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 from 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… (sure, 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 straightforward and when I was done, quite possibly the best chicken breast I’ve had at home or anywhere really. 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 from Wikipedia 🙂
Some restaurants have the tendency to serve dry chicken breast. Why? probably because it is better to err on the overcooked side especially when dealing with poultry just for safety reason. It is also very easy to overcook chicken. I overcook chicken at home frequently, especially if pan frying it. Lean meat dries out really fast at high temperature, muscle fibers compress and all the moisture escapes leaving behind a sad and stringy 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 the gentlest way of cooking there is.
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.
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 saucepan 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 thoroughly. 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 from the pan.
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.
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.
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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