A few month’s ago I saw Adam (from the equipment corner) singing the praises of sous vide, the technique of vacuum-sealing food then submerging it in a water bath that’s been preset to the food’s ideal cooked temperature; e.g. 165-dergees for chicken breasts. The latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated tries to bring the technique to the masses, without the necessity of spending $500. Today’s results are good. The chicken was perfectly cooked, tender and juicy. But because today’s technique did not vacuum-seal the chicken, some of the flavor was washed away by the poaching liquid. Surely that oversight is the main difference between new sous vide and old-fashioned poaching (here is a woman poaching in the early 1600’s).
This chicken salad is 4-stars, but owing to the well-balanced flavors of the grapes, almonds, and other ingredients. Without any browning, the chicken itself is only 3-star. Personally, I find better and more complex flavors brought about by the Maillard Reaction to be more important than perfect texture.
- The “sous vide” instructions in this recipe are only an approximation. I followed the timing in the recipe exactly, but after 17 minutes when the chicken was supposed to be done, the poaching liquid had fallen to just 150-degrees. The chicken breast also had only reached an internal temperature of 150-degrees. I had to re-light the burner and heat for another 8 to 10 minutes to obtain the final internal temperature of 165-degrees.
- Without any browning, the salad had to rely on its other ingredients for flavor. If I make this recipe again, I will take the 150-degree chicken and brown in quickly in a very hot skillet.
- This method is certainly not as even as true sous vide, so be sure to flip the chicken occasionally while the burner is still turned on.
- Chris Kimball warns that you should not use breasts that weigh more than 8 ounces or are thicker than 1″. But even if your chicken falls within these parameters, you will still likely need to adjust the cooking time.
- Primarily the article was about sous vide, and offered a few recipes. In addition to the Chicken Salad with Red Grapes and Smoked Almonds that I made, there was also Curried Chicken Salad with Cashews and Waldorf Chicken Salad.
Rating: 4 stars.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low/Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.
Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:
Salt and pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (no more than 8 ounces each, and no more than 1″-thick).
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 celery ribs
6 ounces seedless red grapes
1/2 cup smoked almonds
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- Fill a dutch oven with 6 cups of cold water and stir in 2 tablespoons table salt until dissolved. Trim away any excess fat, then add chicken to cold water. Turn on burner to medium and slowly heat until the water reaches 170-degrees. While the burner is on, flip chicken a few times to ensure even cooking. Turn off burner, cover the dutch oven and allow to stand for 17 minutes. Put chicken onto a paper-towel lined plate.
- If the internal temperature of the chicken is below 165-degrees, pre-heat a skillet with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until it begins to smoke. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and brown in very hot skillet until the internal temperature reaches 165-degrees.
- Refrigerate chicken for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper to a medium/large bowl. Mince celery, shallow, parsley and rosemary and add to bowl. Coarsely chop almonds and cut grapes into quarters, then add to bowl.
- When chicken is fully cooked, use paper towels to dry the chicken and cut into 1/2″ dice. Add to bowl and toss together all the ingredients. Adjust the salt and pepper according to your taste.
- Serve as a sandwich or over leafy greens.