Sit. Stay. Cook.

Cook to live. Live to cook.

Remember when I told you I love to cook seafood? I also like challenging myself to find new ways to cook seafood, which is why I picked up a copy of Rick Moonen’s Fish Without a Doubt. I love this book because there’s a good mix of simple and challenging recipes throughout. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve made two meals from the book, both with excellent results.

The first recipe we tried was for Jalapeno Salmon Burgers. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and the only modification we made was to serve the burgers on whole-wheat hamburger buns instead of pitas.

These are so flavorful. I think we’ll kick the heat up a bit next time, though, by using a Serrano pepper instead of the jalapeno. Just a tiny bit more heat would be really good.

The other recipe we tried was his Oil-Poached Halibut with Gribiche and Poached Eggs, with became Sous Vide Whitefish with Gribiche and Poached Eggs. This one we modified quite a bit to reduce fat and because I couldn’t find some ingredients locally. We used cod because we couldn’t find halibut, but I prefer halibut so we’ll use that when it’s available. We also chose to sous vide the fish, rather than oil-poaching it, because while oil poached fish sounds delicious, it also sounds like a plea for a heart attack. Our version was really, really good, capturing the essence of Moonen’s dish while staying true to our healthy convictions.

Another winner.

So many people say they “don’t like fish.” I don’t get it. There are so many varieties of fish, and preparation methods – it’s like saying, “I don’t like vegetables” or “I don’t like meat” – such a sweeping condemnation of such a large family of food choices. Poach it, eat it in a burger, pan-sear it, form it into patties, chunk it up in stew – jeez, the possibilities are endless. Moonen’s book as recipes for all of these and more. It’s hard to decide what to cook next.

Such a wonderful dilemma.

Lots of good food going on in our kitchen lately…

Some of it is really simple, and some of it has been a bit more complex. We’ll stick with the simple stuff for now.

Like a ham and cheese omelette:

A day off led to sleeping in, after which I thought an omelette was appropriate. I was right.

Egg Beaters, leftover ham, cheddar cheese, Penzey’s Sunny Paris seasoning (ah-mazing with eggs), salsa, sour cream. Great way to start a day. Or an afternoon.

Or like sous vide pork chops with pan roasted cauliflower:

Tastes like super-thick bacon.

Brine the pork overnight in a solution of 1/4 c. salt dissolved in 4 cups of water. Rinse, season with a little salt and pepper, vacuum seal and sous vide at 140 degrees for 8 to 10 hours. Remove from bag, pat dry, and sear in a blazing hot cast iron skillet for about 1 minute on each side.

Or maybe old-school taco crunch:

Ah, the best part of high school food – taco crunch. Mine isn’t as good as the kind covered in Fritos, but it’s close.

Lettuce, baked corn chips, cheese, salsa, sour cream, taco meat – nothing fancy here, just tasty.

Or like a sous vide flank steak with roasted purple potatoes and blue cheese:

Let’s talk for a minute about steak.You can have a tender cut (tenderloin, strip) or a flavorful cut (flank, skirt) but you usually can’t have both. Which is why the sous vide method of cooking is so incredible.

Season a flank steak with salt and pepper, vacuum seal it, and sous vide it at 140 degrees for 36 hours. Remove from bag, pat dry, sear and slice. You’ll have a perfectly cooked medium piece of tender, flavorful steak.

I repeat – if you want the best steak you’ll ever eat, cook your steak this way. Your first steak cooked this way is worth the cost of a Sous Vide Supreme. For reals.

So simple!

In the spirit of people making New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve vowed to expand my cooking horizons in the new year.

This vow has stemmed, in part from the fact that I received many excellent cookbooks for Christmas. Many. Excellent. Cookbooks. This will receive its own post as soon as I unload my camera (I probably should vow not to procrastinate as much this year, but I think I’ll save that one for next year).

One of the books I received was Ferran Adria’s The Family Meal, a well-done, practical guide to simple, straightforward cooking. Loaded with photos to guide you at every step along the cooking process, the book is filled with recipes for complete meals made from common and inexpensive ingredients. Like many cookbooks, this one has a section of “basic” recipes for things you can use in other recipes. Things like pesto, tomato sauce, and the first thing I decided to make from the book, sofrito, which is a combination of onions, garlic and tomatoes used as the base for many dishes.

