Chicken Binakol: Sous-vide Chicken Breast Stewed in Coconut Water, Lemongrass, and Ginger

Sous-vide Chicken Breast and Coconut Water

Chicken Binakol is a rustic Filipino dish of chicken and coconut water slowly simmered in either a coconut shell, or in a large node of bamboo, over a coal fire. As the chicken simmers in the coconut water, a rich broth is created that is simultaneously savory, slightly sweet, and made fragrant from healthy doses of ginger and lemongrass.

Seeing as I have no fresh coconuts, nor bamboo poles, at the ready in my kitchen, I still wanted to try my hand at this dish. And since I’ve been on such a sous-vide kick these last few weeks, I thought Chicken Binakol would be a perfect dish with which to experiment in my SousVide Supreme machine. As I’ve mentioned before, the primary benefit of sous-vide cooking is that the final temperature of the food you are cooking never surpasses the temperature of the water bath set in the machine. So for this application, I decided to use only the chicken breast. Although chicken breasts are notorious for drying out after cooking via conventional methods, they remain incredibly moist and juicy when cooked at a relatively low temperature under sous-vide. Although I prepared my last two sous-vide dishes at relatively high temperatures (175 degrees for oxtails, and 185 degrees for pig’s ears), I went with¬† a lower temperature for chicken breasts. In this case, that temperature is 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Record screeches.

What’s that you say? 140 degrees is still in the “danger zone” where harmful bacteria like salmonella thrive and multiply? Chicken needs to be cooked to 165 degrees to be certain that any present bacteria are killed? Well, yes, that’s partly true. Salmonella bacterium do die, instantly, at 165 degrees Fahrenheit. But 165 degrees also happens to be where chicken breasts go to die as well, i.e. the chicken becomes stringy and dry. But when cooked in a precisely controlled water bath set at 140 degrees, the chicken breast remains juicy, and if held at 140 for at least 35 minutes (according to the USDA), any bacteria in the chicken will be wiped out as well. Science! I’m blinding you with Science!

SousVide Supreme

 Magic Chicken Breast Temperature

For my version of Chicken Binakol, I placed two skin-on chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper, into a sous-vide bag along with some coconut water, lemongrass, and ginger. I placed the vacuum-sealed bag of goodness into my SousVide Supreme set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit and let the chicken cook for 2 hours, though it can remain in the water bath for up to 12 hours–it won’t overcook.

I then snipped a corner off of the sous-vide bag and poured the rich coconut water chicken stock through a sieve and into a small bowl, set the chicken breasts on paper towels, then patted them dry. Since meat doesn’t brown when cooked sous-vide, the chicken breasts, though incredibly juicy, are unremarkably pallid, save for the flecks of black pepper.

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Pale breasts, out of a warm bath

To remedy the pale chicken breasts, I heated up some coconut oil (of course), in a large skillet and quickly browned the breasts skin-side down to achieve crisp skin, and a more appetizing golden color. After the chicken is browned, I removed them from the pan, then quickly sauteed some minced garlic and shallot in the still-hot pan. I then deglazed the pan with the reserved coconut water chicken stock, then poured the liquid into low bowls, shingled the sliced chicken breasts into the bowls, and garnished with sliced scallions. Voila! A rich Filipino chicken soup of tender chicken breast and coconut water cooked in a very non-traditional, though tasty, way.

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Crisp, brown skin. Tender, juicy meat.

Chicken Binakol: Sous-vide Chicken Breast Stewed in Coconut Water, Lemongrass, and Ginger

Ingredients

    This recipe serves 2, but it can be easily doubled
  • 2 skin-on chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, bottom 4 inches trimmed, split in half lengthwise, and pounded with a mallet
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups coconut water
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more to taste
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Fill the SousVide Supreme with water and heat to 140 degrees F.
  2. Season the chicken breasts on all sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the seasoned chicken breasts, lemongrass, ginger, and coconut water in a sous-vide bag and vacuum seal.
  4. Place the sealed bag into the water bath and cook for at least 2 hours, and up to 12 hours.
  5. Using scissors, snip a corner off of the sous-vide bag and pour the liquid through a sieve and into a small bowl. Set aside.
  6. Remove the chicken breasts from the bag and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the ginger and lemongrass in the bag.
  7. Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering.
  8. Place the chicken breasts, skin-side down, into the hot oil and cook until the skin is brown and crisp, 1-2 minutes.
  9. Remove the chicken breasts from the pan and set aside on a cutting board.
  10. Add the minced garlic and shallots to the hot pan and saute until just beginning to brown, 1-2 minutes.
  11. Pour the reserved liquid into the pan, along with the 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  12. Bring the liquid to a boil, and continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes. Taste the liquid and season with additional fish sauce, or black pepper, as needed.
  13. Divide the liquid between two low bowls. Slice the chicken breasts and place into the low bowls.
  14. Garnish with scallions and serve.
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  • Filomeno March 3, 2014, 8:20 pm

    It’s so refreshing seeing how you are using new techniques with such old homey Filipino dishes. The whole idea of cooking a protein in coconut water is so strange in and of itself (I know it’s an old technique that Filipinos have always done, but still), and then to combine that with sous-vide cooking is brilliant!

    Reply
  • 'LeD' May 29, 2014, 3:45 am

    I Would like to try this. Looks really good.

    Reply
  • Amelia February 14, 2015, 4:14 am

    If I don’t have a sous vide machine, can I substitute with a crockpot on low or warm?

    Reply

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