Cook's Illustrated Number 127 (April 2014)
Let's consider this dish atonement.
As you might have seen on Instagram, we've spent the past five days in New Orleans, eating as if our lives depended on it. We made the rounds and will share a rundown of that with you next week. We landed back in our nation's capital early yesterday morning, and, Bittens, we need some light eating in our lives. Pass us the raw kale, the protein shakes and the fresh fruit. It is diet detox time. (At least for a few days.)
Just before our trip, we delved back into the world of poached chicken. The last (and first) time we made poached chicken -- with Food & Wine's Chinese-Style Poached Chicken with Pear and Orange -- we were underwhelmed. The individual components were fine (with the chicken being unsurprisingly bland) but on the whole we didn't love that dish.
But we're not ones to give up, so when we got the newest Cook's Illustrated and saw they had a feature on Perfect Poached Chicken, we got back into the poaching game.
There's a lot to like in this recipe, mostly importantly including that the chicken is so darn good. Once you've brined it in a flavored water, you turn on the heat, bring the water up to temperature, and then let the chicken cook off heat, covered. The result is some seriously moist chicken, with just the right texture. It's the kind of chicken breast you dream of. Is the chicken flavorful? Mildly so. There's more flavor than the Chinese-Style Poached Chicken, but the flavor is still very mild.
Thankfully, there's a solution for that. Dan Souza, the recipe's author, devises two sauces that can accompany the chicken. The first is a Cumin-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce; the other a Warm Tomato-Ginger Vinaigrette. We opted for the tomato vinaigrette, and it is simple but knock-your-socks-off good. We can't wait to use the same vinaigrette this summer alongside some grilled items.
We're counting our second attempt at Poached Chicken as a success. Give this recipe a whirl and let us know if you agree.
In the meantime, we'll be over here, dreaming of beignets but nibbling on blueberries.
Note from America's Test Kitchen: To ensure chicken cooks through, don't use breasts that weigh more than 8 ounces each.
4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons sugar
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1. Cover chicken breasts with plastic wrap and pound thick ends gently with meat pounder until 3/4 inch thick. Whisk 4 quarts water, soy sauce, salt, sugar, and garlic in Dutch oven until salt and sugar are dissolved. Arrange breasts, skinned side up, in steamer basket, making sure not to overlap them. Submerge steamer basket in brine and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. Heat pot over medium heat, stirring liquid occasionally to even out hot spots, until water registers 175 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off heat, cover pot, remove from burner, and let stand until meat registers 160 degrees, 17 to 22 minutes.
3. Transfer breasts to carving board, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice each breast on bias into 1/4-inch-thick slices, transfer to serving platter or individual plates and serve with vinaigrette (see below).
Warm Tomato-Ginger Vinaigrette
Cook's Illustrated Number 127 (April 2014), recipe by Dan Souza
Makes about 2 cups
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground fennel
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot, ginger, cumin, and fennel and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes have softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in vinegar and sugar and season with salt and pepper to taste; cover to keep warm. Stir in cilantro and remaining 2 tablespoons oil just before serving.