The Briner


My sister-in-law and I share a serious love of cooking, so her gifts are always spot on. For my birthday she sent me something really unique, called “The Briner.” It’s a large, plastic container designed for brining meat.

As you can see in the below right photo, there is an inside “lid” that holds meat down inside the container and keeps it submerged in the brine. It’s ingenious!

To quote from The Briner website, this patented product “resolves the #1 challenge to successful brining – floating food! Simple design, easy to use, easy to clean, works great.”

Previously, I’d used my largest, deepest pot for brining, and had to stack heavy plates on top of the meat in order to keep it from floating, especially the few times I brined a whole turkey or chicken.

Not being an expert briner, I looked to Paul from That Other Cooking Blog, who is obviously a proponent of brining. I’ve followed Paul for years now; his blog is also a great resource for sous vide cooking. Plus, his professional photography is featured in a cookbook entitled, “The Essential Sous Vide,” published in 2016.

Isn’t that one gorgeous photo on the cover??!!

So I asked Paul some basic brining questions. In a nutshell, here’s what he said.

“Everything is brinable.”

Paul said a lot more than that – he’s quite generous with his knowledge, but that’s the gist of what he said. And I guess, why not?!!

He also brines and then uses his sous vide. That almost hurt my brain to think of how exceptional protein could turn out with everything going for it!

And again, why not?!! So I decided to brine with The Briner, and sous vide a pork loin chunk.

Those of you who don’t own a sous vide machine, I highly recommend you look into one.

This is the model I own. (above) It’s half the size as the commercial sous vide, less expensive, and perfect for a small family.

To me, it’s an essential appliance, especially for tough cuts – brisket, flank and hanger steaks – and easy-to-overcook cuts, like pork and chicken.

Here’s what I did for the brine.

1 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
8 cups water
1 1/2 pound pork loin
2 oranges, quartered
1 onion, quartered
A few smashed garlic cloves
Bay leaves
Star Anise
Some crushed juniper berries

Using a large pot, combine the salt and sugar with the water and heat until dissolved. Set aside the pot to let the mixture cool.

Place the pork loin in The Briner, or a large pot. Pour cooled brine over the top.

Add the remaining ingredients, squeezing the orange pieces a bit into the brine.

If the meat is not covered by the brine, add some more cold water.

Then add the lids to The Briner, place in a cool place like a cold garage or refrigerator for 24 – 48 hours.

After brining, rinse the pork, and dry off well.

Vacuum seal the loin and keep chilled until the sous vide is ready. You can season the pork, add more herbs, and even add butter to the pork before sealing, but I did not.

Preheat the sous vide to 135 degrees. The pork will be done after 12 hours. Plan according to whether you will be removing the pork and immediately browning it and serving it, or if you plan to refrigerate it overnight first.

Here’s what it looks like after the sous vide process.

Brown the pork in a little oil, seasoned with a good garlic pepper or seasoning of your choice. You can brown the whole chunk of loin, but I decided to slice it into serving pieces first.

Honesly, the pork is ready to eat after the sous vide’ing, but most people are put off by pink pork!

I served the pork with a creamed spinach.

Then I tasted the pork. Oh my.

I tasted the brine ingredients!

I could taste the onion and orange, specifically. The depth of flavor was tremendous.

And, of course, the pork was super tender from the sous vide process.

So young Paul was right. Why not take advantage of all the tools and tricks we have to create the best food possible!

Chicken and Sausage


When I read cookbooks, I am not turned off by long lists of ingredients. Nor do I look for the words “quick” or “easy” in the recipe names. I never have, even though I probably should have taken quick and easy more seriously when I was cooking for our growing family and busy as the dickens. I just prefer real recipes with real ingredients, whether simple or more involved.

I own all of Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks and love all of them. I love a lot of things about her. She’s hysterically funny, an impressie writer, she embraces her love of food and eating, and she doesn’t bother with super fiddly recipes (translation from British – fussy/sophisticated).

Even her cakes are often rustic, mis-shapen layers of chocolate goodness. You don’t make them for fair judging, you make them because they’re fabulous.

So once I came across a Nigella recipe for chicken and sausages that were roasted simply with Dijon mustard and oil. In the old days I might have turned up my nose at such a recipe, especially if it was called “Quick and Easy Chicken and Sausage.” But fortunately I didn’t. It is just a good recipe that happens to take little time, and the results are wonderful. And I’ve made this dish more than once, which is a rarity in my kitchen.

It came from the cookbook, “Feast” which might be my favorite of Ms. Lawson’s – aside from “Nigella Christmas.” Doesn’t she just look like she could be my best friend?!! I mean, that’s what I look like in the kitchen when I’m kneading bread!

Nigella’s original recipe For chicken and sausage has a few more ingredients, but this is how I’ve adapted her recipe.
Dijon-Roasted Chicken and Sausage

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 chicken breasts
5-6 Italian sausages
Small red potatoes, scrubbed
1 large purple onion, cut into wedges
Coarsely ground black pepper
Chopped rosemary

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or 375 degrees if you have a roast setting.

Combine the olive oil and mustard in a decent-sized roasting pan. Whisk until smooth.

Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally, creating uniform pieces. Place the breasts in the pan, coating them with the mustardy oil. Then add the sausages to the pan, rolling them around to get coated.

Sprinkle the potatoes around the meat; halve them if they’re too large. Then add the wedges of onion around the meat.

Season well with coarse black pepper, if desired. Then add some sprigs of rosemary, or chopped rosemary.

