How To: Poach Chicken
Poaching chicken is one of those things that I think health food experts expect people to do but few people actually do it. I am going to be straight with you. It ain’t pretty. Poached chicken is one of those things that is just a means to an end. It is an ingredient in something else you are making so the fact that it looks like a sad, pale, anemic piece of meat with no flavor (which in many cases, it is) does not help its case.
The upside, however, is that it is an extremely healthy way to eat chicken. If it is done right, it can even be a tasty and convenient way as well. It is one of those tasks that I like to do when I am doing something else so that I have it for later. ‘Cooked chicken’ as an ingredient is extremely useful to have in your fridge during a weekday. Am I right? A huge array of options are open to you! Chicken Salad, BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, Enchilada Pie, Laura’s Salad, Chicken & Barley Soup, just to name a few. I like to take leftover cooked, shredded chicken and mix it with a big scoop of salsa. Then I use that as my base for quesadillas and just layer on the cheese. In the summer, toss cold poached chicken with Panzanella Salad or Margarita Pasta Salad and you have a pretty spectacular-and very healthy-supper. Some defrosted Pesto, lots of Parmesan, and some chicken is quite wonderful when mixed with penne rigate or rigatoni.
You get the point. Its quick and easy, its healthy, and its convenient. There. Now you have no excuse to cut up fried chicken from the deli on your salad with fat free dressing.
Simple Poached Chicken
Using boneless, skinless chicken breasts is the healthiest option. For more flavor, leave the bones on but take off the skin. Just note that it will take longer to poach with bones.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
whole peppercorns, about 8
1/4 onion, cut into large chunks
4 stems of fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 clove garlic, squashed
water to cover
Also note that this is all subject to change. If you only have rosemary a not thyme, use that instead. No whole peppercorns? Add a few shakes from the shaker. Leftover chicken broth from another recipe? Throw it in there. Use what you have.
So…in a medium sauce pan…
…add a few inches of water and the aromatics. Bring it all to a simmer. This means just a few bubbles people! Do not let this liquid boil!
Make sure the liquid completely covers the chicken. Simmer (without boiling or the chicken will become tough) for about 15 minutes.
Pull the chicken out of the broth and let it set on cutting board for a few minutes. Do not discard the broth! We will get to that in a minute.
Now you can slice it, dice it, or shred it. If you aren’t going to use it yet, you can prep it then chill it, or just tightly wrap and refrigerate whole cooked pieces. And the cooking liquid I had you save?
Strain it into a freezable container and chill overnight. The next day you can skim off any little bit of fat that might have solidified on the top. Freeze it and use it in soups or stews!
So there you have it! Go forth and enjoy!