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04/23/2017

~ Poaching Bone-In Skin-On Real Chicken Breasts ~

IMG_8271Leftover shredded or chopped chicken.  It's an ingredient we all come across on a regular basis in a wide variety of recipes for appetizers, salads, sandwiches and casseroles -- I've even seen it called for in some throw-together soup and stew meals.  That said, I rarely use true "leftover" chicken to prepare any of them.  Here's why:  Most times, when I have leftover chicken, it's been seasoned and cooked to suit a specific recipe.  Nine out of ten times, the flavor profile doesn't align with the recipe du jour.  Example:  The grilled chicken breast rubbed with fajita seasoning leftover from dinner last night, is hardly going to taste great in my Sour-Cream-and-Dill-Dressed Chicken Chef Salad today.  The perfect solution:  poach chicken on an as-needed basis.  

IMG_8277I rarely poach a whole chicken because when I need chopped or shredded chicken, I typically only need two-three-four cups.  There's more.  I never poach boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs.  Here's why:  The flavor is in the skin and the bones.  When you remove either, the end result is too sad to talk about. "Rubber chicken" did not get it's nickname for any other reason than:  Back in the 1990's, we were informed by the food police to cut back on eggs and well-marbled red meat -- two of my favorite foods.  Poultry processors began mass-marketing boneless, skinless chicken breasts to the newly-enlightened sheeple.  Tasteless, boneless, skinless chicken breasts began replacing fat, juicy steaks on dinner tables in homes and restaurants everywhere.  This was America's boneless-skinless rubber-chicken-dinner era.  

I did not buy into America's "rubber chicken" era -- I resisted.

IMG_8267Poaching vs. Roasting = Low Moist Heat vs. High Dry Heat.

IMG_8322"You can always judge the quality of a cook by their roast chicken."  ~ J. Child.  I roast chickens.  I have roasted many chickens in my life, and, I've been roasting chickens since before some of you were born. I've never served roasted chicken to a guest that didn't mention how moist and perfectly cooked it was and asks how I got it that way.  

Everyone and anyone who cooks has an opinion on roasting chicken, and, mine is quite basic: One 6-pound chicken, a 350° oven and 2 hours of the chicken's time.

6a0120a8551282970b019aff52d2b5970bTo learn everything I know about roasting an entire chicken, click here to read, This Woman's Way to Roast the Perfect Chicken + My Stressfree "Carving for Dummies" Methodology.  If it's roasted chicken breasts you prefer, My E-Z "Real" Roasted Chicken Breasts is another option: 2-4-6 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, a 350° oven and 1 1/2 hours of the chicken's time. Both yield perfectly-cooked, moist and juicy, fork-tender chicken.

Poaching = 30-45 minutes.  Roasting = 1 1/2-2 hours.

The term "poach" is from the French verb "pocher" meaning to cook gently in water or seasoned liquid.  The liquid, called "court bouillon" or "short broth", is classically a mixture of water, an acid (such as lemon juice, wine, and/or vinegar or wine vinegar), aromatics (such as onion, celery and/or carrot), an herb or two (such as parsley, thyme and/or bay leaf), salt and peppercorns. That said, poaching chicken is a worldwide sport and the liquid should be seasoned accordingly. For example: When I'm poaching chicken for Asian fare, I use ginger, lemongrass and/or lime leaves, cilantro, soy sauce and/or fish sauce (in place of salt) and a cayenne chile pepper.

Shallow poaching involves placing the food to be poached, presentation side up, atop or in the center of the aromatics, herbs and spices in a shallow cooking vessel.  Cold or room temperature court bouillon is added until the food is partially-submerged in liquid.  The pan gets covered and the food gets cooked gently at a low temperature (barely simmering/shivering), which preserves both the flavor and the structural integrity of the food.  Deep poaching is almost identical, except the food is placed in a deep vessel and fully-submerged in liquid.  In both cases, depending upon the recipe, the liquid might require skimming at the start of or throughout the cooking process.

Place two large 1-1 1/4 pound, bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, skin-side-up, in a wide-bottomed 3 1/2-quart "chef's pan" w/straight deep sides:

IMG_8205Around the perimeter, arrange 6 ounces chunked onion (half a medium onion),  4 ounces carrot cut into 2" lengths (one large carrot), 2  ounces celery cut into 2" lengths (1 large stalk celery), 2 bay leaves, and, 2 teaspoons each coarse salt and whole peppercorns:

IMG_8210Add 1 quart water, or, 3 1/2 cups water + 1/2 cup white wine:

IMG_8214Cover and place on stovetop over high heat.  When liquid comes to a rapid simmer, adjust heat to a very gentle simmer/shiver and continue to cook until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 170°, 40-45 minutes (Note:  smaller breasts will cook more quickly):

IMG_8218^^^ Tip from Mel.  If you have a pot with a glass lid, it's ideal, as it allows you to watch the poaching process and regulate the heat as necessary.  Remove from heat.

IMG_8225Using a large spoon, transfer chicken from the liquid to a plate (Note:  There is no need to discard the liquid, it's quite tasty.  Simmer some egg noodles in it or strain and freeze it.):  

IMG_8232Gently and carefully loosen and remove the skin while it is soft and pliable (this insures a pretty presentation, particularly if the breast is to be thin-sliced):

IMG_8237Cover with plastic wrap and wait until the chicken has cooled until you can comfortably handle it with your hands, prior to gently removing the bones from the meat: 

IMG_8248Poached perfection, fork-tender, moist and juicy too.  Each breast yields 2-3 servings sliced and about 2 generous cups of chopped or shredded chicken:

IMG_8260Poaching Bone-In Skin-On Real Chicken Breasts:  Recipe gives instructions to poach 2 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves and yields 1 total pound of poached chicken/roughly 4 generous cups chopped or shredded chicken.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides and lid (preferably glass); instant-read meat thermometer; large slotted spoon; plastic wrap

IMG_2440Cook's Note:  The alternative to moist-heat poaching is dry-heat roasting, and, if done correctly, the end result is equally as delicious. My recipe for ~ A Peachy All-White-Meat 'Melanie' Chicken Salad ~ is in Categories 2, 12 or 26.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

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