The RV Chronicles — Cooking under vacuum in the smallest of spaces (Recipe: Crispy Salsa Chicken)

If you happen upon this brief story and you aren’t among my 17 loyal followers, just know that I’ve spent my life in an RV for the past 18 months. My challenge — other than taking a shower, sleeping and finding some ‘me’ space — has been cooking such as I did in my gourmet kitchen on Chestnut Lane.

It hasn’t been the easiest transition.

Thankfully, my lack of a decent internet connection and the presence of three others in this tight space resulted in me being on Santa’s ‘good’ list for 2016. My reward? A sous vide contraption.

Sous vide is a French phrase that translates to under vacuum. As for the sous vide cooking device, it essentially circulates exact-temperature water around a plastic bag of meat it for a certain amount of time. In other words, if you want a steak cooked to medium rare, this machine can be programmed to reach 131°F (that’s 55°C for my three followers across the pond), and voilà — that’s what it does … in a nutshell, anyway.

I’ve had a craving for a sous vide machine since I first saw them available several years ago. The mere fact that a machine could tenderize meat by cooking it for hours at a constant temperature impressed the heck out of me. (High end restaurants have employed this method for quite some time.) But my wife gave me a choice between that and paying the electricity bill.

Fortunately, those machines have come down in price, and even better, one can buy a sous vide immersion wand (they look much like a hair straightening device) for around $100 these days.

Lucky for me, the portable immersion device fits in the Jimmy Rockford.

I happen to know a couple of dudes who use the sous vide religiously — and with great success. Stefan, who lives and cooks near Amsterdam, should probably get a commission from some of these sous vide machine companies, because his techniques have made me hungry for years. If you want to research this method through and through (Stefan is nice enough to post his fails as well as his successes), visit Stefan’s Gourmet Blog. ~ Conor, who hails from Dublin, seemed to fall under Stefan’s sous vide spell before I did. He’s been doing it for a while now too, and my mouth waters with every recipe he posts. His virtual home on the web is called One Man’s Meat and it’s a treat for the eyes and the recipe book.

Now, if only these gentlemen would make the trip to the Houston area and show me how to create such beautiful tasty fare in a Smart Car-sized kitchen.


This Crispy Salsa Chicken was the result of some culinary toying on my part. I wanted some crunch and some fall-apart in the same bite. It works well using a slow-cooker, but the sous vide truly provides a more rewarding bite. Admittedly, I have also been playing around with my new Roccbox, a portable oven that reaches more than 900°F. In it, I crisped the chicken (in the photo) in less than 20 seconds; then I reduced the sauce in about 30 seconds. But, as always, I also tested this per the recipe instructions. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family does.

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Crispy Salsa Chicken

Crispy Salsa Chicken — Roasted crispy outside. Melty inside.

Crispy Salsa Chicken — Roasted crispy outside. Melty inside.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Crispy Salsa Chicken
Crispy Salsa Chicken — Use a sous vide or slow cooker for a melting tender meat. Place under the broiler for a wonderfully crispy skin.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican/Tex-Mex
Serves: 5
  • 5 – Chicken leg quarters, skin-on (trim the excess fat)
  • 2 TB – Chopped cilantro
  • 1½ cups – Your favorite salsa
  • Salt
  • 1 TB – Lime juice
Prepare the chicken
  1. Pull skin back on chicken and season lightly with salt; spread a pinch of cilantro on meat; pull skin back over so that seasonings are trapped between skin and meat.
  2. Cook using the sous vide or slow cooker method.
Sous vide
  1. Place chicken in bag(s)* so that they lay flat.
  2. Divide salsa and pour over chicken pieces.
  3. Seal the bags with a pressure sealer (if using), or by using the water displacement method, if you're using zip-close bags.**
  4. Cook at 165ºF (73.8C) for 3 hours, 30 minutes.
Slow cooker
  1. Place chicken, skin-side-up, in slow cooker.
  2. Top with salsa.
  3. Cook on 'low' setting for 7 hours.
Crisp the chicken
  1. Set the oven to broil.
  2. Remove chicken pieces from bags/slow cooker (reserving juices) and place skin-side up in a roasting pan or oven-proof pan.
  3. Place under broiler until skin is golden and crispy, about 2-3 minutes.
Make the pan sauce
  1. Carefully pour bag/slow cooker juices into medium-sized pan; add lime juice.
  2. Bring to a quick boil and cook until reduced slightly, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Season with salt, to taste.
  4. Serve pan sauce with chicken; garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, if desired.
* - I use gallon zip-close bags and place three pieces in one and two pieces in the other.
**- Unless you own a pro-grade sealer, this dish is better suited for zip-close bags. To remove the air from the bag, close all but a small portion of it, then slowly lower it into the water bath until the air is displaced. Seal. (If the bag floats, you still have air in it. Try again.)



