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.

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

November – Cashew-Crusted Chicken Breasts

November – Cashew-Crusted Chicken Breasts

This recipe has been in my “cook this soon” file for months. Do you have one of those? It was a recipe my brother gave me this past May in Key West. He thought I might like it and post about it sometime in the future. And there it languished in the file (along with a huge stack of cooking magazines) until this last week. I think I need to rename the file; “soon” doesn’t accurately describe my usual time line. On Wednesday night of last week I hit a low point creatively speaking. Time to pull out “the file”. I wanted something easy and quick, this fit all requirements. And my brother was correct! It was a BIG hit at the dinner table. Any leftovers were quickly packaged for a lunch the next day before anyone could have thirds. The end result far outweighs the small effort required, and the limited number of ingredients.

I am not a big fan of chicken breasts, we prefer thighs at our house. I find chicken breasts generally bland, dry, and uninteresting. The chicken breasts in this recipe are anything but those things. You first dip the breasts in an apricot/mustard/curry sauce, then roll them in chopped cashew nuts and bake in the oven for about 22 minutes. That is all there is to it! My local market had some thin sliced chicken breasts. If the breasts you use are large, I would recommend slicing them horizontally into thiner pieces. One pound of breasts will also go a lot further.

Cashew-Crusted Chicken Breasts

Cashew-Crusted Chicken Breasts

Cashew-Crusted Chicken Breasts

  • 1 (12 oz) jar of apricot preserves or conserve
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 1/2 cup roasted and salted cashews, coarsely chopped (I pulsed them in my food processor). Or, use 1 cup if not using panko.
  • 1/2 cup panko (the original recipe used all cashews with no panko)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced horizontally if thick
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or pan and place in the oven to preheat.
  2. Heat preserves in a small pan with the mustard and curry powder. Stir until melted and smooth. If the preserves have chunks of fruit, strain through a fine-mesh sieve set over a shallow bowl and push the mixture through. Press to get as much of the preserve through as possible. Reserve 1/2 cup to serve with the chicken.
  3. Mix cashews and panko (if using) on a shallow plate.
  4. Dip the chicken breast first in the apricot sauce, then dredge in the nuts and panko mixture. Transfer to the hot baking dish and drizzle or spray with a touch of neutral oil.
  5. Bake until cooked through, 22-30 minutes depending on thickness.
  6. Serve with reserved sauce.
Cashew-Crusted Chicken

Cashew-Crusted Chicken

These were absolutely delicious! You could use peanuts or another nut as well, or all panko. After the chicken was gone, we nibbled (that is a polite way of describing our fingers in the pan) on the bits in the bottom of the pan.

If you want to use all nuts, replace the panko with another 1/2 cup chopped cashews. The panko gave the chicken a touch more crispness but it would also be good with all nuts.

This recipe was adapted from http://www.allrecipes.com, Apr/May 2015.

February in the Kitchen – Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

February in the Kitchen – Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

A glut of Meyer lemons has had me researching ways to use them before they rot. This recipe for Meyer Lemon Confit by Tara Austen Weaver in the Sunday Chronicle caught my eye. If you have a similar abundance, Meyers make a distinguished Lemon Curd and also do well salted and preserved. The article included a recipe for using the confit with Pasta with Kale. Since my garden also has an abundance of kale, it was a no brainer.

Meyer lemons are a hybrid cross between a lemon and an orange. Unlike the more commonly available Lisbon or Eureka lemons, Meyers are thinner skinned, juicier, and have less of a sour bite. Because of their mildness, they are not always suitable for recipes needing a lot of acid. But their flavor is slightly floral, delicate, and elusive. A bowl of them on the counter will fill your kitchen with fragrance. I once saw my son (as a toddler) pick one from the tree and eat it as if it were an apple.

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

They are named after Frank N. Meyer. Dr. Meyer was a Dutch plant explorer working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He found them in 1908 near Beijing and brought them back, it was one of about 2,500 specimens he is credited with collecting.

Meyer lemons have thrived in backyards and gardens throughout California, Texas, and Florida. But, they haven’t made it as a commercial crop because they don’t ripen well once picked from the tree and are thought to be too perishable. The Meyer almost died out in the 40’s when they were found to carry a virus, which threatened the California citrus crop (although it didn’t hurt the Meyer lemon). Trees were to be torn out and destroyed. Lucky for us an “improved” Meyer lemon released in 1975 was found to be virus free.