Sofrito
Servings: 2 1/3 cups – for use in other recipes

9 garlic cloves
1/2 c. extra-virgin oil
4 1/3 c. onions, finely chopped
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
3/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1 dried bay leaf
8 oz canned tomato puree
1/2 tsp. salt

Put the garlic into a tall jar or beaker, then process to a paste using a hand-held blender. Put a saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Fry the garlic until browned.

Meanwhile, process the onion in the blender. Add to the pan with the garlic. Lower the heat, add the herbs, then fry, stirring frequently, until the onion has browned.

Add four-fifths of the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes. Add the remaining tomato, cook for 30 more minutes, then season with salt and pepper.

This will keep in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for 6 months.

I froze most of this for use later, but used some of it in dinner last night:

That, my friends, is one of the tastiest, and probably the healthiest preparation Chicken Tikka Masala you or I will ever eat. Those are some halved dates on the plate in the background, left over from Christmas’s sticky toffee pudding (I promise to post about that sometime soon, too).

I based my recipe on one I found from Weight Watchers, but tweaked it quite a bit to fit my proclivities in the kitchen – like the addition of sofrito to the sauce, and using the sous vide cooking method for the chicken. Using sous vide for the chicken cut down on time, in that I could cook the chicken and marinate it in one step. The chicken came out melt-in-your-mouth tender, and was intensely flavorful. Sofrito added a depth of flavor to the sauce that isn’t normally found in quick-cook meals, and really took this dish to the next level.

Lyndsey’s Chicken Tikka Masala
Servings: 4

For the chicken:
2/3 c. low-fat plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. fresh ginger root, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp cumin seeds, divided
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast(s), cut into 2-inch chunks

For the sauce:
2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp. sofrito (see above)
1 small jalapeño pepper(s), minced
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp paprika
8 oz canned tomato sauce
1 cup(s) fat-free evaporated milk
1/4 cup(s) cilantro, fresh, chopped
2 cup(s) cooked white rice, basmati, kept hot (we used TJ’s Frozen Jasmine Rice)

For the chicken:
Heat the Sous Vide Supreme to 147 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, lime juice, ginger, garlic, cumin and pepper; add chicken and toss to coat. Put into a food-safe bag and vacuum-seal on medium. Sous vide for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove chicken from bag and pat off most of the marinade.

Heat 1 tsp. oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Just when the oil starts to smoke, add the chicken and sear for 1 minute on each side. Remove to a plate while you make the sauce.

For the sauce:
Heat 1 tsp. oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the sofrito and jalapeno; cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Add remaining teaspoon of cumin and paprika and stir to coat. Add tomato sauce and evaporated milk, reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add chicken back into skillet with the sauce and simmer 1 minute to heat through. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Serve with rice.

Both Mr. Awesome and I loved this dish and plan on putting it in the permanent rotation.

This will be a year full of love, laughter, good food and good times. Hello, 2012!

We recently had a craving for Mexican food, but not the kind that’s slathered in cheese and served with a side of gloppy beans. We wanted something a bit more authentic, but authentic isn’t easy in the suburbs. However, there are a couple of local gems to be found here and there, and one of them is a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican place in KC called Ixtapa. It’s not the most authentic in the world, but it’s not On The Border, either.

My favorite thing on their menu is a plate of these delicious open-faced tacos with caramelized onions, grilled chicken, guacamole, cilantro and salsa verde. To. Die. For. And simple. So I figured I could recreate these little discs of goodness at home.

And I was right, for the most part.

Don’t those look delicious?!

We started at the bottom with the tortilla, and bought some corn tortillas from the grocery store. Next, we looked on the jarred salsa isle for some salsa verde. I know, I know – the best salsa is that which you make yourself, but I wanted these to be as easy as possible, and finding all the right ingredients for fresh salsa verde in December in a Kansas City suburb isn’t all that easy. I settled for Pace Salsa Verde and believe it or not, this stuff is really, really good.

