I used to think that sous vide cooking was like space travel or balloon modeling — something that sounded kinda neat-o, but definitely wasn’t for me and probably would be better if it were left to people not intrinsically opposed to wearing goggles and funny hats.
1) Low, slow cooking of carefully sealed item at a precise temperature in a water bath
2) Proper seasoning of item before sealing
3) Carefully sealing and protecting of item from outside moisture during the cooking process
4) Somewhat obsessive-compulsive monitoring of cooking temperature to maintain ideal range
5) Finishing the cooked dish with a simple, preferably fatty and indulgent, complimentary sauce
Presto, Thomas Keller-like results at home. With just a little patience and OCD flair, I, too, could render holier-than-thou healthy, but aggressively bland skinless chicken breasts into a delectable four-star culinary extravaganza. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s why it’s taken me so long to try it.
I decided to simplify the at-home versions I found online even further, because, quite frankly, I love cooking, not laboratory experiments. Aside from eating the darn thing (the moistest, most tender and flavorful chicken I’ve had at home), the best part about the little detour to the lab — the braggin’ rights.
“Whatcha making in there?”
“Sous vide chicken.”
Silence. Husband’s head pops into kitchen, quizzical, semi-impressed, mostly horrified look on his face.
“Um. Ok. Should I order a pizza as back-up? Maybe I should make some Mac and Cheese just in case.”
Silence. Withering look issued, lands on target, sustains minor damage, husband disappears.
Silent cackling, palm-rubbing. Stack of holiday catalogs, unread magazines and a very large glass of Pinot Grigio whipped out. Blissful hour in the kitchen spent sipping, catching up and getting totally unearned credit for culinary magic while our chicken breasts cooked themselves in a pot on the stove.
Click on for my ridiculously easy version of Sous Vide Chicken – with a creamy Ivory Veloute Sauce and Coconut-ty Rice.
Quasi Sous Vide Chicken
Makes 4 generous servings
- 8 skinless chicken breasts (about 3 pounds)
- Hefty pinch salt
- Serious grinds of pepper
- Dried herb of choice – I used oregano
- Half a lemon, juiced
- Heat about 2 quarts of water high simmer
- Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, spices, lemon.
- Seal each chicken breast in saran wrap for extra protection and then drop 4 pieces chicken in two large Ziploc bags and seal very carefully, removing as much air from the bags as possible.
- Turn off heat on burner. Drop Ziploc bags in simmering water. Ideally, try to keep the temperature at 140-150 degrees, but if you don’t have a thermometer, just monitor the pot and crank up the heat for a few minutes and then turn it off again. Totally not a Thomas Keller-approved method of dumbed down sous vide, but drinking wine and checking out Pottery Barn tablescapes will totally distract you from your feelings of inadequacy.
- Cook for 60 minutes, occasionally shifting bags so chicken is submerged, and occasionally turning up the heat to a light simmer, then turn off again. Make sure you test one slice of chicken for doneness (it shouldn’t have any pink left, but should still retain its juice) before serving.
- Read more about sous vide cookery at-home if you want to geek out and really go Nathan Myhrvold on your poultry. (Warning: this would require real effort, and may distract you from important catalog-ing).
Ivory Veloute Sauce:
- 2 TBSP butter
- 2 TBSP flour
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Salt, and lots of it
- Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour. When you’ve formed a thick paste, slowly whisk in the stock and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thick. Cook out the flour flavor for about 15 minutes.
- Whisk in the cream and simmer, just slightly, for a few minutes, allowing the flavors to meld. Season generously with salt.
Nutritional Breakdown for Quasi Sous Vide: With a hearty lashing of sauce, about 400 calories and 9 grams of fat. Dieters, sub in a lower-fat sauce (even mustard!) for the creamy sauce, which is lovely and luscious, but brimming with saturated fat.
Cost Breakdown for Quasi Sous Vide: About $4 per serving.
Verdict / In the Future: The chicken tastes, as sous vide fans everywhere rave, more chicken-y than anything you’ve had outside of a barnyard. The vacuum-sealed cooking method locks in all of the juices that normally get leeched out, even when the chicken is poached. If the rather distressing pale ochre color is off-putting, just throw it in a skillet with a bit of butter for a minute or so. But we stuck with our pasty little cutlets and relished the intense, perfectly cooked, tender chicken flavor.
Makes 4 servings
- 1 1/2 TBSP coconut oil (or sub in butter or oil)
- 1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
- 1TBSP white sesame seeds
- 1 cup rice (any kind)
- 1 ½ cups water
- ½ cup milk (coconut milk would be great too)
- 1 TBSP sugar
- Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Toss in the peanuts and fry for about 1 minute. Add the rice and sesame seeds, salt, and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the water, milk, sugar, more salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until moisture is absorbed and rice is fluffy and tender. Take off the cover, fluff with a fork and serve.
Nutritional Breakdown for Coconut-ty Rice: About 400 calories and 18 grams of fat.
Cost Breakdown for Coconut-ty Rice: About $2 per serving.
Verdict / In the Future: Sweet, savory, with that lovely smokey flavor roasted nuts imbue dishes with. It would be great with a cup or so of frozen peas thrown into the mix, or bacon. Bacon makes everything better.