RECIPE: New England IPA Chicken
Get yourself a sous vide. Then make this recipe first.
Welcome to another issue of Le Cordon Bong, a newsletter about recreating Michelin star meals at home. You can get in touch with me via the comments or by email. All of the previous content is up on the website (which I personally find to be a more enjoyable reading experience than the email format).
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Week 12, vol. 2
Welcome new readers!
If you’ve been following this newsletter, you’ll be aware of my slight obsession with the kitchen appliance known as a sous vide.
In short, the sous vide is a water bath that allows us to cook things to very precise temperatures. That might sound unnecessary for the the everyday home cook, but let’s flip that statement around - the sous vide makes it impossible to overcook or undercook food. So it’s actually great for people who *aren’t* professional chefs! Personally, my favourite thing about the sous vide is that it can keep food warm indefinitely in the event that my dinner guests are late (which they invariably are).
So yes, while you can use it to make fancy things like a 72-hour beef cheek or perfect onsen eggs, the sous vide is, at its heart, a convenience appliance. Oh, and you can even use it to make desserts.
About this week’s recipe:
This week’s recipe is inspired by Tom Kerridge’s Chicken in Beer & Malt recipe I made several weeks ago. In place of the traditional ale and hop pellets from the original, I’m using a New England style double IPA:
The NE-style double IPA is going to bring lots of complex, fruity aromas (think peaches, mango, and passionfruit) to really dial up the flavour profile of the chicken breast.
Broadly speaking, a New England IPA (or NEIPA) has a hazy appearance, with notes of tropical and stone fruit and a very full-bodied mouthfeel. NEIPAs are more easy-drinking than their West Coast IPA counterparts, which are characterised by notes like pine resin and citrus, and can have a slightly metallic aftertaste.
A double or “imperial” IPA has a higher concentration of malt and hops compared to a regular IPA, doubling down on flavour (and alcohol content).
The craft beer scene is extremely crowded, and there are lots of bad beers out there. I use Untappd, which is sort of like the IMDb of beer (anything above a 4.0 is very good).
The high sugar content works perfectly for the finishing stage, where the poaching liquid is reduced into a glaze that gets blowtorched onto the chicken skin.
Unless you have a friendly homebrewing store nearby, a NEIPA is going to be much easier to source than the hop pellets from Kerridge’s original recipe.
If you do try the recipe, I’d love to hear about it in the comments, or you can hit me up via email. Happy cooking!
New England IPA Chicken
Note: The chicken breasts are cooked in individual vacuum bags, so you can scale up the recipe very easily. Pair with simple sides like new potatoes and a summer salad - I served mine with grilled courgettes, courgette purée, and quails’ eggs.
Total time: 1h 15m / Active time: 15m
Sous vide - see notes at the bottom if you’re new to sous vide
Kitchen blowtorch - alternatively, you can finish in a heavy cast iron pan
Small pastry brush - natural bristles are much better than silicone
2 large chicken breasts, skin-on
200ml New England-style double IPA beer - if you’re in the UK, I highly recommend Verdant Brewing, Cloudwater, and Deya. (Full disclosure: I am a shareholder in Verdant Brewing, which, in my not-at-all-biased opinion, is the finest brewery in the country.)
2 tsp barley malt syrup / extract - Molasses, treacle, golden syrup, or honey are fine as a substitute, but won’t have the depth and richness of the barley malt
Fine sea salt
Heat the sous vide to 60°C / 140°F.
Lightly salt the chicken breasts on all sides. You can do this right before cooking, or up to a day in advance (leave the salted chicken uncovered on a plate in the fridge).
In a small bowl, combine the IPA beer with the barley malt syrup, and stir with a fork until fully mixed. Barley malt is pretty stubborn stuff, so this can take a couple of minutes - just keep stirring.
Place the chicken breasts in small individual Ziploc bags, and divide the beer-syrup mixture evenly between the bags. Using the water displacement method (see video at the bottom), seal the Ziploc bags, and wiggle them around so the liquid covers all sides of the chicken breast.
Cook in the sous vide for 60 minutes (or until your guests finally show up). Up to 3 hours is fine.
After the chicken has cooked for at least 60 minutes, carefully pour the poaching liquid from the bags into a small saucepan, leaving the chicken breasts in the bag. Reseal the bags with the chicken breasts, and pop them back into the sous vide to keep them warm.
Heat the saucepan of poaching liquid on low-medium heat until it reduces to a glaze (about 7-8 minutes, but your timing may vary) - we’re aiming for the consistency of maple syrup.
Tricks & Techniques: As the water evaporates away, the glaze will become more prone to burning as the sugar concentration rises. Watch the pan closely and turn down the heat towards the end. If the glaze has become too thick, add a little water to dilute it down.
Remove the chicken breasts from the bags, and place skin-side up on a heavy wooden chopping board or heatproof plate. Using a pastry brush, paint a layer of glaze onto the skin, then blowtorch until the skin is nicely charred. Serve immediately.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a blowtorch, heat a heavy cast iron pan on the hottest burner you have, and briefly sear the skin-side of the chicken breast.
The Water Displacement Method
Equipment and Ingredients
Sous vide - Anova is the only brand I’ve used, and starts at £129 for the Nano. I have an old first gen Anova that’s still going strong. Amazon has cheaper options starting from £45, but I can’t attest to their quality. I know I’m a broken record, but a sous vide is truly one of the best pieces of kitchen equipment you can own - it makes guaranteed perfect food (it is a revelation for chicken breast and fish), and it saves a ton of time because you don’t have to watch it, and there’s no washing up. If you need more convincing, Serious Eats has a great piece.
For the cooking vessel, I use a Rubbermaid 12L container with a hole I cut out of the lid. If I were buying a sous vide setup today, I’d get a sous vide-specific container (they didn’t exist back in the day). Anova-specific ones go for about £25 on Amazon.
Kitchen blowtorch - Essential for crème brûlée, as well as caramelising glazes, searing, and random things like heating orange peel (to release the oils) for cocktails. I haven’t linked to a specific product, as I’m currently in the market for an upgrade.