Here at The Londinium Project we’re eagerly waiting for the new season of Masterchef Australia. We got hooked on it last year, mostly because it got us excited about trying new recipes. And well, after a while we wanted to see who’d win.
Thankfully, we’re keeping busy tv-wise right now. Our DVR is full to the brim and we’re binge watching the new season of Netflix’ House of Cards.
But we still can’t wait for Masterchef to start and recently we got talking about some of the recipes we’d seen and wanted to try. The conversation turned to the sous-vide method that we’ve seen used on the show on numerous occasions. We wanted to try it, really wanted to try it. We’d heard that it leads to extremely tender meat and well, we had to check the veracity of these statements ourselves.
However, we were — still are — reluctant to invest in a water bath oven. First off, it’s not cheap and secondly, well, we live in an apartment and don’t have too much space to spare. Purchasing a large piece of equipment which we’d get to use a few times wasn’t so high on our agenda.
And yet, we still wanted to try this technique. What’s one to do? What’s one to do? What’s one to do? How could we have the cake — well, the chicken — and eat it too? Well, there was only one solution — recreate a water bath oven using a large pot and a digital thermometer.
But our experimentation craving didn’t stop there. We’d seen a few Masterchef Australia contestants make chicken roulade and wanted to try our hand at it. It helps that we always seem to have chicken in our fridge.
So a couple of weeks ago we tried our hand at this new recipe. Here’s what we used and the method:
- two chicken breasts
- bacon strips (around 7 thin ones)
- pesto — we made our own but you can use store bought
- garlic confit
- mushrooms, sauteed in garlic confit oil
- cling film
- Ziploc bag
The first step is to cut a decently large piece of cling film and lay the bacon strips on top of it, making sure that each strip touches the other or even overlaps. Then lay one of the chicken breasts on top of the bacon and spread some pesto on one side. Put some sauteed mushrooms on top of the breast and spread a clove of garlic confit, topping it with a piece of prosciutto. Then spread pesto on one side of the other chicken breast and lay it on top of the other, pesto-side down.
The next step is to create the roulade by rolling the chicken breasts in the bacon and in cling film, tightening until you get a tight cylinder. This video, on ChefSteps, was very helpful in showing us how to roll the chicken tightly. We tied the ends with twine to secure the roulade.
Then we put the roulade in a Ziploc bag. Since we don’t have a vacuum-packing machine — which is actually what the term sous-vide refers to rather than the step of cooking in a low-temperature water bath — we used the immersion method to remove extra air from the Ziploc bag. The simple technique calls for filling a large bowl with water and then immersing the Ziploc bag in the water, keeping the open part above the liquid. Based on the Archimedes Principle, “any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.” This means that the air in the Ziploc bag will be pushed out so you can close it and create a vacuum-sealed bag.
The next step was to create the water bath. For this you need a few items that most people have at home:
- Large pot
- digital thermometer
- binder clips
We filled the pot with water and used the thermometer (which we attached to the side of the pot with one of the binder clips) to get the water to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. You’re meant to cook the chicken in 149 degrees Fahrenheit but we figured that once we put the chicken in, the temperature of the water would drop and we would then bring it up to 149.
One of the most important things is not to allow the open side of the Ziploc bag to get under water to avoid any water seeping into the bag. One of the recipes we read recommends clipping the bag to the side of the pot, but when we did that the bag kept moving to the side of the pot which risks non-uniform cooking if part of the chicken is touching the warm pot. So we created a bridge using more binder clips and twine.
Now’s the time to be patient. We had to keep an eye on the thermometer and adjust the stove top power to retain the water temperature at 149 degrees Fahrenheit. We kept the chicken in the water for 3 hours, after which we took it out of the bag and removed the clingfilm.
Bonus tip: You’ll find some liquid from the chicken roulade in the Ziploc bag, which you might want to use to create a sauce.
The next step was to brown the roulade in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.
Our verdict: It was certainly worth the effort. The chicken was tender and juicy and the flavors of the pesto, mushrooms and garlic confit infused the chicken with flavor. The bacon was crispy after the few minutes in the pan. The only problem was that we wanted more! Next time we’ll make a double portion.