♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Today on "America's Test Kitchen," Lan makes Bridget a foolproof braised chicken with mustard and herbs, Adam reviews pastry and silicone brushes, and Dan makes Julia the easiest-ever biscuits.
It's all coming up right here on "America's Test Kitchen."
♪♪ -Chicken thighs are perfect for braising.
They're tough, and they turn tender during the low-and-slow cooking.
Now, chicken breasts, on the other hand, are another matter, but you want to braise them.
So we're going to listen to you and braise them today with Lan, who's going to show us how to braise the whole bird and make it great.
So, there are two ways we can go about this.
We can either put everything in the pot at the beginning and then fish them all out as they finish, or we can stagger the additions and have them all finish at the same time.
Let's go with the second.
-Oh, good, because I don't want to rewrite this recipe.
-[ Laughing ] Exactly.
-We're going to start off with a brine, because that's a great way to season the chicken evenly with almost no work.
-I've got 2 quarts of cold water here, and I'm adding 1/2 cup of table salt, and just want to whisk that together real fast.
Next up, the chicken.
I've got leg quarters and split breasts here, and we're just going to cut them up so that they cook a little bit faster.
-The leg quarter is really easy.
You kind of look for this little line of fat, and you cut pretty much straight down.
The breast is a little bit tricky.
A split breast has all of its bones still, and often, there's a little bit of extra rib.
We want to just get rid of that.
I like to use shears to just snip, and you just kind of go all the way down.
-Save it for stock.
-You can clean up any excess fat, because we don't really need that, either.
And then I'm going to divide this in half so that I have two pieces that are about the same size and same weight.
-Just slice all the way down till you hit the bone and then press.
And it's really easy, pretty clean.
You don't need to be very strong to do it.
-I've got a total of 2 pounds of split breasts and 2 pounds of leg quarters here.
So, if you don't mind popping the lid on that... -You got it.
-...I'm going to wash my hands, and then I'm going to put this in the fridge.
The chicken's going to brine for 30 to 60 minutes.
-It's been about 45 minutes, and I've pulled the chicken out, and I made sure to pat the pieces dry on both sides.
The water prevents the chicken from browning, and it makes it stick to the pan.
-And the extra salt makes the sauce too salty.
-I've got 1 tablespoon of oil in this pot, and I've cranked the heat to medium-high.
We're just waiting for the oil to start smoking, which indicates that it's ready for browning.
-And what kind of oil are we using today?
Nice and neutral.
-So, this looks great.
Now, I'm not going to add all of the chicken pieces.
I've set the two tapered breast pieces aside.
They're going to overcook if we get them going with the rest of the pieces.
I'm going to add them skin side down.
This is going to take 5 to 8 minutes to brown, and I'm going to peek occasionally to make sure that nothing's charring or burning.
I'll turn down the heat a little bit if I need to.
-Bridget, it's been 8 minutes, and as you can see, the skin's really nicely browned.
-I'm going to move these back to this pan.
Now, we don't need all of that fat in there, so I'm going to get rid of some of it.
-Oh, maybe you don't need all of that fat.
-We'll add some of it back.
And what is really important isn't actually the color on the skin here.
It's the color of the fond in the pot, because that's going to be the basis of the flavor for the sauce.
-We're going to build on that by adding 2 tablespoons of that chicken fat back to the pot and one onion, finely chopped.
Now, I've turned the heat down to medium at this point because I want to make sure that fond doesn't burn.
We're just going to cook this until the onions are translucent.
That's also going to take 5 to 7 minutes.
-You can see these onions have collapsed, and they're just starting to brown.
-Chicken fat and onions.
-It doesn't get much better.
I've got the rest of the aromatics here.
This is three garlic cloves that I've minced, 1 tablespoon of minced fresh thyme, and 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper.
And I'm just going to stir this around, break up that garlic, and make sure everything is fragrant before I add the next ingredient.
That's going to take 30 seconds.
It's almost as soon as you smell it, it's ready to go.
So next up, I've got some flour.
That's going to thicken the sauce, and I'm using 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour.
All I'm looking for here is to make sure there are no lumps.
-The flour takes about a minute to cook out, and you just kind of let it go.
-It's also a good idea to do this because cooking that flour for a little bit of time also gets rid of any raw flour taste.
-Last up, the liquid ingredients.
