Friday, January 2, 2009

Chicken Salad Part 2: Poaching the Chicken

How do you cook chicken for chicken salad?

Most people make chicken salad when they have leftover chicken from a previous meal.

PROBLEM #1: I don't have leftover chicken.

PROBLEM #2: I have skinless, boneless chicken breasts, naked and vulnerable. Many cooking methods will make it tough and crusty on the outside and add an unwelcome chewy texture to my chicken salad.

SOLUTION? I will poach my chicken.

Poaching is a process of cooking meat in a simmering liquid until cooked through. The cooking liquid can be anything, really--even oil. However, since our chicken has obtained plenty of flavor from its brine, we will use a neutral medium-- water.

If you remember from "Part 1", we have already removed my chicken from its brine and patted it dry, removing most of the brining herbs and spices (you can remove the rest after the meat is cooked).

Now, to start poaching, take a NEW saucepan and fill it with enough cold water for the chicken to be submerged, about half-full.

Insert the chicken into the cold saucepan...

And turn the heat to medium.

Once you see tiny bubbles coming to the surface of the heating water...

Cover the chicken, turn the temperature to low (or even off), and wait for 10 minutes.

Insert a thermometer into the chicken to see if it has reached a temperature between 160º and 165º F.

At that point, remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and place it on a plate to rest. It will continue to cook over the next 10-15 minutes and it will reach an internal temperature of 5-10º higher, signifying fully cooked but not dried out chicken.

Allow the chicken to cool to room temperature. The safest way to do this is to loosely cover the chicken and place the it in the refrigerator until it reaches room temperature.

After the chicken is cooled, you can dice or shred the chicken meat for your dish.

Tomorrow--the conclusion to our Chicken Salad Saga! bjh

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