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
- 5 – Chicken leg quarters, skin-on (trim the excess fat)
- 2 TB – Chopped cilantro
- 1½ cups – Your favorite salsa
- 1 TB – Lime juice
- 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.
- Cook using the sous vide or slow cooker method.
- Place chicken in bag(s)* so that they lay flat.
- Divide salsa and pour over chicken pieces.
- Seal the bags with a pressure sealer (if using), or by using the water displacement method, if you're using zip-close bags.**
- Cook at 165ºF (73.8C) for 3 hours, 30 minutes.
- Place chicken, skin-side-up, in slow cooker.
- Top with salsa.
- Cook on 'low' setting for 7 hours.
- Set the oven to broil.
- Remove chicken pieces from bags/slow cooker (reserving juices) and place skin-side up in a roasting pan or oven-proof pan.
- Place under broiler until skin is golden and crispy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Carefully pour bag/slow cooker juices into medium-sized pan; add lime juice.
- Bring to a quick boil and cook until reduced slightly, about 3-4 minutes.
- Season with salt, to taste.
- Serve pan sauce with chicken; garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, if desired.
**- 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.)