Meyer Lemon Tree

Meyer Lemon Tree in a Half Wine Barrel Container

There was a mature Meyer lemon tree in our backyard when we purchased the house 25 years ago. It has continued to provide us with lemons all year almost non-stop all year. The same tree will have mature lemons, immature lemons, and flowers at the same time. Meyers do well in containers, although they are frost tender and should be moved to a protected place in the winter.

Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

  • 3 medium Meyer lemons (organic if possible)
  • ¼ cup of whole peeled garlic cloves
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Wash and dry the lemons. Cut off the ends and slice them ¼ inch thick, removing any seeds.
  3. Cut the garlic cloves so they are approximately the same size.
  4. Set a saucepan full of water on high heat and bring it to a boil.
  5. Blanch the lemon slices for 90 seconds, removing them with a slotted spoon to a strainer set over a bowl. You may need to do this in several batches. Once drained, add them to a medium bowl.
  6. Add the garlic to the boiling water and simmer for about 4 minutes. Drain but DO NOT TOSS OUT THE WATER IF YOU ARE MAKING THE PASTA DISH BELOW.
  7. Add the olive oil to the bowl with the lemons and toss to coat with oil.
  8. Lay the lemons in a single layer in a rectangular baking dish leaving space at one end.
  9. Add the garlic cloves to the remaining oil in the bowl. Toss to coat. Then add them to the empty side of the baking dish.
  10. Drizzle with any remaining oil in the bowl.
  11. Bake for 1-½ hours until the garlic mashes easily and the lemon rinds are soft. Turn the lemons every 30 minutes.
  12. When done, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool.
  13. Finely chop the mixture and transfer it to a tightly sealed jar.

The Lemon and Garlic Confit will keep for a month in the fridge, freeze it for longer storage.

 

Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

Meyer Lemon and Garlic Confit

Pasta with Kale and Lemon Confit (serves 4-6 as a main dish)

  • 1 pound of pasta, I used linguini
  • Water from blanching lemons and garlic
  • 2 bunches of Tuscan kale (you want about 5 cups when chopped and packed down in the cup)
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 ½ tablespoons of Lemon & garlic confit
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • Grated Meyer lemon zest, to taste (I used one additional lemon)
  • ½ cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Wash the kale and remove any tough center stems. Finely chop the leaves.
  2. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil (this can be the left over blanching water plus extra as needed). Once it boils, add the pasta and cook for the recommended time. Drain but do not rinse, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the kale, stirring while it wilts and cooks down for about 2 minutes. The kale will be slightly crispy like dried nori.
  4. Add the red pepper flakes and salt, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for another 10 minutes while the pasta is cooking.
  5. Stir in the Meyer Lemon Confit.
  6. Add the drained pasta to the frying pan; toss to mix with the kale. Add a little of the pasta cooking water if the mixture seems dry.
  7. Add the lemon juice, lemon rind, and taste for salt.
  8. Serve hot topped with Parmesan.
Pasta with Kale and Meyer Lemon Confit

Pasta with Kale and Meyer Lemon Confit

It was also good stuffed under the skin of a chicken breast, sauteed (skin up), and finished in the oven.

Chciken stuffed under the skin with lemon & garlic confit

Chciken stuffed under the skin with lemon & garlic confit

Bon Appetit!

This post is part of the monthly link up party “Our Growing Edge“. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. February 2015 is hosted by Kim at the blog Love, Live, Life by Kim.

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I’m also taking this pasta dish to share at Fiesta Friday #54, a weekly bloggers virtual dinner party hosted by Angie at the Novice Gardener. Please come join the fun.

Fiesta Friday

 

November in the kitchen – Polenta with Mushrooms and Easy Roast Chicken Breasts

November in the kitchen – Polenta with Mushrooms and Easy Roast Chicken Breasts

We are up on the North Coast for a few days and it feels like fall. The rain and cooler weather has given rise to lots of mushrooms. I wish I knew more about identifying them. I’m afraid I would poison us all if I were to pick and cook any! Last year, because of the terrible drought we’ve been having in California, there were hardly any. I wouldn’t eat this one but it sure is beautiful.

