May – Sous Vide Chicken Breasts

May – Sous Vide Chicken Breasts

Who doesn’t love chicken breasts? Me, that is who. Until I tried them sous vide. Oh my! They are an entirely different experience. If you have ever had a chicken breast in a good restaurant and were shocked at the perfect texture and delicious flavor (did you ask yourself “How did they do that?”), chances are that it was prepared sous vide. Sous Vide has been a standard technique in restaurant kitchens for years but the machines were far too expensive for most home cooks, costing in the thousands of dollars. Not any more. You can pick one up on sale for under $200 and even closer to $100 if you keep a sharp eye out. You will find my first post describing the sous vide wand here. I notice that Amazon carries a well respected brand, the Anova.

If you are watching your weight or health, here is the good part. You don’t need to add any additional fat or oil to take advantage of that wonderful flavor. Plus you can cook the breasts ahead of time (a couple of days), then finish them just before dinner. That makes them almost easier than a rotisserie chicken and better for you as they don’t have all those “additives” the grocery store or deli uses to keep their chickens moist. You will save money because you purchase the bone in, skin on breasts. Buy them when on sale, season as described below, put in individual vacuum sealed or freezer bags, and pop in the freezer. No need to defrost, cook them frozen, adding an additional 30 minutes to the time.

Once they are cooked, it is easy to strip the breast off the bone. Chicken cooked on the bone will have far more flavor than those you buy already boned and skinned. And they are much less expensive.

We just returned from two amazing holidays, two weeks in France and a cruise in the Caribbean. I had to celebrate my retirement, right? The result is that I haven’t spent much time in my kitchen, and am anxious to concentrate on healthy food before summer gets going in full swing. Too much delicious food and wine has added a few pounds and my clothes are tight…uncomfortably tight. Sigh. It sure was fun.

But, with this kind of food you don’t need to feel deprived.

I pre-seasoned the breasts (curry powder, 5-spice, fennel spice, chili, BBQ, slice of lemon, sprig of fresh herbs, etc.), vacuum sealed them in labeled bags (a good quality freezer zip lock bag also works), and cooked them while I was busy doing something else in the kitchen. They don’t need any attention. It only takes an hour but is forgiving enough to be left for two if something distracts you.

A few minutes before you want to serve dinner, preheat a skillet on high (cast iron works well). Cut open the bag with the chicken and peel the breast off the bone, it should come off easily. You may want to add a teaspoon of oil to the pan, use something that can tolerate high heat (such as grape seed) without burning. Add the chicken to the hot skillet, skin side down to brown. I press it gently with the side of a spatula. A good trick is to place the thicker edge against the side of the skillet so it will brown as well. Leave it for a few minutes to caramelize. Turn it over to briefly to brown and heat the other (bone, but now boneless) side. That’s all. Serve with a fresh vegetable and starch of your choice. Mashed potatoes would be excellent; double sigh, not for me.Sous vide chicken

This recipe is for 4 breasts, serving 4 – 6 (easily multiplied)

Sous vide chicken breast – basic method

  • 4 bone in, skin on chicken breasts
  • seasoning of choice. For example BBQ rub, fresh herbs, lemon slices, curry powder, etc.
  • Kosher salt

Method

  1. Preheat your sous vide water to 150 degrees F for moist chicken, still slightly soft. You will finish them in a hot pan.
  2. Season and seal each chicken breast in either a vacuum bag (seal on moist setting) or in a heavy duty plastic zip lock bag (you will use the water displacement method to remove most of the air).

    Fennel Spice Rub

  3. Once hot, place the bags in the heated water. The vacuum bags should sink below the water level. For zip lock bags, gently push the bottom of the bag into the water displacing the air (without getting any water into the opening). Once near the top, seal the bag. Trick: if the bags don’t sink to the bottom, you can put a teaspoon into the bag with the food.
  4. Cook the chicken for at least an hour, as long as two is fine. My chicken breasts were quite large so I cooked them for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If frozen add another 30 or 40 minutes to the time.
  5. If you are not going to finish and eat them immediately, cool the bags in an ice water bath for an hour, then refrigerate. You want them to cool quickly to avoid food poisoning. If properly refrigerated the chicken will be fine for 2 or 3 days. I cooked mine the night before.
  6. When ready to eat, remove the chicken from the bag and gently pull off the breast bone. If they are cold this might take a bit more elbow grease but the bone should release from the meat.
  7. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Once very hot, add a slick of high temperature oil like grape seed and brown the chicken on all sides.

