Sous vide is a French cooking technique whereby vacuum sealed food is cooked in a temperature controlled water bath for an extended period of time. This technique produces incredible Chicken Thighs that I finish off with Mushroom Cream Sauce.
Because of the controlled environment, I cook the food to a precise temperature that avoids overcooking and produces an amazing result. I have found that the sous vide technique is actually quite easy once one is able to precisely control the temperature of the water bath.
For the container, I used a 12-quart polycarbonate food storage container and an Anova Precision Cooker/Immersion Circulator. I could have also use a largish cooler here. I included the following steps (1) seasoning the food to be cooked; (2) vacuum sealing it; (3) placing the sealed food in the temperature controlled water bath for the desired amount of time; and (4) finishing the food with a final sear over high heat. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you could put the food in ziploc bags with as much of the air removed as possible.
Making the Sous Vide Chicken Thighs:
For dinner, I decided to sous vide bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs that I had in the freezer.
I started by sprinkling Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides of the thawed chicken thighs.
Then, I vacuum sealed the thighs. With the size of the thighs, I was able to seal two per bag.
Next, I filled the polycarbonate container about 3/4-full, and set the immersion circulator to 165° F – the perfect temperature for chicken thighs! Once the water reached 165° F, I added the vacuum sealed chicken thighs, and basically walked away. After 2 hours, the thighs were perfectly cooked.
I knew from experience that the thighs would some searing to crisp up the skin. Because the searing would add more heat to the chicken, I placed the vacuum sealed bags in an ice water bath to quickly cool the thighs. This way, the heat would serve more to warm the interior rather than add more cooking to it. Interestingly, at this point, I could have refrigerated some or all of the chicken thighs for a later use. However, I intended to serve all of them for dinner.
Before searing the chicken thighs, I removed them from the vacuum sealed bags to a paper towel lined baking sheet. I was amazed at the amount of gelatin that had formed from the cooking. I scraped the gelatin off the chicken to a small bowl to use in the Mushroom Cream Sauce! With additional paper towels, I blotted the chicken thighs to dry them out as much as possible to minimize spattering when I seared them.
Making the Mushroom Cream Sauce for the Sous Vide Chicken Thighs:
Before searing the chicken, I turned my attention to getting everything ready for the Mushroom Cream Sauce. I used the following ingredients: Onion, fresh mushrooms, Madeira, the gelatin from the chicken (could also use chicken broth here), and heavy cream.
First, I needed to crisp up the skin. To do this, I heated some peanut oil in a heavy 12-inch skillet over medium heat until the oil was shimmering. Then, I added the chicken thighs, skin side down. After about 5 minutes when the skin was a crispy brown, I turned the chicken thighs over to brown the other side, about a minute longer.
Once the chicken was well browned, I removed it from the skillet to a paper towel lined pan, and made the Mushroom Cream Sauce. As a first step I added the onions to the same skillet over medium heat, and sautéed them for about 1 minute. Then, I increased the heat to high and added the sliced mushrooms. I sautéed the mushrooms for several minutes until they were lightly browned and all the liquid had evaporated. Next, I added the Madeira and the gelatin, and boiled it for several minutes until the liquid was syrupy. Finally, I added the cream, and boiled it for several minutes over high heat until the sauce had thickened. I tasted the sauce – it was perfect, i.e., it didn’t need any salt or pepper.
I served the sous vide chicken thighs topped with the Mushroom Cream Sauce, steamed fresh green beans, and scalloped potatoes. Yum!
- 8 chicken thighs skin-on and bone-in
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon peanut oil
- 2 Tablespoons minced shallot or onion
- 4 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1/4 cup Madeira*
- 1/2 cup chicken gelatin from cooking chicken or chicken broth
- 1 cup whipping cream
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat the sous vide cooker to 165° F.
- Sprinkle both sides of chicken thighs with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Add chicken to vacuum seal bags; vacuum seal, pressing the chicken so that the skin is as flat as possible.
- Place the chicken in the water bath, making sure not to block the intake or output sections of the precision cooker. Cook for 1 to 4 hours (I cooked the thighs for 2 hours).
- Once the chicken is cooked, transfer the bagged chicken to an ice water bath to chill. (Note: At this stage, the chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before finishing and serving.)
- Remove the chicken from the bag(s) and scrape off any gelatin that has formed; transfer gelatin to a small bowl for use in the Mushroom Cream Sauce. Place the chicken on a paper towel lined plate; with another paper towel, blot the chicken dry and flatten the skin side to ensure even contact with the pan during searing.
- Preheat a 12-inch heavy skillet with peanut oil over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Carefully add the chicken to the skillet, skin side down. Cook the chicken until the skin is brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook the second side until the chicken is warmed through, about 1 minute. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel lined plate. Serve with Mushroom Cream Sauce. Yield: 4 servings.
In the same pan used to sear the chicken, add the shallots or onions; sauté for about a minute without browning. Stir in the mushrooms and sauté for several minutes until lightly browned and all of the liquid has evaporated. Pour in the chicken gelatin or broth and Madeira and boil down quickly over high heat until the liquid is syrupy. Stir in the cream and boil down again over high heat until the cream has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat; taste carefully for seasoning. Yield: About 1½ cups.
*Can use Marsala in place of Madeira.