1/3 cup of dry white wine.
Anything you would drink is fine.
You don't have to go nuts.
And next up, I've got some water, 1 1/4 cups.
I'm just going to scrape up the fond here to make sure that it dissolves into that liquid, and then we can start braising.
So, here's the part where we add pieces in sequential order.
We want to make sure that we get the dark meat in first.
It needs the most cooking.
So I'm just going to add the thighs and drumsticks skin side up, and we'll bring this to a simmer at medium heat.
This looks great.
So, I'm just going to cover this, and we'll let these guys go for 8 minutes.
Bridget, it's been 8 minutes, and the sauce has come down quite a bit, but that's not a problem.
As the chicken cooks, it's going to release juices, and it'll look great by the end.
-Next up, we're going to add the larger of the breast meat pieces because they're larger.
They need more time to cook.
I'm going to add them skin side down, and I'm going to cover the pot, and we're going to cook them for just 3 to 5 minutes.
All I want right here is for them to hit 105 to 115, and that's when it's time to get the rest of the chicken in.
It has been about 3 minutes, so let's have a look.
This looks great.
I'm going to turn off the heat.
-And what I want to do right now is make sure that these larger pieces have the jump-start they need.
What I'm looking for is a temperature of 105, 110, 115 degrees.
-This looks great.
All I want to do right now is flip these guys over.
They've gotten the jump-start they need on the top side, but the rest of it is still pretty raw, and I want to make sure that's submerged.
Now there's plenty of space for the rest of the chicken, so I'm going to add these guys skin side up.
That's because I want to make sure that the bone is sitting on the bottom of the pot.
It'll slow the cooking a little bit so that they don't overcook.
These are the most delicate of the bunch, the tapered breast pieces.
So, I'm going to finish these in a 300-degree oven on the middle rack.
It's going to take anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken.
[ Sniffs, sighs ] -Doesn't that smell great?
-It smells like home cooking.
It's that chicken-y, herby smell.
Oh, so good.
-So, I'm only temping the large pieces of breast meat, because that dark meat had got a jump-start.
It's been in there forever, so it's done.
And those smaller tapered pieces, they go fast.
I am looking for 160 to 165 and this looks perfect, so let's get these pieces out.
-I love braising in general just because, you know, the sauce flavors the food, and the food flavors the sauce.
It's a symbiotic relationship.
-So, this sauce looks a little thin to me.
I'm going to turn up the heat and just let it come down a little bit, get it to thicken up a little.
-That's going to take a couple.
While that's going, let's move to the chicken.
Now -- -You got a couple problem children there.
-They're not problem children.
The skin has a lot of gelatin that it releases into the sauce, and that thickens the sauce, as well.
It gives it a nice texture, but now we don't need it, and we're definitely getting rid of these pale, un-browned ones.
-If you or your family isn't into chicken skin, you can actually ditch all of the skin right now.
I like it.
So if you're okay with it, I'd like to leave the rest on.
I was going to say, "If you or your family isn't into chicken skin, then you can ditch your family."
-[ Laughs ] Wow.
-[ Chuckles ] -So, this looks great.
Let's just turn that off.
-It's thickened up.
You can see it's reduced a little bit, too.
-Yeah, kind of like a loose gravy.
-So, we're going to finish it with 3 tablespoons of minced fresh parsley, 1 1/2 tablespoons of whole-grain mustard, and, just to brighten it up a little bit, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
More classic chicken flavors, I would say.
-Yeah, and it pretties up the sauce, too.
-So, I'm just going to give this a quick taste.
Let's get a little bit of pepper in there and some salt.
-I'm just going to dunk my head in there.
[ Both laugh ] -No.
It's for the chicken.
-It's for the chicken.
This looks great.
We're about 3 blocks past great.
-So, I know you said you like skin.
Why don't we go with one of the breast meat pieces and a thigh?
-I'll take that deal.
-We need more sauce.
-Oh, I got it.
-I love that this made plenty of sauce, too, for getting out the bread and dipping it in afterwards, or mashed potatoes, anything with this.
I'm going to go tuck into the breast meat first, because, again, that really is the test.
-I've had braised breast meat before.
-It usually comes out something like a washcloth, something -- And a used one, too.
-Like a terry cloth.
-Just terry cloth.
It's got this brittle kind of texture to it.
This is beautiful.
