Poulet au feu D’enfer : Enoki and Shimeji Mushrooms : Sous Vide Chicken Breast

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I don’t know how to speak or read french but I want to learn it. I know poulet means chicken. I also know that I adapted this recipe form The Modernist Cuisine books. Probably one of the few full recipes in the whole series that didn’t require special equipment like a laser cutter… (ok, an immersion circulator is needed, but a sous vide bath can be improvised at home with a few things too) and didn’t require any less common ingredients. No fancy starches or hydrocolloids. It was very straight forward and when I was done, quite possibly the best chicken breast I’ve had at home or at a restaurant really (maybe I don’t get out much). This recipe in the book is an adaptation of a recipe by Fernand Point.  “Fernand Point was a French restaurateur and is considered to be the father of modern French cuisine” I copied this last bit form wikipedia 🙂

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Some restaurants have the tendency to serve dry chicken breast. Why? probably because it is better to err on the overcooked side specially when dealing with poultry just for safety reason. It is also very easy to overcook chicken. I overcook chicken at home sometimes, specially if pan frying it. Lean meat dries out fast at high temperature,  muscle fibers compress and all the moisture escapes leaving behind a sad and flaky dry piece of meat. Cooking chicken breasts at high-end restaurants for example, is done carefully, by skilled cooks that know how to use a good combination of stove and oven cooking, others probably rely on thermometers or/and immersions circulating water baths to achieve a perfectly cooked chicken breast that is safe to eat and extremely moist and tender. And all of the above can be done at home. Perhaps not for every casual weekly dinner (because gentle cooking means longer cooking times)  but for a special occasion? I don’t see why not! Cooking sous vide is  one of the gentlest ways of cooking that I know of. 

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Ingredients (Serves 2, cooking time: 2 hours):

2 chicken breasts skin on. Deboned.
2 chicken wings. Crushed and chopped into small pieces.
1 medium shallot thinly sliced.
3 cloves of garlic thinly sliced.
1 Cup of brown chicken stock (ideally made at home,  you can check this out)
Splash of red wine vinegar.
Splash of dry white wine.
1/2 stick of butter.
4-6 Tbsp heavy cream.
2 Cups of mushrooms (recipe called for chanterelle. I used enoki and shimeji). Washed.
Chives for garnishing. Finely chopped. Or chive blossoms if you can find them.
Few sprigs of thyme.
Salt and pepper to taste.

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1. Chicken breasts sous vide.

Salt and pepper the breasts skins-on with plenty of salt and pepper. You can be generous here. During the cooking period which is roughly an hour. The salt will permeate the breast and season it more evenly. Plus some of the salt still on the surface will be lost when we sear them.  Bag individually. Place about a spoon of butter in each bag. Add a sprig of thyme and vacuum seal. I don’t have a vacuum sealer here, so I simply extracted as much air out of the ziplock bags as possible and that worked perfectly well. Set your water bath  (or heat up a stock pot with water, using a thermometer to help you control this improvised water bath, and try to keep the temperature from fluctuating too much by turning the stove on and off, and maybe adding some cold water every now and then… it is annoying, but it is possible) to 60C or 140F. Cook for at least 30 minutes.  Add another 30 minutes of cooking time if you want to pasteurize the breasts. In my opinion this isn’t necessary, up to you.

2. Making the D’enfer Sauce.

I’m not even sure this is the traditional preparation of this sauce. I’ve never heard of it until last night and most of the references and recipes online are in french. In a nutshell, this butter sauce, combines brown butter and chicken stock flavors with white wine and wine vinegar. Heavy cream brings it all together.

On a hot searing pan, brown the chicken wings in butter or olive oil, until golden crispy. Lower the heat to medium. Add the shallots and cook for about 2 minutes more. Add the garlic. Cook for about 1 minute, constantly stirring. Deglaze with chicken stock. Add the wine, vinegar. Add a spoon of butter and the heavy cream. Add a sprig of thyme. Reduce by 2/3, strain. Return to clean sauce pan and continue to reduce. Adjust salt. Adjust sweetness. I added a bit of sugar to cut the acidity a little bit. The sauce will continue to darken until it is about the color of honey. When the sauce is the right consistency. Remove from the heat. Discard the solids.

