Suddenly Sous Vide!
Chapter 2 in the epic saga of Chef Sean and bro-mance with the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator.
Which Came First, The Chicken Breasts or the Hard Egg?
The girls at the Jett Family Farm have been working overtime lately and providing 4-8 eggs per day. That puts us at a bit of a surplus, so it’s time to do some experimenting! I want to make that perfect hard cooked egg! We want that egg that is ideal. Fully yellow yolk with no green or grey and a perfect firm and tasty white.
First things first. These are not yer mamma’s grocery store eggs. They are the real deal, fresh eggs. Before we can use them, we need to wash them. My hens leave a bloom on the eggs. It protects the eggs and allows them to remain fresh and viable for as many as two weeks until the hen is happy with the clutch she lays and starts the 21 day incubation process. This is why many home chicken folk will leave their unwashed eggs on the counter for a month and feel just fine about being able to eat them.
Oh yeah, wash the eggs. Set your immersion circulator for your desired temp. I am going with a slightly cooler temp today of 160° F. That will leave the whites a bit more creamy and the yolk fully cooked but not grainy. The goal of these eggs is out of hand consumption. If you want the perfect egg for deviled or egg salad, run your temp UP to 167° F. Cook your eggs for 1 hour. Why did I set it long? I wanted to give myself some buffer room for cook times and hold times.
After an hour, shock the eggs in an ice water bath.
Crack and peel. Again. These are not the perfect salad or deviling eggs, as they white is a bit softer, but the texture of the yolk and the white are fantastic for out of hand eating!
So you want to cook a chicken breast and they are ALWAYS SO FREAK’N DRY!!! Today we experiment with that most pedestrian of proteins. The humble chicken breast. Maligned and dreaded for its lack of flavor and overcooked and dry texture, we will use a bit of technology to improve both the flavor and the texture of this most dreaded of daily proteins.
First you have to make it usable. Market form chicken breasts are MONSTERS! This beast is 14 ounces!!! The average human needs no more than 4 ounces of protein per serving, so we get to trimming! Trim the outside cartilage where the keel bone was, trim the excess fat around the tip, and trim the bone and cartilage around the wing joint, then remove the membrane that covers the breast and you are ready to portion it out!
Rather than cut across the breast into odd size and shape portions, use your sharp chef knife and essentially butterfly cut the breast into approximately 4 ounce portions. So from the 4 breasts we started with there are 9 portions plus an extra 8 ounces of trim for the soup pot! Save your non trim scraps for the stock pot!
Time to cook? Close. Time to bag ‘em Going to do two methods of “bagging” to test the systems. Vacuum bagging and water displacement with zip top bags. So why different methods? Not everyone has access to a vacuum sealing system, so I wanted to show that using zip top bags is a doable alternative. This recipe is a simple salt and pepper seasoning with fresh thyme and garlic. I am essentially butter poaching the meat so I am throwing in a half ounce of butter per portion. Vacuum sealing is obvious. Seal and go. The zip top bag, is one extra step, but far from difficult. Zip all but an inch of the bag and let out most of the air. Then when the water is at full temperature, immerse the bag, TOP UP into the water, allowing the water to force the balance of the air out.
So, fresh water in. I am going with setting the oven to 149° F and cooking for 1 hour. Let the water come to temp. But wait chef, you say! 149° F? Isn’t that an unsafe temperature to cook chicken to? Good question! The standard minimum internal cooking temperature for chicken is 165° F for 15 seconds to safely kill Nontyphoidal Salmonella, so 149° F just does not seem like its warm enough! If you were ONLY cooking the food UP to a temperature of 149° F, then you would be correct, but in this case you are cooking the food to an internal temperature of 149° F for an hour. The USDA cooking guide for pasteurization of chicken breast at 149° F is to cook it at temp for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. In English? The food has been cooked to a safe temperature, even cooking it to UNDER the recommended 165° F!
Okay, we are done with the sanitation and safety portion of our presentation, so, the result? A fully cooked, butter and herb poached chicken breast. After we put a nice hard sear on the meat in a hot pan, we can cut it open and give it a try! The meat is VERY juicy, and the texture is a little different from the standard issue grilled or broiled chicken breast. Texture wise is very tender and very much not dry. Normally, I brine chicken breasts, but this time, I ran without so I could get a good benchmark. Next time, we brine!
Next up? Pork Loin!!!!