This is silky almost as if it was dark meat.
-It's really what makes staggering the additions worth it.
It just -- It lets you serve both types of meat.
So if you have people who will only eat the white meat, you don't have to make a whole pot of braised breasts.
I'm going to try a little bit of the thigh meat here.
Super well flavored.
The sauce is brilliant.
-It's not too much.
It doesn't overwhelm the chicken, but it's not flat or bland.
Versatile and delicious.
It can be done.
You can braise the whole bird.
Start by halving chicken breasts, divide leg quarters, and then brine them.
Set those tapered pieces of breast aside, then brown the remaining pieces.
Sauté onion, thyme, and flour, add wine and water, then simmer the thighs and drumsticks in that sauce.
Add the broader breast pieces back into the pot and cook, then add the tapered breast pieces later.
Remove the skin from the tapered chicken.
Finish that sauce with parsley, mustard, and lemon and serve.
So from "America's Test Kitchen" to your kitchen, braised chicken with mustard and herbs.
It can be done!
♪♪ -We prefer silicone brushes when basting meat or oiling hot pans, but for delicate pastries, we much prefer a brush made with natural fibers, and Adam's here to tell us more about which brands we should buy.
-You want to have each type, because, as you say, we like them for different reasons.
The silicone brushes are heat-resistant, dishwasher-safe.
They're not quite as delicate, but the natural-fiber brushes are perfect for all that delicate work.
So let's talk about those first.
We have 6 models here.
The price range was a low of about $5 to a high of about $16.
They're natural fibers, which tend to be either silk or boar's hair.
-And they all had heads that were about 1 1/2 inch wide, which is a really common size.
Now, one of the most important features of these is the length of the bristles, and in our group, they ranged from 2.2 inches down to 1.3 inches.
I want you to brush some of that olive oil onto the phyllo there with that one.
-That has 2.2-inch-long bristles.
-That's a lot of brush.
-That is a lot of brush.
-I'm soaking up a lot of oil that I know I'm not going to want.
Oh, no, no, no, no.
I have no control over this brush.
The handle's long, too.
I'm making a mess of this.
This is not comfortable at all.
-That's exactly what testers thought -- not delicate enough.
Let's get rid of that sheet of phyllo, and I'm going to give you one that has shorter bristles.
This one has 1.3-inch bristles.
-Check that one out.
I don't like it already.
-[ Laughs ] Julia, you're a tough customer.
-I am a tough customer.
Well, this one, I have to say, it's better than that last one, but it feels hard.
It feels like I would actually tear the phyllo if I wasn't being careful.
-And I can see that you're not getting the same coverage that you did with these really long bristles there.
-So that one's not ideal just because it didn't give you quite enough coverage.
This one was the sweet spot.
This one had 1.8-inch bristles, just under 2 inches, which is what testers liked the best.
Oh, I can already tell I like this one.
The bristles are softer, but they're not so long, so I have more control.
Oh, look at that.
-Better coverage, absolute control.
The bristles feel like they're not going to tear up a delicate sheet of pastry or create more crumbs if you're trying to brush them off a cake.
-And the testers felt exactly the same way, that the sweet spot, the bristles that were just under 2 inches long, gave them the right combination of coverage and delicate touch and agility.
-Now, testers preferred handles that were 4-3/4 to 5 inches long and 2 to 2 1/2 inches in circumference.
They liked this one, which was sort of grippy plastic.
-They also liked the varnished wood because that one was easy to hang onto.
So, in fact, you and I are both holding the winner.
This is the Winco flat pastry and basting brush, 1 1/2 inches.
It was about $7.
-Testers really liked it, thought it was comfortable.
There's one caveat.
It's not BPA-free.
-So if that is a concern, then this is your brush.
This is the Ateco 1-1/2-inch stainless steel ferrule brush.
It's about $11, and it is BPA free.
Let's move on to the silicone brushes.
-Now, in this lineup, we had seven brushes.
The price range was $5 at a low to $22 at a high, and they were all heat-safe to 400 degrees at least.
They were all dishwasher-safe, and the width of the heads ranged between 1 1/4 inch and 1.6 inches, which is a very common size.
With these, there was sort of a surprising factor that testers zeroed in on, and that's the weight of the brush.
Believe it or not, the weight range is about a high of 4 ounces.
Some of them were less than 2 ounces, and that's what testers preferred.
