Attention to detail and appreciation of the process is what I enjoy, and brewing tea is a great way to put it into practice. I’ve been on a tea kick for awhile, specifically Earl Grey. Just as with coffee, the amount of product, water temperature, and extraction time play a crucial role in brewing tea, and, in addition, the process for tea varies based on varietal. For awhile, I was using a Keurig at work just to make hot water for my tea. I decided one day to measure the temperature only to discover that not only was the temperature of the water not reaching the degree setting of the machine, but that it was around 35° F cooler than was needed for proper extraction.
My affection for Earl Grey first led me to branch off from tea and dabble with it in some cocktails. I’ve found that the subtlety of tea makes it difficult to create a cocktail that has the flavor of Earl Grey at the forefront. Brew the tea stronger and it can become too tannic, brew it regularly and the amount needed to taste the tea dilutes the drink. I’ve tried simple syrups and freezing, but after further reading it looks like an infusion or a milk wash is the way to go. The cocktail is currently on hold, and I’ve shifted to using tea as a seasoning. Using tea as a seasoning may not be obvious, but tea is simply dried leaves just like any other herb. (herbs are dried leaves; spices are dried seeds, bark, and root)
Earl Grey tea dates back to the 1820s, and is black tea flavored with bergamot oil. Bergamot oranges are predominantly grown in Italy, and resemble a lemon in color. The fruit is not considered edible, but the essential oils in the skin are used for food, drink, and fragrances. The aromatics in a cup of freshly steeped loose leaf Earl Grey are predominantly black tea and the citrusy bergamot oil. These citrus notes are what makes Earl Grey a perfect choice for seasoning chicken.
I found various recipes with mixed reviews that use Earl Grey as a seasoning, and after perusing these recipes I decided that I was going to go a different route and cook the chicken breast sous vide. To compliment the bergamot oil in the Earl Grey I made a Cointreau tarragon cream sauce. For the first time making this recipe, it was a great success. Next time around I may steep the tea briefly prior to using it to season the chicken in order to open and soften the leaves. The leaves that were stuck to the chicken were a bit too coarse to be eaten on the chicken, almost like dried rosemary. The other main aspect I’d change is what I’d pair it with. As delicious as it all was, the colors were basically the same for the main course and the sides. Definitely not a big deal, but this is where my attention to detail comes in.
As always, I’m looking for suggestions and ways to improve my cooking and cocktails. I had a brief, but good conversation with Randolph Sprinkle, chef and owner of The SaltBox Cafe in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina about this recipe and he suggested that I try flavoring the chicken by smoking it with tea. Needless to say, I now have one more “cooking to-do” added to the list. Also, if you happen to be in the Nag’s Head area be sure to check out The SaltBox Cafe. It’s unsuspecting from the outside, but a culinary delight inside. Of the places I’ve tried on my most recent trip to Nag’s Head, SaltBox stood out the most. The flavors, presentation, and pricing were all exceptional. Until next time, I’ll just have to perfect the details of this Earl Grey chicken in Tulsa.
- 3 chicken breast
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 teaspoons Earl Grey tea (loose leaf)
- 1.5 teaspoon orange zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 pods cardamom
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup Cointreau
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- .75 tablespoon tarragon (fresh)
- ½ tablespoon garlic (minced)
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 teaspoon chicken broth paste
- Set sous vide to 60.6° C. (141.08° F).
- Trim chicken breasts and place in Ziploc bags.
- Evenly disperse dry seasoning mix between bags then add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to each bag.
- Seal bags by immersing in water until the air has escaped.
- Cook for approximately 55 minutes. (Reference cooking times and use a meat thermometer if needed. A 20mm chicken breast at about 41° F will take 55 minutes to pasteurize. Modernist Cooking Made Easy has a great reference chart here.)
- Add olive oil and butter to saucepan and heat on medium heat.
- Add onions and cook until translucent, then add garlic.
- Add Cointreau, heat, then slowly add in heavy cream.
- Add chicken broth paste, tarragon, parsley, orange zest, and then salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat on medium low until sauce is thickened and reduced.
Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide: The Authoritative Guide to Low Temperature Precision CookingSous Vide
I use and recommend the Sansaire Sous Vide Immersion Circulator. The Sansaire was a successfully funded Kickstarter project and is frequently ranked highly for a consumer sous vide machines in the $200 range.