Next was the chicken, which is where we get nice and creative. I got some espresso rub from Spices Inc. a few months ago, and it’s a little spicy, a little sweet, a little savory, and just seemed perfect for our tacos. So I covered some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the rub, vacuumed sealed them, and popped the them in the Sous Vide Supreme for an hour at 146 degrees.

While the chicken was doing its thing, I caramelized some onions and Mr. Awesome chopped up some cilantro. When the chicken was done, we took it out of the vacuumed-sealed bags and tossed the breasts into a smokin’ hot cast-iron skillet for a quick sear before slicing into strips/chunks.

Better-Than-Your-Average-Taco Tacos
Servings: 4

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Spices Inc. Espresso Rub (or another flavorful rub with a little heat)
2 large yellow onions, sliced
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
12 smallish corn tortillas
Salsa verde (we used Pace)
Guacamole (we used some store-bought organic guacamole)
Canola oil
Cooking spray
Salt and pepper
1 lime, for juice

Preheat the Sous Vide Supreme to 146 degrees F. Rub the chicken breasts with the espresso rub until sufficiently coated. Put the breasts in a food-safe plastic bag and vacuum seal on Medium. Put the bag into the Sous Vide Supreme and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the chicken from the Sous Vide Supreme, take out of the bag, and let cool slightly.

When the chicken is almost done, heat a wide-bottomed skillet coated with canola oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and spread them out to cover the bottom of the pan. Let the onions cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. You want them to brown slowly, but not burn. If they stick, add a little bit of water. I keep a cup of water nearby and just splash some in there every once in a while. About halfway through cooking, season the onions with salt and pepper. The onions are done when they are very soft and caramel-colored.

Preheat a cast-iron skillet coated with canola oil over medium-high to high heat. When it’s really hot, add the chicken and sear for 1 minute on each side. Remove from pan and slice into strips/chunks.

Preheat an indoor grill (like a Cuisinart or Foreman) to high heat. Spray a little cooking spray on each tortilla and grill for 1 to 2 minutes per side until warmed and soft. Don’t overcook, or they’ll harden up.

To assemble:
Place three tortillas on each of four plates. Top the tortillas with some caramelized onions, then chicken, the some guacamole, then cilantro. Squeeze a little lime juice on each taco. Put the salsa verde in a bowl on the table, and add a spoonful of salsa verde to each taco before eating it. You don’t want to put the salsa verde on in advance or else the tacos will get soggy.

The biggest difference between my tacos and the ones served at Ixtapa is the tortillas. The Ixtapa tortillas are smaller and softer, and I like them better than the ones we found at the grocery store. I think I’ll hunt around for a store that sells more Mexican products and would hopefully have a better tortilla selection. Better yet, maybe I can find a place that sells homemade tortillas… any thoughts?

As for my tacos, despite the not-perfect tortillas, they are really delicious. They go great with some red sangria and a little Latin-flavored chill-out music playing in the background.

Fruit-infused alcohol.

Alcohol-infused fruit.

Both sound delicious, and both are made possible with my chamber vac.

I described how to make watermelon tequila bites in a previous post. Those are delicious (and powerful – oh man!), but I wanted to try something a bit more tropical: Malibu rum and pineapple.

We love piña coladas. When we spent a week in Vegas for our wedding, we spent some good times by the hotel pool drinking piña coladas and soaking up the sun. While I love the flavor of piña coladas, I’m not a fan of the calories. Alcohol has enough calories on its own. So does fruit juice. Things start to get crazy when coconut milk and coconut cream are added. So we used our FF5k to create some martinis and fruit in the flavors we wanted, but cut out the creamy coconut additions.

It starts like this:

We put fresh pineapple chunks into a bag and poured on just enough Malibu rum to cover the fruit.

Then, the bag went into the FF5k and we compressed it for 40 seconds.

We chilled the compressed pineapple in the fridge for about 2 hours, then made martinis:

Frank dressed his up with some grenadine and a little ice:

Pretty, huh? Pretty delicious, too.

