Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sous Vide Sunday Chicken - Spicy Orange and Cilantro Brine

Last Tuesday I overhead two clients engaging in food related discussion. Understand that in my line of work, food is the devil. "I ate too much last night".  Or, "I'm going to pay for that buffet on Saturday".  And the ubiquitous, "I can't seem to drop the 5, 8 10, or 35 pounds......too much good food!" Yet the current conversation had the makings of a positive food experience: "the chicken at Flinchy's was the most tender and moist I had ever eaten. I don't know what they do to it. They have got to have some trick up their sleeve that we don't know about. I've never had chicken like that".

I don't know the secrets of a restaurant kitchen. I'm guessing they cook their chicken to the appropriate temperature. Perhaps they place it in a brine for a few hours to enhance it's juicyness. Do they sous vide? I doubt it.

I have never done chicken via sous vide. Usually I toss it into a skillet and roast at 350 degrees until crisp and juicy. This normally works fine.

Could sous vide elevate above the comfortable simplicity of an oven roasted chicken?

Let's find out.

First I brined it in a quick brine modified from  Michael Ruhlman.

Quick Brine

  • 15 oz water
  • 100g salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1/2 orange, quartered
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Fresh cilantro
  • 15 oz ice
Combine ingredients (except ice) and boil.  Let steep for 10 minutes off heat. Pour brine over ice. Pour over 3-4 pounds worth of chicken parts. Keep at room temp for 2-3 hours.

Then discard the brine and thoroughly rinse the chicken. Seal in plastic bag and vacuum pack. Lower into 147 degree water bath for 2 hours.

I'll be the first to admit that sous vide chicken, (steak, pork, and fish included) looks pale and unappetizing. To remedy, a hot pan and some coconut oil. Sear the outside, make a quick pan gravy, and get ready to plate.

Orange and cilantro brined chicken cooked sous vide and served with a cauliflower and poblano pepper gratin. 

Chewy Gingersnap Cookies

The smell of ginger and molasses wafting from the oven does not remind me of holiday's past. It's not that I am a complete Christmas Scrooge, but I can't recall ever making gingersnaps. We made gingerbread houses. But where did we get the gingerbread? I don't know.

I do remember an orange box full of gingersnap cookies. They were stacked side-by-side on a plastic tray that had a unique crackle to it like only plastic tray's can have. The snap of the cookie between my teeth reveberated through my head and the ginger bit back like novel spices have a tendency to do. That is my memory of the gingersnap:

An orange box. A plastic tray. A cookie with a kick.

My prerequisite for baking gingersnaps is threefold. And by this I mean, three types of ginger. Powdered, fresh grated, and crystallized. If you have three types of ginger you can't help but make a potent cookie.

What is the deal with lots of bold spice in cookies? Why do I, and possibly you, find that the hands are constantly in the cookie jar when the cookies fight back?

Psychologist Paul Rozin from the University of Pennsylvania writes that the human's love of spicy foods including ginger as well as chili, coffee, beer, and tobacco is a case of culture overriding a biological predisposition. We are not born liking spicy food, yet many of us develop an addiction to it.  The exact mechanism of this change is unknown. It could be social pressure, a certain type of endorphin secretion, or even a desire for "benign masochism".  

Some endurance coaches suggest that athletes who are slightly overtrained may experience an increased desire for spicy food, among other things. Perhaps it's the endorphins at work. Or is it just the case that most athletes are addicted to a daily dose of "benign masochism". Two strikes. Add a dose of social pressure (my competitors are probably training today) and you have a simple explanation for our culture's desire for spicy foods.

Or maybe it is simply a positive memory built around an orange box, a plastic tray, and a spicy cookie.

A day of rest could help if you only find crumbs a day after making this recipe. It not for the recovery from your workout than for the recovery from the bloat you will feel after consuming so much sugar and flour in short order.

  • Flour, baking powder and spices
  • Crystallized ginger, minced
  • Fresh ginger, grated
  • Brown sugar
  • Butter, softened (I used olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and some soy something or other).
  • Molasses
  • Egg