3. Cooking the mushrooms.

Wash and rinse throughly. Cook on a hot pan with a little bit of butter. About a spoon. You can combine butter and olive oil. Or just use olive oil. I used olive oil. Add some salt. Toss a bit to cook them evenly. Cook for about 3 minutes. Remove form the pan.

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I found chanterelles at the store, but right next to them I saw these other mushrooms, there wasn’t a label on the basket so I’m not sure what kind they are. After some research online I concluded they could be a blend of enoki and shimeji mushrooms. I couldn’t wait to try them in this recipe. They look so pretty. And they were so tender and delicious. Chanterelles have more of a chewy bite where these were closer to a very tender asparagus. Really delicate.

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4. Searing the chicken breasts.

Once the cooking in the water bath is done. Place baggies in a pot of cold water (cold tap water, no need to make an ice bath) And let them rest there for about 10 minutes. Add some butter and olive oil to a pan over high heat. Take the meat out of the baggies. Remove the thyme sprig and pat dry with paper towels. Place the chicken breasts on the pan, skin side down. Sear the skin until crispy. About 2 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan. Repeat with the other chicken breast. Or do them both at once if you have a big enough skillet.

5. Plating.

Place the chicken breast on the plate (I have a really bad case of stating-the-obvious, sorry!!) add the mushrooms, drizzle the sauce over the chicken breast and the surrounding areas. Add the chives last. You want the chives color to shine and not be covered by any sauces. You could choose to slice the meat or leave it whole. Up to you. And that’s it!

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40 comments

    1. Thank you! and, I absolutely agree, sous vide isn’t the only way to cook delicious chicken breast, but it is easy, other methods requires lots of practice and good technique like I mentioned. Sous vide is just a very technical way of achieving perfect results without the hassle. Love you orange chicken dish, that looks so wonderful and delicious! I want to try it!!! 🙂

    1. thank you! I love this dish because it requires few ingredients.. chicken and any mushrooms would go well together so thats forgiving too, and can be cooked in stages.. for example, the sous vide chicken can be made a day or 2 before the final dish is plated and the flavor of the chicken would be even better!

    1. Sofia! I don’t know what book you’re reading.. and I too thought it was very difficult and complicated until I tried it myself. It is very easy. I guess it takes a little practice and some equipment, but even with a thermometer and a pot you can achieve great results. If you want to talk about sous vide, am no expert, but I’ve cooked using that technique for a few years, so let me know!

      1. The book I have is Cooking for Geeks. For a geek like me its perfect because it explains all the physical and chemical reactions behind cooking. Mind you I already knew it all as I had studied 2 years of all this when I was at uni, but its great to refresh. I have it in my eBooks which is a bit of a pain, and might look for it in a real paper book format.
        You look very expert in sous vide to me 🙂

        1. I love that book 🙂 I too have it in electronic format. Read the whole thing on my iPhone hahahh! so worth it. It really helped my cooking in general. And I like it because it covers a bit of baking as well. It’s a lot of good information packed in a small book.

          1. Wow, really!? 🙂 Yeah I sometimes read it in my eReader, but get really annoyed because I want to flip from one part to another and its so hard! :)The book is really cool. One of the subjects I had at uni was called Bromatology (quite funny because broma means joke in Spanish) which is the science of food, so its like all the info in the book. I love that type of thing 🙂

    1. Jade! thank you so much! I really love chicken breasts cooked this way, it’s like the fillet mignon of the poultry world.. it melts in your mouth. For the longest time I’d favored dark meat over chicken breast because chicken breast used to have that dry chewy texture, but that goes away when cooked gently!

  1. Hi Paul, another great post and a beautiful dish. Kudos for you to do hotel room sous-vide! I did some googling and knowing French won’t help, as the only recipes in French for poulet au feu d’enfer seem to be French translations of a Jamie Oliver recipe… I actually had not noticed this recipe in Modernist Cuisine yet — I still haven’t gone through all of those books yet.

