Chicken Piccata? Really? Doesn’t seem like a dish synonymous with the sous vide technique, I must agree. But as most of us know, chicken breasts cooked sous vide are outstanding — perfectly and evenly cooked, moist, and tender.
Oh, and very white. It’s that perfectly pallid color which is at odds with the idea of Chicken Piccata, a dish which is richly golden because it’s sautéed, not poached. This brings me to Pete’s latest brainstorm – velveting.
During a recent episode of America’s Test Kitchen, he witnessed the transformation of poached chicken breasts from dead white to golden brown via a Chinese technique used in stir fries. Velveting relies on a simple paste of flour, cornstarch, and butter to coat the exterior of meat in preparation for a very quick, high-heat sear.
Sure enough, the idea works beautifully on sous vide chicken, and when sauced with a reduction of chicken stock, lemon juice, capers, and parsley, Chicken Piccata is reborn.
For the sauce
For the velveting paste
- Preheat the water bath to 143°F (62°C).
- Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place 2 breasts in each of 3 food bags and vacuum seal.
- Cook for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 hours.
- While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. Combine the concentrated stock, wine, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Reduce the liquid by half over medium heat. Stir in the capers and set the sauce aside at room temperature until 10 minutes before serving time.
- To make the velveting paste, combine the flour and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Whisk the melted butter into the mixture, creating a smooth paste. Set aside at room temperature.
- Just before serving, remove the chicken breasts from the food bags and transfer them to a paper-towel-lined sheet pan or platter. Pat dry with additional paper towels. Cover with foil to keep the meat warm. Add the bag juices to the saucepan with the lemon-caper sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil over high heat and whisk in 1 to 2 teaspoons of the velveting paste to give the sauce a slight body. Reduce the heat to low, whisk in the cold butter, and keep the sauce warm.
- Heat 2 large cast-iron skillets over medium-high heat and film with canola oil. Brush the presentation side of the chicken breasts with the velveting paste. Place 3 breasts, coated side down, in each of the hot skillets and sear them for 1 minute, or until nicely golden. With tongs, transfer each chicken breast to a warm dinner plate, golden side up. Top each breast with some of the lemon-caper sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.