On the Line: Austin Lee of Itriya Cafe, Part Three
Photo by Mary Pastrana

On the Line: Austin Lee of Itriya Cafe, Part Three

Do-it-yourself sous vide utilizing a beer cooler was all we had to read. Austin Lee takes a cooking method normally reserved for uppity establishments and brings it to a level that doesn't require an internet search. He leaves the pasta and cheese options up to the cook, because some of us are cheesier than others. Have a good weekend.

Read our interview with Austin Lee of Itriya Cafe, Part Two.
And now, on to Part Three

Chicken Alfredo

Serves one

Sous Vide Chicken Introduction

I'm aware most people won't have a sous vide machine at home. Fear not. There are many simple hacks to achieve the same results, in which a simple search on Google should provide adequate answers. This technique I'm sharing is simple and easy to do, it just takes a little time and consideration.

Necessary equipment

A small beer cooler
A zip lock bag (big enough to hold the chicken breast)

Sous vide chicken ingredients

2 6-8 ounce chicken breasts
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper
1 basil leaf
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Sous vide directions

Lay the chicken breast flat on a plate and season generously with the celery salt, salt and pepper. The key to seasoning evenly is to sprinkle from as high up as possible.

Cut the garlic into thin slivers and lay a sliver of garlic and basil on the middle of the top of the breast. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over each breast. Carefully place the breasts into a zip lock bag and seal from one end to the other, but leaving about a centimeter at the end open.

Now place that zip lock bag into a container of ice water with the opening barely above the surface of the water. This will push the air out of the bag from the small opening. Carefully push the bag down and seal it before the water flows into the opening. It won't be perfect, but most of the air should be out of the bag.

Depending on the size of the beer cooler, you will need enough water to fill up most of the cooler. Place a pot of water over medium flame and heat until it reaches 150-degrees. Pour this water into the beer cooler and drop the zip locked chicken breast in. Check the temperature. You want an optimum temperature of 140 to 145-degrees. If it is too cold add some boiling water to bring up the water to the right temperature.

Now close the beer cooler and it will sit in the water for a minimum of an hour and thirty-five minutes. Check the temperature of the water every so often and add more boiling water as it cools, but the cooler does a great job in insulating heat.

After an hour and thirty minutes, take out the chicken breast. It should be cooked all the way through. It would ideal to briefly mark the chicken with grill marks on a hot grill or a nice sear in a hot pan for a minute of two, to give it a beautiful color, but the breast should retain plenty of flavor and be moist throughout.

Alfredo sauce ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 quart half-and-half
.8 ounces all-purpose flour
.8 ounces butter
.75 ounce chicken base
Parmesan cheese to taste
Cheese scraps

Alfredo sauce directions:

First make the roux by heating a saute pan and adding the butter and the flour. As the butter melts, whisk the flour, creating a paste. Cook on medium heat, mixing and stirring constantly, until the roux becomes a light blonde color.

In a small stock pot, add the oil and garlic and cook on medium heat until the garlic becomes fragrant (approximately 2 minutes).

Add the half and half and chicken base (we use chicken stock, but chicken base is an acceptable substitute for home use).

When the half and half comes to a simmer, whisk in the roux. It is quite important to whisk thoroughly as to make sure the bottom of the pan doesn't burn and the roux is incorporated well into the cream.

Let it simmer until the sauce thickens to a desired consistency.

From here it's all about personalization. We use high quality Parmesan rinds from our Parmesan wheels to instill umami and the fragrance of cheese. We also use the skin from smoked mozzarella for a hint of smoky fragrance. At home, feel free to add however much Parmesan cheese and any other cheeses you see fit. Cooking is about customization and experimentation.

Serve with your favorite cooked pasta and add the chicken breast on top.

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