They felt like the heavier ones were just a little more cumbersome to work with, a little more tiring.
In terms of the handles, testers also liked a circumference of about 2 3/4 inches, something nice and meaty to hold on to, and a length of about 5 inches.
-And in fact, this is the winning silicone brush.
-That's the OXO Good Grips silicone pastry brush.
And it looks very similar to our previous winner.
You have an eye on you, Julia.
It was our previous winner, and it's hanging onto its title.
It's about $8.
There were a couple of minor caveats.
One is that when we left it on a hot pan, little spot of the handle melted a little tiny bit.
-Second is when we left the bristles in chipotles in adobo sauce, they got a little stained, and they stayed stained even when we washed it repeatedly.
But, you know, those are just cosmetic issues.
They're not deal-breakers, and it still worked really well.
It didn't affect performance.
Thank you, Adam.
There you go.
You should have two brushes in your drawer, one for pastry, and that's the Winco 1 1/2 inch flat pastry and basting brush at about $7.
And the other one should be for basting, and that winner is our OXO Good Grips silicone pastry brush, and that's about $8.
♪♪ The world of biscuits all stems back to the classic, which takes cold butter that you cut into flour, then you add enough buttermilk to make a dough, roll that out, and stamp it.
Now, people have simplified this recipe over the years to include the drop biscuit, which is the same but you add more liquid so that the dough is scoopable rather than stampable.
Or this one is the cream biscuit where cream is substituted for the butter and the buttermilk, and, again, it makes a biscuit you can stamp out and roll.
But today, Dan has an entirely new method that he claims is even better.
-So, Julia, this recipe is groundbreaking, and I don't normally say that right off the bat.
We wanted the easiest-ever biscuit, right?
And both of those styles, the drop and the cream, offer something really great.
The drop biscuit, you just drop it onto the sheet.
There's no rolling and cutting, and the cream biscuit is just a simple ingredient list.
So we wanted to combine both of those.
We wanted a drop-cream biscuit, which we've kind of nicknamed "The Dream Biscuit."
I like it.
And it is an absolute dream.
So, we're going to start with our dry ingredients.
We have 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 4 teaspoons of sugar.
It's a slightly contentious ingredient in biscuits.
-The thing is, this is below any threshold where you'd ever perceive it as sweet.
The primary purpose of the sugar in here is for browning.
We get really nice browning on these.
I also have 1 tablespoon of baking powder.
So this is our leavener.
It's got the acidic and the basic ingredient all in there.
That gives us all of our lift, which means adding baking soda is actually for flavor and browning.
The actual flavor of baking soda in things like pancakes and biscuits is unmistakable.
If it's not there, you would really notice it.
So, we have 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and finally, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt.
And I'm just going to whisk this until it's combined.
So that is perfectly combined there.
So now we're going to get into our cream.
It's got our fat and our water.
Before I add it, I'm actually going to do something pretty crazy.
I'm going to head to the microwave.
-You're going to heat it up.
-I'm going to heat it up.
So, one of the rules of biscuit-making in the classic style is keep everything cold, right?
-Cold butter, cold buttermilk.
This is totally opposite of that.
So, I'm going to take this to the microwave, and we're going to heat it to about 95 to 100 degrees, which is going to take 60 to 90 seconds.
And what I'm actually doing is I'm melting the butterfat that's in this.
So cream looks like a liquid.
It's got tiny, tiny droplets of butterfat disbursed throughout that are solid, and you're going to see that this actually thins out, and it's going to make a droppable dough.
So, this has been about 60 seconds.
It's 95 to 100 degrees, and you can even see that it's more thin than it was before.
-So I'm going to add it to my dry ingredients here.
So then I'm just using a spatula and stirring it together.
The cool thing about this recipe is you really don't have to be careful with this.
You know a lot of times, we talk about just barely mixing a muffin batter together.
You get too much gluten development.
There's a lot of fat in cream, about 36%, so there is tons of fat to coat all of the flour, so you can really mix this until it is perfectly smooth.
Now, just to prove how loose that dough is when made with warm cream, I have the same dry ingredients in this bowl and 2 cups of cream, but this cream is fresh from the fridge so that it's nice and cold.
And I'm going to stir this in and just show the difference that warm cream makes.
-So, starting to look a little dry.
It's starting to feel really dry.