Next time, we will compress the fruit on high (for a full minute) because I think that will affect the texture more. We’ll also use 90 proof coconut rum instead of the weak Malibu stuff. Malibu is good, but the fruit needed a bit more… punch.

 

In my previous post, I talked about my recent cooking adventure involving a compression vacuum and Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide. The pictures in that post don’t really do the process, or the final product, justice.

Last night I finally took a few minutes to unload the real camera (as opposed to my iPhone, from which the photos in the last post came) and the resulting pictures were too good not to share.

Here’s a BEFORE shot of the cucumber batons in their bag:

And here’s the same cucumbers, after being chamber vac’ed on HIGH:

Remarkable, eh?

This is what my red-onion relish looked like, after about 45 minutes of cooking:

And here’s what the cucumbers look like being chopped – try to picture what “normal” cucumbers look like – there’s quite a difference:

Finally, here is a better shot of the finished product:

It took some time to put this together, but the end result was worth all of the effort.

Thomas Keller is a food god. I’m not just saying that – he’s probably the best chef in the United States, and one of the best in the world. He’s a multiple James Beard award winner, and has two restaurants with three Michelin stars. For those of who who don’t speak foodie, he’s like the Michael Jordan of cooking. He’s Stan Lee. He’s Sir Laurence Olivier. He’s Hawking. He’s Gates. He’s the top player in his field, and his field is cooking.

Just like any top player, his techniques are innovative, inspiring, daring and difficult to master. While he has written several cookbooks, most of his recipes – and I use this term loosely – are not exactly what you would call “remotely doable” by a home cook.

But… Keller wrote an entire book about sous vide cooking – Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide.

And… I have a chamber vac, which is a key tool necessary to make most of the recipes in this book work.

Unfortunately… I don’t have a copy of Under Pressure on hand. The bookstore didn’t have it in stock, and my local library has it on order from another branch, so I won’t be able to fully dive into it for at least another week.

Thank goodness for Google Books! And for decent eyesight! Google Books has two recipe pages available for view, one of which looked like it would be perfect for my first foray into the world of Thomas Keller: Marinated Toy Box Tomatoes with Compressed Cucumber-Red Onion Relish, Toasted Brioche, and Diane St. Claire Butter. Sounds awesome, right?!

Here we go. First, here’s Keller’s recipe (keep in mind I had to transcribe this from super-tiny type):

Marinated Toy Box Tomatoes with Compressed Cucumber-Red Onion Relish, Toasted Brioche, and Diane St. Claire Butter
Servings: 4

Red Onion Relish:
100 grams small dice red onion
23 grams granulated sugar
125 grams water
12 grams red wine vinegar
1 English cucumber

Tomatoes:
35 grams roughly chopped basil
140 grams water
140 grams granulated sugar
290 grams Toy Box tomatoes, peeled

Extra virgin olive oil
Small basil leaves
High-quality unsalted butter, such as Diane St. Claire, at room temperature
Four 1/2-inch thick slices Brioche, crusts removed and toasted
Maldon salt

For the onion relish:
Combine the onion, sugar and water in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes. The onions should be tender. Add the vinegar and cook for another 20 minutes, or until there is only a very small amount of liquid left. Cool, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill.

Cut the cucumber into 3-inch lengths. Trim the sides away to square off the edges, then cut 8 even rectangles about 1 inch wide by 1/4 inch thick from each piece (2 per side); cut only until you reach the seeds, and discard the seedy centers. Lay the cucumber slices side by side in one layer in a bag. Vacuum-pack on high, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Cut the cucumber into a small dice, about 1/8 inch. You should have about 85 grams of cucumber.

For the tomatoes:
Combine the chopped basil, water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Chill this simple syrup over an ice bath, whisking until cold.

Place the tomatoes in a large bag and strain in enough syrup to cover them; you may not use all of it. Vacuum-pack on high, then refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight.

At service:
Toss the cucumber and onion together. Drain the tomatoes and toss with a little olive oil and small basil leaves. Whip the butter until smooth. Serve with the brioche toast and Maldon salt.

