 oranges, thinly sliced 2 apples, coarsely chopped 6 sprigs fresh rosemary 1 bunch fresh sage HEAT two cups of the tea, but do not boil. Add brown sugar and salt, stirring until completely dissolved. Add the rest of the tea, along with the onions, garlic, peppercorns, oranges, apples, rosemary and sage. Chill thoroughly (below 40 degrees) before proceeding. BRINE turkey for 24-36 hours, checking occasionally to make sure that temperature of brine remains below 40 degrees until ready to roast.
  • Sweet Tea-Brined Roast Chicken Fresh lemongrass can be hard to find. Look for it in Asian markets. To save time, purchase chickens already quartered. 1/2 gallon unsweetened tea, divided 1/2 pound (about 1 cup, packed) light brown sugar 1/4 cup kosher salt 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped 1/4 cup chopped garlic 3 lemons, thinly sliced 2 sprigs fresh rosemary 2 stalks lemongrass, coarsely chopped (optional) 2 whole chickens (about 4 pounds) quartered DAY 1: HEAT two cups of the tea, but do not boil. Add brown sugar and salt, stirring until completely dissolved. Add the rest of the tea, along with the onion, garlic, lemon slices, rosemary and lemongrass. Chill thoroughly (below 40 degrees) before proceeding. PLACE chickens in a 2-gallon zippered plastic bag. Add chilled brine and press out any excess air before sealing to ensure that brine comes in contact with all chicken surfaces. Refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours, and as long as 24 hours). DAY 2: HEAT oven to 350 degrees. Set a roasting rack in a rimmed baking sheet or large roasting pan. REMOVE chickens from brine, and give them a quick rinse to remove bits of garlic, onion and herbs. PLACE leg-thigh quarters, skin side up, on the roasting rack, leaving room for the breast quarters to be added later. Roast for 6-7 minutes. ADD breast quarters, wing tips facing up. Space quarters to allow air to circulate on all sides. Roast until a thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees in both the legs and breasts, about 25 minutes. Oven temperatures vary, so start checking after 20 minutes. Yield: 4 servings

I recently dined at the Twisted Fork in Raleigh and had the best dish ever – sweet tea chicken. How someone ever thought of combining the two loves of North Carolina – chicken and sweet tea – I will never know. But I am so thankful that they did. I don’t know how you collect your Specialty of the House recipes, but this would be at the top of my list to see in The News & Observer.

Anjelica Locklear


One of the Rocky Top Hospitality restaurants (a locally owned group that also includes Draft, Tribeca Tavern and the new Daily Planet Café in the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences), Twisted Fork will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. Key to the restaurant’s enduring popularity is a menu whose playful twists on American cuisine are matched by a dining room with a fun, family-friendly vibe.

Chef Monte Tunnell’s sweet tea-brined chicken is a prime example. A native of Eastern North Carolina, Tunnell got his culinary degree at Johnston & Wales and interned at 18 Seaboard in Raleigh.

The young chef went on to work at the acclaimed Print Works Bistro in Greensboro, where he found a mentor in executive chef John Jones. He credits Jones with the inspiration for a dish that has become a favorite at Twisted Fork.

“I stole it,” he said, quickly adding that he first got Jones’ permission to use the recipe.

Tunnell does give the formula a few tweaks of his own from time to time, among them omitting the lemongrass entirely. “I’ve found it doesn’t affect the flavor that much,” he said, in reassurance to home cooks who might have trouble finding the fresh herb in local markets.

In the spirit of the season, Tunnell also shares his variation on the sweet-tea brine for a holiday turkey. For anyone who just finished roasting a bird for Thanksgiving and would like to do something a little different with the Christmas turkey, it might just be the refreshing twist you’re looking for.

Specialty of the House gets recipes for local restaurant dishes. Send requests, including your name and city, to Specialty of the House, c/o The News & Observer or e-mail ggcox@bellsouth.net.

For a printable copy of the recipes, click the links:

Sweet-Tea Brine for Turkey

Sweet-Tea Brined Roast Chicken

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