This Poached Chicken Is a Hug in a Bowl
Hello everyone, and welcome back to Prix Fixed, Lifehacker’s menu planning tips column .
This week’s email is a request to share a meal with a parent – a parent that the sender of the email hasn’t seen or hugged for too long:
I want to cook a nice dinner for my parents next month. This will be the first time we will be able to see each other in person since fall 2019; this is the longest time we have ever got around without a visit.
Number of people: 4 adults
Diet restrictions: My parents and I follow the Num diet. Basically, this means that we are really loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and white meats. We can still make a dessert that isn’t too high in calories (think of something like a schaum torte with fresh fruit, not something like a date bar). As for the sides, we make a lot of broth soups, great vinaigrette salads; not much mashed potatoes (I miss you all the time, potatoes). We all drink; and most of us love gin. (You can temporarily force me to limit my potato consumption, but you will take my booze from my clenched fists, Num.)
Cooking Utensils: We have a nice selection of pots and pans (stainless steel and antique cast iron), bakeware, etc. There is a 35 year old food processor, food processor, but no blender. We also have sous vide and instant pot (both purchased on my recommendation because I won’t be silent about your speakers). My parents have a gas stove / oven and grill (I’m not good at grilling but want to practice).
Cooking Skills: I am a fairly competent home cook. Knife skills can always be improved; but I am quite capable of following the recipe, and I can play a little if I need to or if the spirit prompts me to do so. If I use mixes, my baking skills are greatly improved. Although I can make meringues too.
It should also be noted that my parents live off the beaten path, for example, they regularly buy “special ingredients” from the off the beaten path Mennonite store, so while we have access to regular grocery stores, fancy stuff will require at least an hour’s drive one way.
Please let me know if you would like to know more. Thanks!
I admit I am not familiar with Noah or his parameters, but “loading with fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and white meat” is a concept that I can fully grasp. When I first read this sentence, I stopped, closed my eyes and enthusiastically whispered “poached chicken” to the empty living room. I know poached chicken doesn’t sound exciting, but trust me, it is.
As A.A. Newton, on his famous blog on cooking poultry, poaching is a method to maximize the potential of a bird. “Oh, what about the skin?” the haters will moan. We’re going to remove it after the chicken is cooked and roast it, oh you little faithful. (Did you really think I didn’t have a plan for the skin?)
Not only is poached chicken the most tender and juicy form of chicken, but poached broth is – in a word – divine. You can put any flavor you want in the pan, but I usually use a whole head of garlic, a whole shallot and a very large chunk of ginger, as in the case “which takes up 80% of my palm.”
The result is a simple-looking, complex-tasting, and incredibly comfortable dish. It heals like a good, long hug with a loved one you haven’t seen in over a year.
One caveat: you should start preparing the dish about 3-5 hours before you plan to eat it, but only 20% of this time requires your active participation, since the chicken acquires its taste after a long period of soaking.
On the side, I’m a big fan of the smashed cucumber salad . (Ground tortillas hold up much more effectively than smooth slices.) For dessert, I’d take advantage of the sheer bounty of late spring and pick up the most seasonal fruit in your area. If it’s a cantaloupe, take or make some chili salt ; if it is a berry, use half a liter of heavy cream. If you want to make cocktails – and I think you do – I suggest Meyer Lemon White Ladies or Old Fashioneds gin with fresh lemon syrup.
Stop chatting – let’s go shopping. You will need:
- 1 chicken
- 1 large piece of ginger (take a thick head at least 2 inches long)
- 1 shallots (or bunch of green onions)
- 2 heads of garlic
- Whichever instant greens you like – spinach, baby bok choy, and snow pea leaves will do (you need one large handful per person)
- 2 large (or 4 small) cucumbers
- Toasted sesame oil
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Sambal olek (or sriracha)
- Fish sauce
- The freshest and most seasonal fruit your local store has to offer
- If it’s melon or pineapple: chili salt (or ingredients for making that chili salt )
- If it is a berry or stone fruit: heavy cream.
- Whatever cocktail ingredients you need, old-fashioned or white ladies.
Pantry staples you may have but may need to buy:
- Brown sugar
- Soy sauce
To make poached chicken you will need:
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 shallots
- 1 very large piece of ginger
- Large handful of salt (for exfoliating chicken)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 4 large handfuls of instant greens. (Or 4 baby bok choy)
About five hours before dinner (or three hours if your chicken is very small), remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it warm to room temperature for an hour. (Running the chicken at room temperature in the room ensures that the water is kept warm all the way through.) Once it has lost its cold, take it out of its packaging, remove all offal, and place it in a colander in the sink. Sprinkle a large handful of salt on the chicken, scrub inside and out, and rinse off. This will remove any impurities from the skins and make the broth clearer and more delicious.
Place the chicken in a saucepan, fill the cavity with water, then turn the chicken breast up and pour in enough water to cover it. Cut the first 1/4 inch or so from the top of the garlic to expose the cloves (and make sure the root is rinsed well), cut the shallots in half and remove the paper-covered outer material (or wash the shallots) and coarsely chop the ginger. unpeeled, in 1/4-inch slices.
Add all of this to a saucepan along with salt and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium to high heat. Once it boils, reduce heat to low and reduce to a simmer. Let it brew for half an hour, then cover, remove from heat and let it brew for 2-4 hours, depending on size. (Most medium-sized chicks will survive three hours just fine, but you won’t be able to digest them with this method.)
Do something else an hour before serving when you start making your cucumber salad. (If some part of the chicken starts to stick out during braising, add some more water.)
For a cucumber salad you will need:
- 2 large or 4 small cucumbers
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1-2 teaspoons of sambal olek or sriracha
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
When the chicken has about an hour to soak, take the buns, rinse them thoroughly, place them in a gallon freezer bag and crush them with a heavy ladle or small skillet. Break large pieces into small pieces with your hands. Add salt and white sugar to the bag, shake to coat, then pour the cucumbers into a colander in a sink or large bowl. Put it all in the refrigerator for an hour. Combine the remaining ingredients in the jar, close the jar and shake to prepare the dressing. Set aside until dinner.
After the soak time has elapsed, carefully lift the chicken out of the pot by sticking a sturdy, long-handled spoon into the cavity, and gently tilt it upward so that the broth from the cavity flows back into the pot. (While you are doing this, have someone make cocktails and have them make yours.)
Raise the chicken gradually, using another spoon for additional support if necessary. Place the chicken on a cutting board and remove most (or all!) Of the skin, then place the pieces of skin in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally until both sides are crispy. While the skins are crispy, strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve and return to the saucepan. Bring the broth to a boil, rinse the herbs, toss it in the broth and cook until it turns bright green. Transfer the herbs and broth to bowls, chop up the chicken, and sprinkle each bowl with white or dark meat, depending on the bowl owner’s preference. Blot the chicken skin briefly with paper towels, season with salt and place the skin on the boiled chicken. Toss the cucumbers with enough dressing to coat and serve the salad along with the broth and chicken bowls.
If serving pineapple or melon for dessert, chop them up and serve with chili salt. If serving berries or stone fruits, remove them from the refrigerator when serving the chicken so they can warm to room temperature, then rinse (and slice if necessary) just before serving. Divide them into small bowls (or teacups) and pour in as much cold heavy cream as you like. You can even add a pinch or two of sugar if you like. I won’t tell Mr. Noom.
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