With my wife on a crazy work schedule recently and both of us short on sleep thanks to a cat with an eye infection, we haven’t had a lot of time for good meals here lately. Nevertheless, this weekend I resolved to cook something nice.
I hadn’t had cheesy Stove Top chicken bake in a while, so I decided to make some just for me. (My wife can’t eat it, as she’s diabetic and therefore eating low-carb.) You can’t really scale down the recipe, because they don’t sell half-cans of cream of chicken soup. This time around I only used two chicken breasts, because the breasts I bought in a club pack at Wegmans were absolute monsters. I’m serious; we’re talking brick-sized. After I cut up two breasts I felt I didn’t need any more.
With that in the oven, I decided to try making a chicken breast sous vide for my wife. I took a little curry powder, a smidge of thyme, and some kosher salt, and tried to shake that all up in a freezer bag; there wasn’t very much of it. When I put the chicken in, I tried to smear the spices all around but I’m afraid I didn’t do a very even job. Next time I’m just seasoning it on a plate first.
Anyway, that chicken went in a water bath at 146° for an hour, although it ended up being a little over because of some timing issues. After it came out, I gave it a quick pan sear in clarified butter. If I had a brain in my head I would have used duck fat instead, because I have that in the fridge.
Although I did not try the chicken, it was perfectly cooked, and my wife was amazed by how juicy it came out. Considering this puppy had to be a couple of inches thick, I was impressed it cooked that well at all. It’d have to sit on the grill forever to achieve that kind of doneness, and it’d get dry.
I still have some other cooking ideas in the pipeline, like making an easy egg drop soup and trying to make low-carb wonton wrappers, and figuring out how to make a proper(ish) stir fry without a wok. (Why wonton wrappers? My wife loves crab rangoon. Using real crab is something neither of us want, and she can’t eat the imitation stuff, but at least I could do a simple cream cheese rangoon with some chives, maybe a little ginger, maybe a little garlic.) But the sous vide chicken came out so well, it got me thinking of something else: I want to try meat glue.
Transglutaminase is a natural enzyme, and it gets a bad rap because it can be abused to bond two pieces of meat and sell it to an unknowing consumer. But it’s amazing what can be done with it. One YouTube video has a guy making bacon spirals that can then be sliced into bacon rounds. I got to investigating the stuff when I found out a lot of recipes that use chicken skin use meat glue to bind it on. It’s made noodles out of seafood, or turned a single fish fillet into a roll that can be sliced into rounds for even cooking. Beef rib roasts can be trimmed of connective tissue and re-formed to make the perfect roast. And you can use it to seal shut a roulade or chicken Kiev, which is what got me thinking of this again.
Chicken and pork lend themselves to stuffing. Especially pork, as modern variations of it have been bred way, way too lean. (Lean pork is an abomination against nature. When I become a supervillain, so help me we’ll fatten up those piggies.) With transglutaminase, I could butterfly a breast, stuff it with any kind of filling I want, seal up the edges with meat glue, and then once it’s set overnight the whole thing can be cooked sous vide—or breaded and then baked or fried, if I want.
Now the idea of me using this stuff freaks my mom out, but then she’s unnerved by the fact that I don’t mind using MSG. Here’s the deal: MSG is basically a simple molecule, and it breaks down into chemical products found in all sorts of natural foods. Its not the health devil it’s made out to be. Meat glue is in a similar boat, mostly because of its slang name, but it’s a perfectly natural enzyme. Now I’m not one of those idiots who thinks natural equals safe, but what I know of the product and the process it employs does not raise any red flags for me. It seems quite safe, so why not use it to achieve molecular gastronomy greatness?