Salt. Fat. Acid. Heat.
No, this post is not about the Netflix show featuring Samin Nosrat, but this recipe does rely heavily on the fine balance between those 4 components in cooking.
#TacoTuesday is not a holiday I celebrate, because it’s against my belief in equality for all (days). I am, however, guilty of using the hashtag and referencing it for the ‘gram. But there’s no doubt that
I love tacos!
I figured out a very simple halal recipe for moist-but-crispy chicken tacos using my ChefSteps Joule sous vide. It has no lard (yay halal!), is pretty healthy (depending on your choice of wrap), and has the perfect balance of salt, fat, acid, and heat (thanks, Samin).
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (can be a little bit frozen still—the beauty of sous vide!)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp paprika
A pack of small corn tortillas (street taco size is perfect)
Canola or Olive Oil (not too pungent)
Fill a large pot about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way with hot water. Set up your sous vide to preheat the water to 146°F, which is the temperature I’ve found to be perfect for juicy chicken breast.
Mix up all the powdered seasonings in a small bowl.
Let’s prepare the chicken! Clean off any fat, and then drizzle the oil over both sides.
Sprinkle half the seasoning on one side and pat gently to really get the spices in there. Flip and repeat!
Place your seasoned chicken in a gallon size ziploc freezer bag and zip it 80% of the way. If you’ll recall from my cajun shrimp recipe, leaving about an inch or two of open space will allow for the excess air to escape when the hot water creates a suction around the meat. Also, the gap will kind of close up on its own (obviously not sealed) so don’t worry about steam and moisture escaping.
THIS CHICKEN IS GOING TO BE JUICY!
Ahem, once the water has preheated (the Joule app will tell you so!), go ahead and carefully dip the bag of chicken into the water. Use a large spoon to push the chicken down if necessary; it won’t float. If you have one, use a spring clamp to clip the sealed corner of the bag to the edge of the pot.
Set the cook time to 2 hours. If frozen at all, cook for 2 1/2 hours.
When there are about 10-15 minutes left on the chicken’s cook time, heat up some oil in a skillet on medium heat.
When the oil is heated and shimmery looking, carefully place a tortilla in the skillet. Use a large flat spatula to gently press down to ensure your tortilla will be evenly crisped. The goal here is not to make chips or tostadas,. We want the tortilla to fold without tearing and to be crispy enough to hear a “crunch” when you bite in to your taco. Not a hard shell taco, and not a soft flour one either.
Take a peek at the underside of the tortilla after about 15 seconds; if it has transformed from pale to golden and has some hints of brown, it’s ready to be flipped. Flip it and, again, use your spatula to press down to get an even, fast cook without turning it into a tostada.
Add a tsp or so of oil between each tortilla.
CRISPING UP THE CHICKEN
Keep the oiled pan on medium heat to sear the chicken. Once the chicken’s sous vide cook time is up, remove the chicken from the pot and carefully take the chicken breast out of the bag, shaking it a little bit to allow the liquid to drip off as much as it can (back into the bag).
Place the chicken onto the hot, oiled skillet. The pan and oil should be hot enough and the chicken should be dripped off/dry enough (externally) to allow for an instant, loud spattery-sizzle sound. This is how you sear meat. If there is too much liquid on the outside of the chicken, it’ll boil rather than sear. The liquid inside the chicken would then come out, resulting in mushy chicken. We don’t want this.
The key here is to apply heat quickly so as to dry out/crisp up the outside without losing the moisture that’s inside. Think of the sear as a seal on the chicken; a proper sear will help to seal in the moisture.
Once you get a nice crisp layer on the chicken, flip and repeat. If your chicken breast is pretty thick, you can also sear the sides/edges.
When you’ve got a nice, even sear all around the chicken breast, go ahead and remove it from the heat and place it on a cutting board. Gently slice the chicken into long ~1/4 thick slices.
Grab two forks and shred these slices into long messy pieces. Basically stab the slice with both forks next to or above each other and tear apart. If you’re like my mom and your fingers have built up a tolerance to steaming hot roti, feel free to attempt to tear the chicken apart with your fingers. Please be careful.
When you’re done shredding the chicken, pour the reserved liquid over it and mix it up. Disclaimer: this is not a recipe for a saucy chicken taco.
Tortilla. Chicken. Diced onions. Cilantro. Squeeze da lime.
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