Sounds simple, huh? ;) This is, by far, the most simple recipe in Under Pressure, and it’s still complicated as all get-out.

However… we have the technology.

We spent the better part of a Saturday shopping  and cooking. We visited the farmer’s market to find just the right tomatoes, cucumber and onion before heading home to our kitchen/science laboratory.

The first thing we did was peel the cucumber and cut it into batons. Then, we compressed the batons on HIGH. This, by the way, was the very first thing we’ve ever compressed on HIGH – that is, decompressing the chamber for a full 60 seconds before allowing the air to return, effectively slamming all the solid parts together. So, so cool. These went in the fridge and I turned my attention to the tomatoes.

At the market, we selected some heirloom cherry tomatoes in lots of different colors. Keller’s recipe calls for the tomatoes to be peeled, so I blanched them briefly to loosen the skin then set to peeling:

Peeling tiny tomatoes takes a little while, but it’s worth it. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with an unpeeled cherry tomato ever again.

After making the basil-infused simple syrup, we vacuum-packed the tomatoes and the syrup, on HIGH again. I was afraid this would crush the tiny little balls of summertime sunshine, but luckily Chef Keller knows best and HIGH was just right:

We let this chill for about 2 hours with the cucumbers. We then diced up the cucumbers, mixed them with the onion relish, drained the tomatoes, and put them both together in one bowl for a high-tech and highly delicious salad. And now… the big reveal:

Isn’t that cool-looking?! It tasted incredible, and the textures – I can’t even describe the textures because they are unlike anything I’d experienced before.

You’ll notice the absence of brioche and butter. I chose to omit those in favor of a salad, and had a burger with this instead. A perfect pairing, I must say.

I  think that my first experience with a Thomas Keller recipe was a big success. It took time, but I love spending time in the kitchen. It’s relaxing and exciting and so much fun. Keller’s recipes are complicated, but his flavors are so spot-on that they are worth the effort. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Under Pressure and expect to pick it up from the library this week.

In the mean time, I checked out another of his books, Ad Hoc At Home, and am already planning my next trip to the farmer’s market.

For my birthday, I got a new toy: the VacMaster VP112.

Still have no idea what this thing is? That’s okay. My family and friends are confused, too.

The short version is that this 50lb contraption will let me vacuum-seal liquids and things with liquid components.

I received it on Friday and gave it an inaugural over the weekend. The first thing we made was compressed watermelon tequila bites.

First we cut up watermelon and put it in bags, along with some homemade tequila syrup:

The, we used the Fruit Fucker 5000 Vacmaster VP112 to compress the heck out of the watermelon and syrup. The result looked something like this:

Compressed Watermelon Tequila Bites

1/2 of a small seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. tequila
1/4 c. lime juice

Divide watermelon cubes among two food-grade plastic bags and set aside.

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and set saucepan in an ice bath to rapidly chill. Once the syrup is cool, stir in tequila and lime juice.

Divide the tequila syrup between the two watermelon bags. Compress each bag on HIGH. Refrigerate at least an hour, but 2 days seems to be the magic number.

I totally winged this recipe, and it turned out really well.  The watermelon takes on a sort of meaty quality when compressed, and the tequila infusion packed quite a punch. These would make excellent party snacks, but be careful – it’s easy to get boozy without realizing what’s going on.

You’ll have some watermelon-infused tequila left over in each bag, and with that we made a couple of martinis, adding in a bit of triple sec and vodka, plus a compressed watermelon cube (or two):

Absolutely delicious.

Man, oh man. I’ve really done it this time. I’ve made the impossible possible. And it wasn’t that hard.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to make fried chicken. But, there were several factors preventing me from achieving that goal. First, the thought of a dangerous vat of deadly oil mere inches from my skin is a complete turn-off. Second, all the dredging and frying is messy, and while I don’t mind making a manageable mess, a fried chicken mess is a whole different story. But the biggest obstacle standing between me and homemade fried chicken is that fried chicken is definitely not healthy. It’s fried in a vat of hot oil. What’s not fatty and gross about that?

However.

