Within the 1723 cookery guide “The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary,” writer John Nott shares a recipe for hen breasts, during which the skins get lifted and filled with grated bacon, anchovies and herbs. In accordance with the Oxford English Dictionary, it is one of many first written accounts of the noun cluster “hen breasts” within the English language. It is also a good way to prepare dinner chicken in order that it does not dry out.
One main design flaw of the hen breast is that its thickness varies considerably from finish to finish. This makes for vexingly uneven cooking — particularly when the meat comes boneless and skinless. By the point the huge, bulbous aspect has cooked via, the lither, tapered aspect (to not point out the outer edges of all the breast) has gone stringy, virtually desiccated.
However here is the factor: You do not have to simply accept that ugly lopsidedness. Take management of your life — and your hen.
The trick to preserving breast meat tender and juicy is to change its anatomy utterly. There are a couple of key methods to do that. The best is to carve the breast in half crosswise the place the thicker finish meets the thinner finish. This manner you possibly can pull the thinner items off the warmth earlier, permitting the thicker ones to complete cooking for an additional minute or two.
One other technique is to make sure the meat retains its pure moisture. What makes a hen breast juicy is water, not fats (in any case, chicken could be very lean). A easy dry brine — a combination of salt, sugar and spices — supplies that little bit of insurance coverage. It is the salt that is most important, because it attracts out the meat’s water. That water then dissolves the salt on the floor of the meat and, via diffusion, the 2 re-enter the meat, seasoning the hen completely.
As evidenced by Quantity 3 of “Modernist Delicacies: The Artwork and Science of Cooking,” dissolved salt modifies the protein construction of meat, permitting it to carry onto water by slowing the contraction of muscle fibers through the cooking course of. This contraction ordinarily “squeezes juices out throughout cooking,” however a dry brine rewards you with retained juiciness.
A marinade can yield equally juicy outcomes via completely different means. Within the following stir-fry recipe, a bunch of enzymes in contemporary pineapple, bromelain, breaks down the connective tissues of fibrous hen, turning the in any other case taut meat into slackened nuggets. Watch and be amazed as this highly effective potion transforms powerful, plain, chicken right into a supple dark-meat doppelganger.
However proceed with warning: Marinate the hen too lengthy and you will find yourself with gluey shreds of meat. Fifteen minutes is the Goldilocks time, which is to say, excellent.
Different acidic components have related advantages. The lactic acid in bitter cream tenderizes hen superbly and in addition helps crunchy, savory coatings follow the meat. Smear it throughout hen breasts and encase them in a thick coating of buttery Ritz cracker crumbs and grated sharp cheddar for a outcome equal elements moist and crisp.
This comforting hen bake tastes finest with cutlets, that are all the time an important weeknight choice. Though you would pound a thick breast out into a skinny paillard (which additionally breaks down the fibers of the meat), one other much less violent strategy is to slice via the center of the breast horizontally so that you’re left with two cutlets of equal dimension. As with most issues in life, two is best than one.
Dry-Brined Rooster Breasts
- 5 dried bay leaves, crushed into small items
- 1 teaspoon entire black peppercorns
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- 1 packed tablespoon darkish brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 giant boneless, skinless hen breasts (about 1 ½ kilos whole)
- Vegetable oil
- Lime wedges, for serving (optionally available)
In a spice grinder, blitz the bay leaf items and peppercorns till finely floor. Switch to a small bowl and add the salt, brown sugar and garlic powder, and rub all of it collectively together with your fingers.
Minimize every hen breast in half crosswise into two items of equal weight, creating one shorter, thicker piece and one longer, thinner piece. Place the 4 hen items on a big plate or sheet pan and sprinkle generously on all sides with the spice combination, shifting the hen round to catch any fallen spices. Refrigerate, uncovered, to dry-brine for at the least half-hour and as much as 1 hour (any shorter and the osmotic brining course of will not full; any longer and you will find yourself with deli meat).