    1. Thanks Stefan! The recipe is on … page 100 of volume 3. And a few pages before that, there’s a nice photo as well. I did a little research, trying to find the more traditional preparation of the dish but I got lost… or I got the Jamie Oliver recipe… but I was happy with the simple approach on the MC books. I brought my polyscience immersion circulator with me in one of my suitcases 🙂 wouldn’t leave home without it! I’m still finding it difficult to check new posts on your blog.. which btw, I noticed you changed the layout, and I really like it. I just need to settle in a bit more to get back to my old routine!

  2. This looks so delicious! Simple, yet lovely. Well plated too. I love the way you used those mushrooms. Que rico. Yo tambien quiero aprender frances, pero espanol es mas natural para mi! Do you think the sous vide makes a huge difference?

    1. Gracias Amanda! it is a simple recipe indeed! but those can be the best in my opinion 🙂 Sous vide makes the process of cooking meat very simple. I think it does make a difference. I know it’s a bit unorthodox, but once I tried it the first time, I don’t think there’s a better way. You can still get pretty good result with traditional methods, but it’s really hard to get sous vide quality that way. With sous vide, cooking becomes easier, time and temperature for which there are charts, so there’s no guessing. If you want to know more about how to cook sous vide let me know, I would more the happily elaborate! 🙂

  3. Cooked to perfection – just beautiful .. not a big lover of sous vide – but it has it’s advantages to make the meat very tender. Beautiful post again, but I hadn’t expect anything else from you. Full marks for this one .. I can feel the smell from the sauce.

      1. Sous vide is something I came across in big style while working in UK – everywhere they served food out of plastic bags and everything tasted the same. We did lamb shanke in sous vide – made tons of it and in the end I couldn’t stand the smell, that is all.

        1. yeah, I can see why you got tired of it. And some proteins that require very long cooking times might end up smelling funky. I don’t know exactly why that happens, but I’ve read that blanching the protein before vacuum sealing it helps. I love making fish and chicken in the immersion circulator though. I need to experiment more with tougher proteins.

          1. You’re brilliant on what you’re doing .. but playing around is the best school to be in – just try new ways and new Technics. I don’t like when food are played around with as such and I don’t like food that is coming out of a laboratory and not a kitchen. Food isn’t food anymore on some places .. it’s a joke like the Nouvelle cuisine a couple of years back, when chefs stacked 5 peas and you left the restaurant still hungry.

          2. thanks Vivieka, you’re really nice. And I agree, some culinary trends could get a little confused and miss the point perhaps. I don’t know much about that though, I mostly eat at home hahah. But I agree, some restaurants can focus their energy on fancy presentations and forget about taste and nurturing. There are a few out there though which present food in really fancy ways but still keep in mind what’s important. Flavor and customer satisfaction. If it tastes good, and it is healthy to eat, and on top of that the presentation is wonderful and I leave with a full belly, then, I’m happy.

          3. You and I are not the same page *smile
            Been to quite a few restaurants that want too much and it falls so flat. Still people are raving about the food ????!!!! Was to one of those restaurants in Paris … and we were the only tourists there, only natives and all ages and the place was packed.
            But the dishes were a joke. My friend ordered a French Onion Soup and got less than 1/2 cup as a starter. My fish main was close to nothing on the plate – and it wasn’t cheap neither.
            No a normal portion, clean and warm plates – well prepared and with well-balanced flavor – I pay with a smile.

  4. Beautiful! Nothing worse than dry chicken. Now I sous vide all of my chicken, even if I’m just using it for a simple simple stir fry! A gorgeous presentation. Thank you for not including foam.

  5. Looks absolutely delicious, Paul! The chicken looks perfectly cooked and all your photos always amaze me every time I visit your wonderful blog! Great recipe- will need to try it soon 🙂

    1. thank you! 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. What I liked about this recipe is how simple and quick you can put together everything. Sous vide is a little slow, but you can cook the chicken a few days ahead.

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