Remember when I said I have been craving not-so-good-for-me food lately?

The stars aligned when I read about a method of flash-frying already cooked chicken to make fried chicken. The chicken gets coated in buttermilk and flour and seasoning just the same as regular fried chicken, but since it’s already cooked, it only goes into the oil long enough to crisp up the coating – about 45 seconds – and not long enough to have the oil soak into the coating or the chicken. The result, in theory, is a piece of chicken that is tender and juicy on the inside, and crispy, but not greasy, on the outside.

I have to admit, this sounded too good to be true.

The method I read about involved poaching the chicken in some chicken broth before dredging and frying. While that’s fine for most people, most people don’t have the single greatest chicken-cooking device on the planet: the Sous Vide Supreme.

We started with four bone-in, skinless chicken thighs. We seasoned them with a little salt and pepper, vacuumed-sealed them in a single plastic bag, and sous vide the thighs at 150 degrees for 1.5 hours. I read that dark meat needs to be sous vide at a higher temperature for a longer time than white meat because the higher fat content makes it more susceptible to bacteria growth. If we had been doing chicken breasts instead of thighs, we would have sous vide the breasts at 146 degrees for 1 hour.

When we took the chicken thighs out of their bag and dried them a bit with paper towels, they looked like this:

Poor little naked chicken thigh. He needs a coat.

While they aren’t much to look at, they were tender, juicy and just begging to be drenched in coating and sent swimming in a pot of oil. Speaking of which…

When the chicken was almost done cooking, we prepared the oil:

It looks unassuming enough, but that stuff will eat your face.

We had never, ever fried anything in our house. The closest we’d come is about 2 tablespoons of olive oil for some chicken piccata. But, our trusty cast-iron dutch oven was the perfect vessel into which to add our 64 ounces of corn oil. You want a pan with high sides for this, believe me.

Why corn oil? I’m glad you asked. Corn oil is close to olive oil on the healthfulness scale, the primary difference there being that olive oil has more polyunsaturated fat (the kind that may lower cholesterol). But corn oil has a higher smoke point than most olive oils, so it’s better for high-temperature cooking, like frying.

We slowly heated the corn oil to about 400 degrees. Jesus, just typing that makes me a bit uncomfortable. That is seriously hot.

While the oil was heating, we prepared the dredging materials that would turn our naked chicken into fried chicken. We poured 2 cups of low-fat buttermilk into one bowl, and mixed together some whole-wheat flour, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and celery salt in another bowl. Then came the fun – for Frank, at least.

Frank is the designated dredger and fry cook in this house. I value my eyebrows too much.

Each piece of chicken was dipped in buttermilk, then in the flour mixture, then back in the buttermilk, then back in the flour mixture, before being gently submerged (sort of scarily tossed) into the oil jacuzzi. Frank said that the dredging was much harder than it looked, since having to move the chicken multiple times between liquid and flour ingredients turned some of the flour into glue and gave Frank a condition that  he humorously described as “concrete paw.”

Side note: the term “concrete paw” was coined in 2005, during the first and only time our dearly departed cat, Rags, was introduced to clumping cat litter. At 25 pounds, he had feet to match his weight and let’s just say that clumping litter + a very large cat with diabetes = cat with concrete paws.

When you toss the chicken in the oil, you’ll be happy you have a high-sided pan. The oil sputters and bubbles and generally freaks out. It was at this point that Frank and I realized that neither of us wanted to go anywhere near the oil, but at the same time we had about 30 seconds to get that chicken out of there or no fried chicken for us. Frank sucked it up and rescued the chicken from his potentially greasy misery. Repeat for each chicken breast.

When the chicken was done, we put it on rack that we hung over the sink. Clever, huh? That was Frank’s idea – no mess!

And now, the big reveal. What did that little naked chicken breast turn into?

OhmygodIcantbelieveImadethis Chicken!

Look at that. Just look at it. Does that look any different from traditional fried chicken? You bet your thighs it doesn’t!

I still can’t believe we made that. We made fried chicken and our house didn’t burn down and our arteries didn’t clog and all is well in the world.