    Sous vide chicken breasts in cast iron pan.

  8. Let rest for a few minutes before slicing.

    sous vide chicken breasts

    Tender and delicious, juicy and moist without a bit of dryness, plus a crisp skin from the hot frying pan. It was a wonderful contrast of textures. Use the best quality chicken breasts you can find as the flavor really comes through. 

I am taking this to Fiesta Friday #170 hosted by Angie.  The co-hosts this week are Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Sue @ Birgerbird. Click on the Fiesta Friday link to see all the yummy food other bloggers are bringing to the party.

February – Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

February – Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs, it’s a meal I consider one of the ultimate winter comfort foods. It is certainly a classic. Remember that scene from Lady and the Tramp? A classic! The original calls for ground beef, eggs and breadcrumbs. But what about replacing those meatballs with ground turkey and ricotta? I’ve done this before with turkey burgers and recently saw the same idea using meatballs in a new cookbook, Small Victories (see the link below). No breadcrumbs or eggs required. Even better, these are baked, not fried. The meatballs are moist and flavorful, full of fresh herbs. You could serve them with zoodles (spiralized zucchini noodles) for the ultimate gluten free dinner. This easy recipe makes enough meatballs to freeze a batch for a future meal, any leftover tomato sauce is delicious with baked eggs for brunch.

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Pasta

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Pasta

This recipe makes a large sheet pan of meatballs, 6-8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 28-ox cans of whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine or water
  • 7 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 garlic cloves, 4 thinly sliced and 3 minced
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cup of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh Italian flat leaved parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
  • 2 lb. of ground dark meat turkey

Method:

Meatballs

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drizzle the baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and smear to cover the sheet.
  2. In a large bowl combine the minced garlic, basil, parsley, ricotta, parmesan, turkey and 1 tablespoon salt. Mix everything together until well blended, not too roughly.
  3. Use your hands to to form golf ball sized meatballs, you can wet your hands to prevent it from sticking. Transfer the meatballs to the lined baking sheet. It is ok if they are fairly close together or lightly touching.
  4. Drizzle the meatballs with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake until browned and firm, about 25 minutes.

    Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

    Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

While the meatballs are baking, start the sauce.

Sauce

  1. Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and crush them, the easiest way is with your hands.
  2. Add the wine or water to one of the cans and swish it around, add it to the second can again rinsing to clean out any remaining tomato and add it to the bowl.
  3. Warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook about one minute (make sure it does not burn). Add the tomatoes and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer for about 10-20 minutes.

To finish

Finished Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Finished Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

  1. Remove the desired number of meatballs from the baking tray with tongs and gently add them to the simmering sauce.
  2. Cook for at least another 10 minutes for the flavors to meld, but they can go longer (up to an hour according the recipe but I wouldn’t leave them so long).
Tomato Sauce with Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Tomato Sauce with Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Any leftover meatballs can be frozen.

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs, Tomato Sauce and Pasta

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs, Tomato Sauce and Pasta

This recipe came from the excellent cook book Small Victories by Julia Turshen.

Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Cheese

Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Cheese

Flyng Frisbee Quinn

Flying Frisbee Quinn with Leo and Mazee on a winter beach

I am taking this comforting winter dish to Fiesta Friday #161 hosted by Angie. Her cohost this week is Laura @ Feast Wisely. Click on the link to join the fun and read the recipes brought to the virtual party by other bloggers.

February – Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

February – Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

This recipe combines two of my favorite foods, chicken and tomato soup (don’t worry, it won’t call for that red and white can). Those flavors are especially welcome on a night like this, stormy and cold. We took the dogs for a walk on the beach just before the rain hit, the first drops fell as we were driving away from the parking lot.

Seaside Winter Beach

Seaside Winter Beach

Don’t you think a winter beach is special? It was empty of summer visitors, only the hardiest souls were out in the late afternoon. We only met two other couples, both with dogs chasing balls or sticks.  out. Our dogs were in heaven, excited by the wind, leaping into the air to catch the frisbee.

The beach was full of driftwood washed up by the waves onto the high tide line. I didn’t get a picture, unfortunately. The salvage groups have been out cutting up the logs.

