Well guys, I did it.
I poached my very first chicken.
And you know what, it wasn’t that terribly hard. In fact, it was really quite easy (I think I am getting the hang of this cooking thing). My aunt Deb was the one who first taught me the technique of poaching. She makes a killer chicken taco and a few years ago when I was visiting her in Colorado, she showed me how she did it. It looked easy enough, but of course whenever I felt like doing it myself, I came up with a million and a half excuses not to (the chicken was too expensive, I didn’t have enough time, I was scared I wasn’t going to do it right, ect.). But, no more! I am taking a stand, err, against me, myself, and my cooking excuses.
After years of frozen dinners (I am sorry Hot Pockets and Lean Cuisine–no offense but I just don’t think this relationship is working out. It’s not you, it’s me. Really. We can still be friends and I would love to hang out with you every once in a while, but not all the time like we used to.), I decided that enough was enough. I was going to attempt to cook, come (egg)sHELL or high water. Besides, even the greats like Julia Child, Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali (my inspiration and justification for loving Crocs by the way comes from Mr. Batali–thank you for making the ugliest foam shoes cool, sir!) had to start somewhere, right? This was mine. From this point on, I am determined to go outside of my comfort zone a bit, take some risks (even if that just includes adding an extra teaspoon of cayenne pepper to my chili) and become my own Iron Chef. Morimoto–eat your heart out! Speaking of eating hearts, that probably wouldn’t be too far of a stretch; the last episode of Iron Chef I saw featured tripe as the secret ingredient. What is tripe you ask? Cow stomach. Yep. Sounds appetizing and I am sure, like most things that sound outrageously disgusting, it tastes just like chicken. Why is that? That, like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie-pop, we may never know.
So…after much trepidation on my part, I decided to go for it.
And you know what? The end result was to die for. In under twenty-five minutes, I had moist, succulent, juicy, tender and delicious chicken. It was so beautiful, I wanted to cry (and not because I nearly melted my face from the heat of the steam coming from the top of the pot–note to self, in the future, don’t stand directly over the boiling-lava hot-pot of water to check on what’s inside). The best thing about it was it was sooooo easy. And versatile. There are really so many things that you can do with chicken–soups, stews, stoups (according to Rachael Ray, a stoup is thicker than a soup but not as thick as a full-on stew), sandwiches, tacos, stir-fry, pasta, salads, burritos, or just jazzed up with some BBQ sauce. Really anything goes. Get creative! Plus, if you poach more than one chicken breast at a time, you can easily freeze them to use on a later day, like say when you come back from a long day at work and don’t know what to make for dinner and don’t have a lot of time or energy or ambition to cook (I know I sure have those moments every now and then). All you have do is take out one of your breasts, defrost, and let your imagination take over. I just realized how that sounded. My apologies.
To help you on your cooking adventure, I have decided to walk you through the simple, no-fail steps to poaching chicken. Just call me coach. Poach Coach, that is 🙂
So team, if you’re ready, drop and give me twenty (just kidding) and let’s get going!
Sports Equipment: First off, the ingredients.
To poach a chicken, all you really need is three basic staples: a large pot, chicken (I used boneless, skinless breasts but it can be done with whole chickens, legs, wings, etc) and water. That’s right. That’s all. However, to make things more interesting (and this is where you can can creative), in place of water (which acts as the poaching liquid), you can use chicken or veggie broth, fruit juice, your favorite marinades, tomato sauce, etc. Whatever you choose will end up getting infused in the chicken itself, making it moist and flavorful.
Down. Set. Poach. We’re ready to start!
1. The first thing you do is take your chicken breasts and place them in the bottom of a small, heavy-bottomed pot. If poaching more than one breast at a time, make sure that they are not over-lapping each other, but still fit snugly in the pot.
2. Cover the chicken with your liquid (water, broth, juice, etc.) so that the liquid is just covering the chicken, not too much but not too little. I personally like to use either chicken broth or pineapple juice, plus a little salt and pepper for extra flavor 🙂
3. Bring water to a boil and then quickly turn it down to a slight simmer. It is important that you don’t over-boil the chicken; it can take on a sort of mushy texture when this happens and no one likes mushy chicken. Partly cover the pot of simmering water and let rest for about 10 minutes.
4. After the 10 minutes is up,
turn off the heat completely and let it rest, covered, for 15-20 more minutes. Your mouth is watering, I can tell. Just a bit longer…
5. Finally, you can take out your chicken (don’t stare directly into pot, remember). Place on a plate and with a fork, gently shred it into pieces of your preferred size.
And that’s it! Simple, right? Once you’ve got that done, you can take your chicken and go wild! Make and create sensational dishes and dinners till your heart’s content.
To get you started, I thought I’d share one of my favorite recipes for spicy chicken tacos, compliments of my aunt Deb. It is Taco Tuesday after all!
Spicy Shredded Chicken Tacos
2 tsp. canola oil
1 small onion chopped
3 garlic cloves pressed
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 pound shredded poached chicken
1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock
ground black pepper
Heat oil in med. skillet over med. heat until hot (2 minutes); add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until softened (about 4 minutes). Add garlic, spices and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir constantly for about a minute. Add shredded chicken breast . Add crushed tomato’s, chicken stock; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to med/low and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes (stirring frequently) mixture should not be completely dry. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste.
You can use soft corn or flour tortillas, crunchy ones or fry some up and make your own crispy shells.
Salsa: I made a quick salsa with one large chopped tomato, 1/4 chopped white onion and 1 VERY hot chopped birds eye pepper or if you want, salsa in a jar is always good.
cheese and sour cream
Now if that’s not a home run, I don’t know what is 🙂