  1. The sous vide is a miracle worker. So glad you have one!

  2. Janet Anderson says:

    Thank you! My son gave me a sous-vide setup (cooking wand and bag sealer) a year ago, and I am so intimidated by it, I haven’t used it. This recipe promises the ease and the results to get me started.

    • adamjholland says:

      I’ve already had a couple of fails myself (caused by not reading instructions); the two guys I mention here are fantastic sources. Please keep me updated on your progress.

  3. Kathryn @ anotherfoodieblogger says:

    Very impressive Adam! I’ll be sure to try this, what a simple recipe which I am all for. I am totally loving my sous vide circulator! I’ve got 24-hour chuck roast in it again (165F). My husband loved the last one so much I might actually put it on my blog next week! But I made a change. Last time I just seasoned it before searing and putting into the bag. This time I also rubbed it with flour before searing. I’m hoping it will make a thicker gravy. Stay tuned!

    • adamjholland says:

      It’ll make a thicker gravy for sure. Can’t wait to see the results. My latest experiment involves using pork loin as a ‘stir fry’ ingredient. Sous vide the meat, then add it to the vegetables/sauce just before serving. I sure do love the velveting technique, but the sous vide version translates to lower fat and more tender meat. Flavor comes first though.

  4. Not eating meat means one less gadget in my kitchen. However if I told Manservant about this magic, I’m sure he would find a spot! I still don’t have a slow cooker. In any case, I am happy for you Adam as I know happy cooks cook the best food!

  5. Adam, I think you’ve proven there’s nothing you can’t do in the Jimmy at this point – you’re officially an RV culinary rockstar. OH, and your chicken looks like I want it for breakfast.

  6. My knowledge of a SousVide is completely unlimited, so thanks for filling me in. I’m with Shea, I’d love some of that for breakfast – yup, woke up hungry. I look forward to more yummies from the new machine.

  7. Sounds wonderful! I wondered how those things worked and now I have a better idea. This kind of chicken is one of my faves too!

  8. Hi Adam, this is a great recipe that I should try. I see you’re using my new favorite sous-vide temperature, albeit for a shorter time. I actually haven’t tried chicken at 74C/165F yet, but I will soon. It has worked wonders for beef, lamb, venison, and even goat. Thanks for the shout out and kind words, too. I am so jealous of your oven that goes up to 900F! I have one that can do that, but it is huge, takes ages to heat up, and I can only use it on the boat (using a generator), so I get to use it like once a year.

    • adamjholland says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Stefan. My project this week is pork tenderloin. Like most, I can’t see myself eating it pink (just yet). But I’ll work my way there. By the way, a 900F oven on a boat sounds like fun!

  9. Haven’t stopped thinking about this dish since you first posted it. It’s on our dinner menu tonight, and I can’t wait! We’ll be cooking it conventionally since Santa didn’t bring me a SousVide contraption this year, but your delicious recipe is going to be the best possible use for some amazing homemade salsa from a friend! Thanks (again!) for the inspiration, Adam!

    • adamjholland says:

      It’s my pleasure, Michele. This is obviously something simple — just a few ingredients and no major steps — but it sure does hit the spot. Please let me know how it turned out. Anything you’d add? Take away? Do differently?


  1. […] with Cilantro and Lime is our Southwestern Go-To! It was inspired by a wonderful and equally simple Crispy Salsa Chicken recipe from my friend Adam who shares his refreshingly witty recipes on a blog called The Unorthodox […]

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