Winter beach

Winter beach

I cooked this sous-vide, inspired by a post from Bewitching Kitchen for Chicken Korma-ish. But the dish could also be cooked in a skillet with the sauce. I will give instructions for both. Sous-vide means “under vacuum” and is a method of cooking in a water bath at a very carefully controlled temperature. Your food is encased in a food safe plastic bag, either under vacuum or the air having removed by displacement. Your food cannot overcook. It takes longer but the results are amazing. In this case, silky and moist chicken breasts.

I served this with both spiralized zucchini and pasta. Take your pick, it was delicious both ways.

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 4 tomatoes, sliced. I didn’t bother to skin them as I was going to puree them in the food processor.
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • thinly sliced basil or parsley, about 1/4 cup
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • toasted pine nuts for serving
  • garnish of chopped basil
  • pasta of any shape or spiralized vegetable

If making this in the summer with wonderful vine ripened tomatoes, you may not need to add the tomato paste. Since these were February tomatoes, green house grown, they could use a little help.

Method

  1. If using sous-vide, heat your water bath to 150 degrees F.
  2. Melt butter or heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  3. Add the shallot and saute until starting to soften.
  4. Add the garlic, do not let either the shallot or garlic brown. Saute for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the sliced tomatoes, cook until softened and starting to melt into the pan.

    onion, garlic, and tomatoes

    onion, garlic, and tomatoes

  6. Add the tomato paste and salt, stir to mix.
  7. Put the contents of the skillet into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
  8. Add 1/3 cup of the cream and process again.
  9. For sous-vide:
    1. Add the diced chicken to a food safe plastic bag.
    2. Add the second 1/3 cup cream to the bag and mix.
    3. Add the contents of your blender or food processor and mix.
    4. Immerse the bag in the water and squeeze out the air.
    5. Cook for 2 hours, 3 is ok if you need to leave it longer.
  10. For traditional:
    1. Return the contents of the processor or blender to the skillet, add the second 1/3 cup cream and mix.
    2. Pour the sauce back into the skillet and heat on medium until just under the boil.
    3. Add the chicken and turn the heat to low.
    4. Cook until the chicken is done, about 10-15  minutes. Test a piece to make sure it is cooked all the way through.
Spiralized Zucchini

Spiralized Zucchini

There is a trick to using spiralized zucchini. Zucchini is mostly water. salting before using will help it retain the crispness. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt and drain in a colander. Then dry on paper towels or a tea cloth before using. You will be amazed at the liquid that is released (and doesn’t water down your sauce). You can then add the zucchini to the hot sauce in the skillet to heat.

Tomato Cream Sauce Chicken with Zucchini

Tomato Cream Sauce Chicken with Zucchini

The chicken was fantastic!

Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

I am adding this post to the virtual blogging party at Fiesta Friday #158 hosted by Angie. The co-hosts this week are Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

February – Quick Chinese Chicken

February – Quick Chinese Chicken

This quick and delicious oriental chicken recipe came from the cookbook Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees, a great resource for Chinese cooking. There they call it Three Cup Chicken. It is perfect for the Chinese New Year celebration. The “standard” public holiday in Mainland China is the 7 days from the Chinese New Year’ Eve to day 6 of the lunar calendar new year. This year that took place January 27 to February 2.

The traditional holiday period may be as long as 23 days, starting 3 weeks before Chinese New Year’s Eve; and ending at the Lantern Festival (February 11th this year).

This is the year of the Fire Rooster. There are 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac, the rooster is the 10th sign. Additionally each year is also associated with one of the 5 elements, Gold (Metal), Wood, Water, Fire, or Earth. Both the zodiac sign and the element shape the astrology of the year. Element-sign combinations recur every 60 years. In general people born in a year of the Rooster are very observant. They are also hardworking, resourceful, courageous, confident, and talented.  If you are interested you can read more about them at this link.