To complete our fried chicken dinner, we made some mashed potatoes (with skim milk, Brummel and Brown and chicken broth) and some “creamed” spinach (secret: the “cream” is actually a little bit of Greek yogurt!) and the whole meal together looked like something my Grandma would have made back when people had arteries of steel:

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

The only thing we need to work on with our chicken is the seasoning in the coating. It needs more spice, more flavor, but that’s the easy part. For now, here’s our in-need-of-a-few-seasoning-adjustments recipe for healthier fried chicken. I’ve named it 10-Mile Walk Fried Chicken because when I told my mom I could now make healthier fried chicken she got real quiet and intense and said, in the most serious voice a mom can use, “Lynn, I would walk to your house for fried chicken.” She was so not kidding.

10-mile Walk Fried Chicken
Servings: 4
WW Points+: 5 per serving

4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 quarts corn oil
1 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1 Tbsp. sweet paprika
1 1/2 tsp. celery salt
1 Tbsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 c. low-fat buttermilk

Preheat the Sous Vide Supreme to 150 degrees.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and vacuum-seal in a plastic, food-safe bag. Place the bag in the machine and sous vide for 1.5 hours. When the chicken is done, remove from the bag and pat dry with paper towels.

Pour the corn oil into a large pot with high sides and bring it to 400 degrees over high heat. Set a wire rack over the sink or in a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels (to drain the chicken after it’s fried). In a shallow dish, whisk together the flour, paprika, celery salt, pepper, salt and cayenne. Pour the buttermilk into another bowl.

Add the chicken thighs to the buttermilk, coating them completely. Dredge the thighs in the seasoned flour. Then dip the thighs back in the buttermilk and dredge them in flour again, to double-coat the thighs, shaking off any excess flour.

Fry the chicken, two pieces at a time, in the oil until deep golden brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from oil and let drain on the wire rack. Serve immediately.

It sounds complicated. It sounds messy. It sounds fatty and greasy and bad for you. But this chicken is none of those things. This chicken is easy, delicious, and darn-near miraculous.

I wonder if this method would work with Fish and Chips…? Hmm…

A couple of weeks ago I came down with a terrible cold. The worst cold I’ve had in years. It put me out of work for a week, and I’m still coughing occasionally two weeks later.

I didn’t want to do anything at all while I was sick, especially cook. We had a lot of meals that included grilled cheese sandwiches or pho or Chipotle. All decent – good, even – but I missed cooking. I’m anxious this week to get back to normal, or at least normal for me.

Yesterday we made a trip to Whole Foods and we came home with some organic chicken breast. I had some of our standard Costco chicken breast thawed in the fridge, and we put both types of chicken in separate bags in the sous vide machine for a chicken taste-off.

We seasoned both types of chicken with just a little salt and pepper, and cooked them at 147 degrees F for a little over an hour. Then, we removed the chicken from the bags and sliced it into thin pieces.

The results were as we expected – the organic chicken breast had more chicken flavor and was a bit more tender. The Costco chicken breast was more of a blank slate – very little flavor, really. Frank described the Costco chicken as “one-note” and the Whole Foods chicken as being “multi-colored.” I completely agree.

The cost difference is pretty substantial – $8.99 a pound for organic at Whole Foods, verses, well, I honestly can’t recall offhand but it’s something like $20 for six 2-breast packages – but I can see uses for both types of chicken. For dishes where the chicken is more of a foundation for other flavors (cacciatore, chicken Parmesan, stuff with lots of sauce), the Costco chicken will do the trick. But for things where the chicken is more on its own (pho, chicken salad, stir-fry) we’re going to try to get organic chicken in the future.

We used some of the chicken in pho, and the rest will be used in chicken salad for dinner tonight.

For dinner on Tuesday, we’re going to have one of my favorite springtime meals – roasted asparagus, poached eggs and crusty bread. I like to put some fresh grated Parmesan on the asparagus and sprinkle the whole bit with pink peppercorns:

Spring on a plate.

Such a simple, yet elegant and delicious meal. Costco has some really lovely asparagus in stock right now, so I suggest you go get your own bunch of Spring.