A Christmas special: Chicken breast sous-vide, shiitake and sake sauce

December 16th, 2015 § 2 comments

Second opus of this year Christmas menu… The main, chicken. It’s a fun one and it will make an impression. We’re gonna cook sous-vide today.

Don’t be scared, it’s easy, I promise (and you don’t need fancy equipment to try it).

Chicken breast sous-vide, shiitake and sake sauce

In our kitchen, cooking gurus recipes and sous-vide cooking are dutchie’s domains. He loves the experimental side of it – he’s a chemist after all – and he’s good at keeping his cool under pressure. For once i took over, and i am so glad.

Thanks to Fat Duck guru Heston and his cookbook Heston Blumenthal at home (one of my faves in our/my cookbook collection), I will never see a chicken breast the same way and there are good chances that I’ll cook them more often (I am a dark meat kind of girl). His technique turns into the moistest and most tender chicken breast ever. Thank you chef!

The chicken is first brined in an 8% salt water solution (80 g salt per liter water), before being rolled up tightly and vacuumed. It is then cooked for 45 minutes at 60°C/140°F in a hot water bath. 60°C is the magic number here as it is the temperature where the chicken proteins will set but will still retain moisture.

Now, of course sous-vide cooking is easier with the proper equipment, but you don’t need any expensive stuff to get a taste of it. A ziploc bag, a good thermometer and a very large pan in the oven or on the stovetop work fine! that’s how dutchie, and many others have done it with success for a long time. For information, I used our food saver vacuum sealer and our steam oven to prepare the chicken. One thing to be cautious is the fact that low cooking temperatures are also propice for bacterial growth… Not to worry, as long as you properly cool and store your ingredients and especially the meat during the various stages and in particular when preparing the dish in advance.

The sauce is the result of a coincidence… I had no clams (in the original recipe Heston pairs the chicken with clams a la plancha; must be a taste of heaven), I wanted to do a port sauce but realised we didn’t have any either and then i found the bottle of sake we keep for yakitori chicken, a perfect match for the fresh shiitake i had just brought back from the market.

I served the chicken with steam rice and thick leek rings slowly melted in butter and a tad of water.

After this, you can to take a peak at what’s for dessert, it is being published today in Dutch on I Love Food and Wine NL together with wine pairings for the whole menu. The recipe in English will follow soon on the blog so stay stuned.

For this main dish, the wine experts at I love Food and Wine suggest a pinot noir from Mas de la Chevaliere (Maison Laroche) in Languedoc

If you’ve missed the starter, scallops with orange supremes and preserved lemon. There it is.

Chicken breast sous-vide, shiitake and sake sauce
Supremes de poulet sous-vide, sauce au sake et shiitake

Serves 4 (or 6 as part of a Christmas menu), brine 1h30, cook 50 min + 10 min


  • 4 free-range or organic chicken breasts
  • 60 g salt, dissolved in 750ml water (to make an 8% solution)
  • 30 g butter

For the sauce:

  • 20 g butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/6 leek (the white part) chopped in thin rings
  • 100 ml sake
  • 150 ml brown chicken stock
  • 100 g shitake (fresh or rehydrated), cleaned with a brush and sliced
  • 50 ml cream


  • Kitchen paper and kitchen foil
  • A vacuum sealer or ziploc bags (see here for how to use ziploc bags for sous vide cooking)
  • A preheated water bath at 60°C (professional or not – hubby as been experimenting sous vide cooking for ages either on the stove or in the oven in a big pan filled with water and a good cooking thermometer. We now use our steam oven)
  •  Ice if preparing the dish ahead
  1. Prep the chicken breasts: brine for 60 minutes in an 8% salt water solution in the fridge, than rinse and soak in fresh water for half an hour (refresh the water halfway). Tap the chicken breast dry, season to taste with salt and pepper and roll each of them tightly into kitchen foil. Vacuum seal each chicken breast individually.
  2. Cook sous vide for 50 minutes in a hot water bath preheated at 60 °C. [If preparing in advance, cool the chicken breast in an ice water bath immediately after before storing in the fridge until service. Re-heat ]
  3. Prepare the sauce: Melt the butter on medium to high heat. Add the shallot, leeks and a quart of the shiitake and stir to coat. Cook on medium heat for three to five minutes or until shallot are leeks soft and translucent but haven’t started to colour. Stir in the rest of the shiitake and cook for another minute. Pour in the sake, stir well and leave to reduce for a minute, then add the brown chicken stock, stir well and leave to reduce for 3 to 5 minutes on medium heat or until the sauce has reduced to the half. [At this stage you can either cool the sauce, store it in the fridge and reserve it for later. Reheat it before getting on with step 4. Or reserve at room temperature and go on with the recipe].
  4. Pour the cream into the sauce and leave to cook for a minute or two. keep warm.
  5. In the mean time, keep 6 plates warm, ready for plating. Heat up a skillet or frying pan on high heat and remove the chicken from the vacuum and foil. Melt the butter and sear the meat on all sides in one to two minutes. Remove from the heat. Cut into slices, dress the plates with the chicken, some of the sauce, the shiitake and eventual sides (i served leeks and steam rice onthe side) and serve immediately.
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