Northcoast mushroom

North coast mushroom probably a toadstool

What I will eat is these lovely porcini and chanterelles found in a local store. Now, what to do with them? There is some polenta in the pantry, and some dried porcini mushrooms, also a jar of Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub that I made last year. The market had some lovely boneless chicken breast with the skin still on (I think cooking them with the skin results in far more flavor, don’t you?). The menu was made!

Mushrooms - porcini and chanterelles

Porcini and Chanterelles

When I first read the recipe for “Fennel Spice Rub” in Michael Chiarello’s cookbook “Casual Cooking”, I knew I would love it. It has that wonderful combination of fennel, pepper, and cardamom. I added my favorite to the mix, cumin. I have used it with multiple recipes…chicken, turkey, and roast veggies. It has always resulted in a standout dish. It’s also easy to make and is a wonderful holiday gift. I have friends who specifically request it each year.

You will find the recipe for the rub at the end of this post.

Sunset at Seaside Beach

Sunset at Seaside Beach

After a lovely romp on the beach with the dogs, it was time to start preparing the meal.

Porcini Polenta with Sautéed Mushrooms (serves 4)

  • 1 cup of polenta
  • 1 tablespoons of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, divided
  • ½ cup of finely grated parmesan
  • 3 cups of roughly sliced fresh mushrooms (I used one large porcini and a dozen chanterelles 
  1. Mix the polenta with the dried mushrooms.
  2. Bring 4 cups of water and the salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan. While whisking, slowly add the polenta mix to the water. Bring back to the boil, put the lid on slightly ajar, and turn the heat down to simmer.
  3. As the polenta starts to thicken, thoroughly stir the sides and bottom of the pan every 5 minutes. Cook for 35-40 minutes total.
  4. When done, stir in 2 tablespoons of butter and the Parmesan cheese. Add more salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Polenta

Polenta

Mushrooms browned in butter

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet on medium-high heat.
  2. Add the sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and sauté until browned and cooked through. Don’t crowd the pan, as they will start to steam. You may need to do this in two batches.

While the polenta was cooking, I started the chicken.

Chicken breasts with Fennel Spice Rub

  • 4 chicken breasts, skin on
  • 4 tablespoons fennel spice rub (recipe below)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F
  2. If your skillet isn’t oven proof or won’t hold the 4 breasts without crowding, place a baking sheet or pan in the oven to heat.
  3. Rub each chicken breast with 1 tablespoon of fennel spice rub.
  4. Heat the olive oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet until you see it shimmer
  5. Add the chicken breasts, skin side down. You may need to do this in two batches, don’t crowd the pan.
  6. Brown the skin side, then turn the chicken and brown the other side. Brown any additional breasts if you need to do this in batches. Remove the first breasts to a plate.
  7. When all are browned, put them in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Check for doneness. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
chicken breasts

Chicken breasts with fennel spice rub

Browned chicken breasts

Browned chicken breasts

All that was needed was a salad of arugula, simply dressed with lemon and olive oil.

Polenta with mushrooms and roast chicken breasts

Polenta with mushrooms and roast chicken breasts

What’s missing? Oh, yes, the wine! We have a new favorite, this Australian Shiraz.

IMG_0247

Fennel Spice Rub

  • 1 cup fennel seeds
  • 3 tablespoons cumin seeds (my addition)
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons white peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt

 Directions:

  1. Put the fennel seeds coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and peppercorns in a heavy pan over medium heat. Watch carefully, tossing frequently so the seeds toast evenly.
  2. When light brown and fragrant, pour the seeds onto a plate to cool. They must be cool before grinding, or they will gum up the blades of your blender
  3. Pour the seeds into a blender and add the salt. Blend to a fine powder, shaking the blender container occasionally to redistribute the seeds.
  4. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool, dry place, or freeze.

Cheers!

This turned out so well that I will be taking it to the party on Friday to be with Angie and her friends at The Novice Gardener for Fiesta Friday #42. Come visit and sample all the great food.

fiesta-friday-badge-button-i-party

Also posted at Full Plate Thursdays and Showcase Your Talent Thursday.