I am in love with my Mauviel roasting pan, which has endured a lot of oven use over the years.

Roast for approximately 30-35 minutes, turning the chicken pieces and sausages half way through.
Serve immediately.

This dish is wonderful with steamed green beans.
As you can see, this dish is definitely quick and easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good!
Thank you Nigella!

Dipping Oil


Recently, a girlfriend of mine asked me if I had a recipe for dipping oil. And I was taken aback. I have never made a dipping oil before. I love them – in fact I love when restaurants serve their hot breads with the combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. As long as I don’t choke on the vinegar, it’s absolutely the most decadent treat. But I’ve never served that at home.

I looked up dipping oils on Williams-Sonoma, just for the heck of it, and what I found really shocked me. Now as you all know, I’m a huge fan of Williams-Sonoma, and I’ve probably single handedly built a few stores from my purchases over the years. But these dipping oils are $12.95 for one 8.5 ounce bottle!

Even considering a high quality olive oil as the base for these seasoned oils, I still find these overpriced. Here are the varieties that can be purchased:

Pesto recreates the bright flavors of the classic Italian sauce with basil, walnuts, parmesan cheese, garlic and tangy lemon.

Herbs de Provence is a French-inspired blend of herbs de Provence, black pepper, lemon and a hint of Dijon mustard.

Parmesan Garlic is a rich, savory combination of aged parmesan cheese, roasted garlic and Mediterranean herbs.

Rosemary Garlic features a Mediterranean-style blend of rosemary and fragrant garlic, highlighted by tangy lemon and a touch of Dijon mustard.

Sun-Dried Tomato showcases the rich sweetness of sun-dried tomatoes, accented with basil, shallots and spices.

They all sound really good, but the first thing I thought of, not surprisingly, is that they can easily be made at home!


So I decided to do just that. I started with a clean jar, and then added these ingredients:

Spiced and Herbed Dipping Oil

Good quality olive oil, although any good oil could be used
peppercorns, a nice colorful variety
dried chile peppers
some lavender sprigs
a sprig of rosemary
a couple sprigs of thyme
a few bay leaves
a couple of peeled garlic cloves

Then I shook everything up and let the jar sit in my pantry for 2 weeks. I didn’t add salt, nor did I add cheese. I felt that those ingredients could be added at the time when I serve the dipping oil with bread.

I usually do a separate post for liqueurs and such that take a couple of weeks to “age” properly, but in this case, the oil was ready right before Thanksgiving. So I’ve already played with it, and I am impressed.

I firstly used a funnel with a sieve attached to pour some of the oil into a small dipping bowl.


And then the tasting began. Or, uh, testing. The taste was spectacular by itself, but I did add some salt.

Then I added some balsamic vinegar for fun.

It was a fabulous combination; the vinegar didn’t overwhelm the oil because it’s pretty potent itself.
I will definitely play with making these oils again. So many different possibilities!

Rosemary’d Dip


Bean dips are so delicious and versatile, and easily enjoyed year round. One of my favorites is White Bean Dip with spices. This one is similar in the use of white beans, but instead of spices, I only use fresh rosemary. So if you like rosemary, you’ll love this dip.

I don’t know if this is as much a dip or a spread, since I typically serve it with a spreader, especially with guests. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s a soft, spreadable purée of rosemary-flavored white beans. It can served in a bowl alongside breads and crackers, as I have, or creatively topped on crostini for a prettier presentation.

And let’s not forget the healthful benefits of beans. It’s wonderful to enjoy a delicious appetizer that’s actually good for us!

Rosemary’d White Bean Dip

2 cans Great Northern Beans, well drained and rinsed
1/4 good extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves*
1/2 teaspoon salt


Place the drained beans in the jar of a food processor. Add the olive oil and the garlic, and puree until the mixture is smooth. I always process the garlic first to ensure there are no pieces of garlic left, then proceed with the recipe.


I remove the germ from my garlic when I’m using it fresh in a recipe like this, and it’s not going to be cooked, like in a stew. Supposedly the germ is bitter. I’ve not tested this theory, but I do remove it when making this dip. I want a delicious fresh garlic flavor – not a flavor that is bitter and overly pungent. This is especially the case when the garlic is trying to sprout and the germs get quite large. I completely avoid them.

Scape down the puréed beans in the jar and process again.

If you’ve picked your rosemary early in the day, simply stick them in water to keep them fresh. I routinely do this even though I’m not sure how much it helps! I figure it can’t hurt.


Then add the rosemary leaves and salt to the beans. If you think that the bean purée could be a little softer, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Pulse just to combine, then add the rosemary and salt. If you’re making it about 3-4 hours before serving, definitely make it on the soft side, because the beans will absorb the oil. But I wouldn’t make it any earlier then 3 or 4 hours.


Place the dip in a serving bowl and serve at room temperature with assorted breads, and/or crackers. Vegetables are good with it, too.

If you make this dip a few hours before serving, keep it at room temperature; don’t refrigerate it. It’s not good refrigerated overnight, either. It just loses the good texture.


* My rosemary this time of year is much less pungent than in the summer, so depending when you make this dip, make sure you taste it. Fresh rosemary can be very strong. But whatever you do, don’t use dried rosemary.

note: You could certainly use garbanzo beans in this recipe, but I prefer white beans for dips. You can see how soft and smooth they are in the photo after they’ve been pureed with the oil and garlic. In my experience, garbanzo beans never get this smooth, which is why I prefer white beans. I’ve heard that if the garbanzos are peeled, they will become smoother, but I’m not about to bother with that extra step.

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