Of the many methods people use to make chicken, poaching doesn’t seem to rank all that high among them. Stewing a whole bird in hot water for an hour or so isn't the sexiest technique out there—nor does poaching give off the lovely smell of a roasted chicken, whose aroma wafts from your kitchen and throughout the rest of your home, luring guests to the dinner table. But I personally believe that poached chicken is one of life’s great simple pleasures—a wholesome meal that is easy to make and immensely satisfying. You would do well to include it in your repertoire, if it isn’t there already.
RECIPE: Poached Chicken Noodle Bowl
Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated
The process for poaching chicken is straightforward. You’ll need a chicken, of course—I prefer to poach it whole and carve it up afterward but you can also cut it into pieces before you put it in the water. Then you’ll need some herbs and vegetables to add flavor to the water. I like using the usual suspects such as carrots, celery, onions, garlic, parsley, thyme and a bay leaf, but you can include leeks, as well as any other ingredients that make sense to you.
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You’ll want to chop up all of your vegetables, add them to a big pot, add in the chicken, throw in a pinch of salt, cover everything with water, and then bring the whole thing to a boil—at which point you’ll lower the heat and simmer everything for about an hour. When that’s done, remove the bird from the water—be careful that it doesn’t fall apart and splash you as you take it out—and carve it up. Carving a poached chicken is easy because the meat is so tender that it basically just slips off the bone. The breasts, for instance, will simply peel off the sternum, while the legs and thighs will come loose with a bit of wiggling. (Save the oysters for yourself.) And you can use this tender meat in any number of applications, from chicken salad to chicken enchiladas.
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One route that’s especially enjoyable: When the meat is ready, is place it over a simple bed of rice. This is the epitome of comfort food. Then, before serving with salad, you can spoon some of the stock over top of the chicken and rice to keep it moist and warm. The meat is so tender, delicate and juicy that I imagine you’ll want to make poached chicken again very soon.
A few more things—once you’ve carved up the bird, you can throw the bones back into the stock and simmer it for a little longer in order to enrich its flavor. Then you can strain out the vegetables, herbs and bones and store the stock for a future meal.
Another thing you can do is wrap your celery, carrots and perhaps a leek, whole, in twine—this is known as a bouquet garni—and when the chicken is ready unbundle the vegetables and serve them with the chicken. This is something I learned from Jacques Pépin, the famed French chef, who is a big fan of poached chicken. And that is, really, all the justification you need to make this dish.
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