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Chef's note: We use sugar in the raw or turbinado sugar because it tastes less sweet than white sugar and takes more time to break down, causing it to caramelize faster and creating that nice crunch.
Brûléed Chicken Breast, Vietnamese-Style
Recipe adapted from David Myers, Hinoki & the Bird, Los Angeles
Yield: 4 servings
Cook Time: 30 minutes (plus 4 hours marinating)
¼ cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 serrano chile--halved, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Two 8-ounce skin-on, boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon grapeseed or canola oil, divided
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, divided
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, water, shallots, garlic, chile, granulated sugar and pepper until the sugar dissolves. Add the chicken breasts, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Reserve the marinating liquid and aromatics. Heat a large, ovenproof skillet over high heat for 2 minutes and then add 1 tablespoon of oil. Place the chicken in the pan skin-side down, cook for 1 minute and then transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes.
3. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and strain the reserved liquid into the bowl. In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and the strained aromatics. Cook until sizzling and softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the liquid and simmer until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat.
4. Remove the chicken breasts from the oven and transfer them skin-side up to a sheet pan lined with a wire rack. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the broiler to high. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over the breasts and place the breasts under the broiler, cooking until the chickens' skin is glossy and the sugar is browned, 2 to 3 minutes (watch the broiler carefully as broiler times do vary; the sugar can also be brûléed using a handheld kitchen torch).
5. To serve, slice each breast crosswise into ½-inch-thick pieces. Divide the sauce between 4 plates, place a few slices of chicken on each plate and then sprinkle with cilantro. Serve.