Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mr. Keller Meets Mrs. Bowie

Celebrity chefs are to cooks like Gretzkey and Crosby are to Canadian hockey fans, which clearly I am not as I struggle to name anyone popular within the last two years.  I know fellow Canadians I am a disappointment, but ask me to name a popular Canadian chef and I've got your back.  We're lucky to have seen the likes of Adjey, Blumer, Crawford, Olsen, Feenie, Smith, Lee, Vij and the list goes on and on, anyone of these greats show up on the popular food network show Iron Chef America, and walk into a kitchen the next day and it is being discussed luck the Stanley Cup finals.  I think I was more excited to see Bob Blumer on stage than I was the first time I went to a live concert.  So who is this Keller guy anyway, no he is not Canadian but he is an icon and a staple in the world of cooking.  He's the guy everyone wants to play for their team, but he's probably gonna be the team captain and choose his own team anyway (sorry for all the hockey analogies but I was on a roll). If you share the love of food and have never heard of him you need to look him up. Have I met him personally.. No.. but we have met through books.. a cooks best friend. So in my own way I've invited Keller over for dinner.

So what are we having for dinner? Chicken in Keller's killer brine. Brining is similar to marinating, its a process of soaking meat in a half salt, half sugar and water mixture.It makes the chicken more moist and tender by hydrating the breast before cooking . Keller's brine not only adds the moisture but also great flavor.  I've used this recipe many times both at work and at home.Thats' right I have even used it at work! Without the inspiration of other chefs I think we would all have a difficult time. If something works well than it works well. Sure you can make modifications if you want too, but sometimes you just don't need too. Here is the recipe which can be found on line or in his popular cook book "Bouchon"; and while your at it check out "The French Laundry Cook Book".
It is a good idea to make the brine and refrigerate it a day ahead of time.  For health reasons never add meat to a warm brine.  Also, don’t leave the chicken in the brine longer than the specified time or your chicken will be salty.

For the brine:
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
  • 12 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup garlic cloves, skin left on, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • About 1/2 ounce ( 3 large) of rosemary sprigs
  • About 1/2 ounce (1 large bunch thyme sprigs)
  • About 2 ounces (1 large bunch) Italian parsley sprigs
  • Grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil.  Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt.  Remove from heat and cool completely before using.
Brining the chicken:
Rinse each chicken under cold running water.  Put the chicken in the pot of brine and weight the chicken down with a plate to keep submerged.  Refrigerate for 6 hours.
Sear the chicken in a hot skillet then finish in the oven. You should try it, trust me it is delicious. So we are not just having the chicken for dinner we are also having green pea risotto, sauteed asparagus and the sauce for the chicken a green apple and mustard vinaigrette.

As far as I am concerned there is only two ways to make risotto "the right way" and "the wrong way".... there is no in between.
This basic risotto recipe is made with butter and parmesan cheese. A classic Italian rice dish, risotto is traditionally prepared with a variety of starchy, short-grained rice called arborio rice.
The procedure for making it involves stirring hot stock into the uncooked rice a ladleful at a time and cooking slowly as the stock is absorbed. This technique, known as the risotto method, releases the arborio's starches, making a creamy, velvety dish.

Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to make Risotto
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
1½ cups arborio rice
1 liter chicken stock
½ cup white wine
1 medium shallot or ½ small onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley (optional)
Kosher salt, to taste

Heat the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then lower the heat so that the stock just stays hot.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil and 1 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the chopped shallot or onion. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until it is slightly translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a couple more minutes.
Add the rice to the pot and stir it briskly with a wooden spoon so that the grains are coated with the oil and melted butter. Sauté for another minute or so, until there is a slightly nutty aroma. But don't let the rice turn brown.
Add the wine and cook while stirring, until the liquid is fully absorbed.
Add a ladle of hot chicken stock to the rice and stir until the liquid is fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the process. Continue adding ladles of hot stock and stirring the rice while the liquid is absorbed. As it cooks, you'll see that the rice will take on a creamy consistency as it begins to release its natural starches.
Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, for 20-30 minutes or until the grains are tender but still firm to the bite, without being crunchy. If you run out of stock and the risotto still isn't done, you can finish the cooking using hot water. Just add the water as you did with the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring while it's absorbed.
Stir in the remaining 2 Tbsp butter, the parmesan cheese and the parsley, and season to taste with Kosher salt.  At this time I will also add 1 cup of frozen green peas. (if in season use fresh)
Risotto turns glutinous if held for too long, you should serve it right away. A properly cooked risotto should form a soft, creamy mound on a dinner plate. It shouldn't run across the plate, nor should it be stiff or gluey.Makes 6-8 servings
Green Apple and Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette:  (so I don't actually measure when I make this.. so I will do my best to give you the proper quantities)
1/2 Cup natural unsweetened apple juice (we own a juicer)
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
Place both in a saucepan on medium heat and reduce liquid by 3/4, set aside until cool.
1 shallot finely diced
2 cloves of garlic finely diced
Sautee shallot until translucent, add garlic about half way through sauteing process, set aside and let cool.
In a bowl add reduced liquid, shallots and garlic and 1 tbsp of grainy dijon mustard, give it a good whisk to combine ingredients, then slowly drizzle in 1 one cup of olive oil (while whisking).  To finish vinaigrette add some fresh finely chopped parsley a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper to taste. If you think it needs to be sweeter add 1 tbsp of honey.
For the Asparagus:
Cut woody ends off of one bunch of asparagus, bring a pot of  water to a boil then drop in the asparagus and blanch until tender.  Drain boiling water and run under cold water add a few ice cubes, to cool asparagus just before serving melt a cube of of butter in a pan add the asparagus and salt and pepper, just to reheat.

Plating is always the fun part. I think the simplest things can look the sexiest.  Place a nice spoonful of risotto in the center of plate... place some sauteed asparagus spears, in a cross pattern over top... then the sliced chicken on top and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Just play with the plating until you find something you like. 

I guarantee the meal will be delicious, but the real reward is watching your husband do the dishes. :)

Brining Chicken


  1. Hahahahaha Nice blog, great pics, and we are laughing our asses off!

  2. Did I mention that I no longer like the photo editor!! xo

  3. A friend of mine introduced me to the brining method and I've been using it ever since. It really makes a difference in the end result, so juicy and tasty. Risotto is one of my all time favourites, I grew up on this, so good. And by the way, the photo editor is doing a fine job! Very cheeky and creative.

  4. I love brining!I really enjoyed reading your blog and I think you are one amazing cook!I came across your site from the Foodieblogroll and if you won't mind, I'd love to guide foodista readers to your site.Just add your choice of Foodista widget at the end of this blog post and you're all set. Thanks!