Even though our June and August weather seems to have flipped this year, we're still heading into another warm stretch. When the temperatures rise, even avid cooks need a break. But don't switch from home cooking to takeout. Switch to cooler, smarter ways to cook. One of my favorite techniques for cooking chicken breasts is to poach them.
How to Make Poached Chicken
Poaching is a classic technique that I love for summer. It's easy, it's inexpensive and you can get a lot of mileage out of a little cooking.
Poaching is a moist-heat cooking method in which you simmer the protein (here, chicken) in aromatics and water (or a combo of wine, water, broth) to cook it gently and infuse it with flavor. The advantages of poaching include:
- No need to turn on the oven (in fact, you can even poach in the microwave!)
- No added fat
- It's a cook once-eat twice (or three times) method of cooking.
- You can produce a nice fragrant broth from the remains of poaching liquid and bones.
You can vary the aromatics used to infuse the chicken breast with various flavor profiles (use ginger and five spice for Asian applications, for example.)
- Start with organic chicken (unless of course you enjoy a little arsenic with your meal) - choose your aromatics and spices. Today I used carrots, celery onion, a wedge of lemon, some thyme, parsley and about a dozen peppercorns, an allspice berry and some herbs de Provence.
- Place all the ingredients in a pot just large enough to hold them, cover with your choice of liquid (today I forgot Vermouth so we have straight water).
- Bring pot to a bare simmer, not a boil as this will toughen the meat. Cover with a circle of parchment paper (see below) to keep the chicken submerged in the flavorful liquid.
- Simmer for about 15 minutes for two large split breasts. Check the temp of the chicken if you are unsure.
- Remove from heat and let cool in the liquid, in a heat proof bowl. (Food safety note: we don't want to create a giant petri dish for bacterial growth so it's best to cool only partially on the counter then refrigerate.
- Separate your moist, tender poached chicken from the bones, reserve bones for stock.
How to cut parchment paper for poaching
If you don't have parchment paper you can place a small saucer atop the aromatics and chicken. The idea is to keep the chicken submerged. But really, get some parchment, it will make so many things easier - roasting, cooking en papillote, baking cookies, releasing cakes, etc.
Now you have beautiful chicken breast meat to include in your Hatch chile salsa verde tortillas, to include with a chopped salad of fresh farmers' market veggies, or to make lovely chicken salad with homemade mayonnaise.
And you've not even broken a sweat.