Ingredients for 2-3 servings

  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. of bone in, skin on chicken thighs. Chop them crosswise into 2 pieces (the butcher did it for me).
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 thin slices of peeled fresh ginger root
  • 1/4 cup rice wine or sake, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup of toasted sesame oil
  • leaves from a bunch of Thai basil (I substituted fresh cilantro) and sliced scallion
  1. Put the chicken in a saucepan and cover with cool water. Bring it slowly to a simmer, skim off any scum that rises to the top, turn down the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain the chicken in a strainer over a bowl, save the cooking water for stock or to cook your rice.img_5669
  3. Heat a heavy saucepan or wok over high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil, add the ginger and fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the drained chicken and fry for another minute, add the 2 tablespoons of rice wine and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Continue to fry on high heat until the chicken is browned, another 2 minutes or so.
  5. If you are using a heavy bottomed skillet, you can leave the chicken in it. If using a wok, transfer the chicken to a Dutch oven or casserole. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of rice wine, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and the sesame oil. Cover and cook on low heat until the chicken is tender and the sauce is thickened, another 30 minutes or so.

    Chinese Clay Pot

    Chinese Clay Pot

  6. Stir in the chopped basil or cilantro and scallion before serving.
Quick Chinese Chicken

Quick Chinese Chicken

Serve with steamed rice, or baked sweet potatoes, and a green vegetable.

I am adding this post to the virtual blogging party at Fiesta Friday #158 hosted by Angie. The co-hosts this week are Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

September – Chili Lime Marinade for Chicken or Pork

September – Chili Lime Marinade for Chicken or Pork

In my opinion both chicken breasts and pork tenderloin need some help. In our search for “low fat” we have bred the flavor out of them both. Chewy, tasteless, bland, dry…all those apply. So when I was served the most delicious marinated pork tenderloin at a friend’s house, I had to try it. I am not going to post the recipe for the pork tenderloin, you can search on-line to one from Chris Kimball at Cook’s. It involves halving the tenderloin crosswise, then pounding it to a thickness of approximately 3/4 of an inch. At that point you can score the meat and marinate if for 45 minutes (I think the more the better). However, don’t leave it too long or you will end up with ceviche pork because of the lime juice.

I thought, if this is so good with pork tenderloin, what will it do for chicken breasts? Oh yum! I modified the recipe only slightly to give it a little more heat. Use boneless chicken breasts with the skin if you can get them or bone out the breasts yourself. It takes a little practice but is easy with a small knife. Start by cutting at the center cartilage and slide a sharp knife between the breast bones and the meat until the breast is free of the rib and other bones. I keep the bones in a plastic bag in the freezer until I have enough to make stock or chicken soup.

Pound the breasts the same as the pork but to a thickness of 1/2 inch. That will both tenderize the meat and also hasten the cooking time.

boned chicken breasts with skin

boned chicken breasts with skin

Chili Lime Marinade

  • 4 half chicken breasts, boneless but with the skin
  • 2 limes, zested and squeezed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil (I used a mixture of canola and coconut)

For the sauce (optional)

  • 4 teaspoons of mayonnaise

Garnish

chopped fresh parsley and cilantro

  1. Bone the chicken breasts in not done already. Leave the skin on but trim any extra fat. Use a meat pounder to flatten them (I put the breasts into a gallon plastic bag for this chore) to about 1/2 inch.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the lime zest, juice, garlic, honey, fish sauce, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. While whisking, slowly drizzle the vegetable oil into the mixture until it slightly thickens and becomes smooth.
  3. Measure out 1/2 cup of the marinade into a small, microwaveable bowl (if you intend to make a sauce), whisk in the 4 teaspoons of mayonnaise and set aside for later.
  4. Add the chicken breasts to the bowl with the marinade and turn to coat. You can then transfer everything to a ziplock gallon bag, press to remove as much air as possible, and refrigerate for an hour.
  5. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  6. Preheat a large, heavy bottomed skillet on the stove on medium high heat (or heat your charcoal grill). Once hot, brush with oil and place the chicken skin side down in the pan. Cook on the one side until browned and the breast releases easily. You will see the edges start to turn opaque, it will take about 5-10 minutes.
  7. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook another 10 minutes or until done to about 160 degrees F on the middle. They will cook quickly and continue to cook after you take the pan from the oven.
  8. Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing across the grain.
  9. If using the sauce, microwave it for 30 seconds until warm and stir in the chopped herbs. Pass the sauce with the chicken.
    Boneless chicken breast with chili lime marinade

    Boneless chicken breast with chili lime marinade

    Chicken with Chili Lime Marinade

    Chicken with Chili Lime Marinade