-Getting a little stiff on you.
Look at this.
I don't even have enough liquid to really even get all the dry bits in the bottom of the bowl.
-So, here's the thing.
You'll have a dough that looks like this.
If you add more cream to that, right, to make it droppable -- -Right.
-But when it gets in the oven and that butterfat melts, they turn into pancakes.
Same ingredients, same mixing method.
-The difference is the temperature of one of the ingredients.
-Pretty crazy, right?
So now we are totally smooth on this batter.
It looks wrong in every way, right?
In every biscuit sense, this looks incorrect.
-It does a little.
-So, now it is time to form our biscuits.
So, we could be rolling and stamping and all of that fun stuff.
We're not going to be.
We're going to be using our 1/3 cup measure here, so I'm just spraying it lightly with cooking spray.
Scoop it up and drop it on.
And I like to make sure we drop kind of straight.
You get a nice biscuit-looking shape out of the 1/3 cup, and we'll just keep repeating.
This is a recipe where you want to make sure you're preheating your oven before you start doing anything, because that's going to take the longest of anything.
So, as it starts to stick like that, just reach for my spray and put a little bit more on there.
And we're going to get 10 biscuits out of this.
So, the other really nice thing about this dough -- I mean, it's just so friendly across the board -- is at this point, you can get in there and make some adjustments.
So if you had one that kind of fell over a little bit, absolutely pick it up, move it around.
They've got a nice, little coating of spray on them, so they're not going to stick to your fingers.
-Can pretty up your biscuits.
-Pretty up your biscuits.
Believe it or not, we are already ready to bake these.
-I like it.
-So we're going to go into a 450-degree oven on the upper-middle rack, go for about 10 to 12 minutes, and we're going to rotate halfway through.
They'll be gorgeous golden brown on top.
These look awesome.
These look and smell fantastic.
-They really do.
Now, you'd never mistake them for a stamped biscuit, but it is the tidiest-looking drop biscuit I've ever seen.
Now, some people will say, "It's not a biscuit without butter."
So we're going to brush on 2 tablespoons of unsalted melted butter.
-Butter for flavor at the end.
I like it.
-And a little gloss.
-It soaks right in.
-Oh, smells so good.
-It does smell really good.
So, these are ripping hot.
We're not going to dig into them right now.
How long do they need to cool?
-Just about 5 minutes.
We're going to eat them while they're still really nice and warm.
We got to get into these.
I want you to pick the one that you want, though.
I think this one.
-Very good choice.
-I like that this has a nice crack in the middle that I can split open.
Look at that.
One thing I can tell right off the bat -- it's not dry.
A lot of times, those drop biscuits are a little bready and dry.
Little bit of jam.
I like that.
-Just a little.
-Just on one half.
I like that, so you can try both ways.
Un-jammed half first.
-This is a tender, tender biscuit.
That's a good biscuit.
-You would never know it was as easy as it is based on how good it is, right?
Very often, those wet biscuits, you have a lot of gluten.
It's quite chewy.
-This, it just disappears.
And that crust on the outside has good flavor.
-And it's all-purpose flour so it's not super low protein, but there's enough fat in there that coats everything, makes it really, really tender and really rich.
-I would actually make these and serve them with soup for dinner or a chili, because they're so easy.
-That's a great idea.
-It stands up to the jam.
Just pointing that out.
And I love recipes like this.
Amount of effort that goes in and then the payoff -- You serve these to guests, and everyone is so excited, and you know it took you 15 minutes to do.
-Dan, I can see why these are called dream biscuits.
-They're that good, right?
-I mean, it's a cheesy name, but they are that good.
-So, there you have it.
If you want to make these groundbreaking biscuits, start by mixing all-purpose flour with baking powder and baking soda and a little sugar.
Heat heavy cream to about 100 degrees, then stir it into the dry ingredients to make a very soft dough.
Portion the biscuits using a greased 1/3-cup measure and bake for just 10 minutes.
So from "America's Test Kitchen" to your kitchen, a fabulous new recipe for easiest-ever biscuits.
You can find this recipe and all the recipes from this season along with our tastings, testings, and select episodes at our website, americastestkitchen.com.
-[ Chuckles ] -Let us help you with dinner tonight.
Visit our website anytime for free access to the newest season's recipes, taste tests, and equipment ratings, or to watch current-season episodes.
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