When able to prepare dinner, take the hen out of the fridge and warmth a big skillet with a lid over excessive warmth. Add sufficient oil to frivolously coat the underside of the skillet. Fastidiously add the hen items, clean sides down, and instantly cut back the warmth to medium-low. Cook dinner till the bottoms are browned however not burned, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the hen, cowl the pan and prepare dinner till the opposite sides are browned and the inner temperature on the thickest a part of the meat reaches 155 levels, one other 5 to 7 minutes. It’s possible you’ll need to pull the longer, thinner items off the warmth a minute or two sooner, as they’ll prepare dinner sooner.
Switch the hen to a reducing board to relaxation for at the least 10 minutes so the juices can redistribute. The meat will proceed to prepare dinner because it sits and may attain an inner temperature of 165 levels. Slice the hen in opposition to the grain (that’s, perpendicular to the parallel fibers that run throughout the breast) and serve with lime wedges if you would like. You can too preserve the meat entire and refrigerate it, coated, for as much as 4 days.
Makes 4 servings.
Pineapple-Marinated Rooster Breasts (The New York Occasions/Armando Rafael)
Pineapple-Marinated Rooster Breasts
- 3 packed tablespoons darkish brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for cooking
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon floor cayenne
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup diced contemporary pineapple (½-inch chunks)
- ¼ cup finely diced purple onion
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped contemporary cilantro
- 2 tablespoons finely grated contemporary pineapple, together with gathered juices
- 1 ½ kilos boneless, skinless hen breasts, lower into 1 ½-inch chunks
- Cooked white rice, for serving
In a big bowl, stir collectively the brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, garlic powder, floor cayenne and black pepper. Switch 1 tablespoon of this marinade combination to a separate medium bowl and add the diced pineapple, purple onion and cilantro. That is your salsa; toss till nicely blended and put aside.
Add the grated pineapple and its juices to the marinade combination within the giant bowl, then add the hen and toss to coat. Put aside to marinate at room temperature for quarter-hour (and not).
As soon as the hen is completed marinating, warmth a big nonstick skillet over medium-high and add sufficient olive oil to frivolously coat the underside of the pan. Add the hen items, leaving any marinade behind, in a single layer in order that they do not contact and let prepare dinner till the bottoms are browned, 2 to three minutes. Proceed cooking, stirring often, till browned on all sides and not pink on the within, 4 to five minutes extra.
Serve the hen over rice and prime with the reserved pineapple salsa.
Makes 4 servings.
Ritzy Cheddar Rooster Breasts (The New York Occasions/Armando Rafael)
Ritzy Cheddar Rooster Breasts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for greasing wire rack
- ¼ cup bitter cream
- 1 giant egg white
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt
- 2 giant boneless, skinless hen breasts (about 1 ½ kilos whole)
- 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
- 2 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
Place rack within the backside third of the oven and warmth oven to 450 levels. Place an ovenproof wire rack over a sheet pan. Dab a folded-up paper towel with olive oil and rub it over the wire rack to grease it.
In a medium bowl, whisk collectively the bitter cream, egg white and Dijon mustard till clean. Season with salt. Lay the hen flat on a reducing board and carve every breast in half laterally so you find yourself with 4 skinny cutlets. Add the hen to the bitter cream combination, and utilizing your arms, smear the bitter cream everywhere in the hen.
In a big bowl, crush the Ritz crackers into coarse items together with your fingers. Some crackers will flip to rubble whereas others flip to mud. Add the cheese, garlic powder, onion powder and olive oil. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and toss till evenly distributed. Holding one of many hen cutlets by its thinner finish, add to the bowl with the crumbs, and utilizing your arms, pack the crumbs onto the hen, urgent them in to create a thick coating. Switch the breaded hen to the rack within the sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining three cutlets.
Bake the cutlets till the outsides are crispy and the insides are not pink, 10 to fifteen minutes. Let the hen cool barely so the coating can set, about 5 minutes, earlier than transferring to plates and serving.