Bet­ter tast­ing chicken breasts

Us­ing a wine-poach­ing method re­sults in ten­der, tasty meat ev­ery time

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FOOD - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH KARMEL

El­iz­a­beth Karmel has a se­cret for cook­ing chicken breasts that pro­duces moist, ten­der meat ev­ery time. In fact, it’s so foolproof and ef­fort­less, it’s not even nec­es­sary to watch the clock. Though the chicken takes just 30 min­utes to cook, it’s OK to let them go for as long as an hour with­out wor­ry­ing about ru­in­ing them.

We’ve all suf­fered through card­board-dry chicken breasts. We do it be­cause pe­ri­od­i­cally we com­mit (or recom­mit or re-recom­mit) to healthy eat­ing. And bone­less, skin­less chicken breasts are a fine and fill­ing lean pro­tein well suited to the job.

Ex­cept for one thing... Be­cause bone­less, skin­less chicken breasts are so lean, they over­cook and dry out heart­break­ingly fast. Doesn’t seem to mat­ter whether I grill them or bake them or saute them. I al­ways end up with dry, chewy and un­pleas­ant chicken breasts. No won­der ev­ery­one gets ir­ri­ta­ble when they’re try­ing to eat healthy.

But I have a se­cret for cook­ing chicken breasts that pro­duces moist, ten­der meat ev­ery time. In fact, it’s so foolproof and ef­fort­less, you don’t even need to watch the clock. Though the chicken takes just 30 min­utes to cook, you can let them go for as long as an hour and you won’t risk ru­in­ing them in the slight­est.

The se­cret? Poach­ing the breasts in a blend of stock, wine and sea­son­ings. But my poach­ing tech­nique is slightly dif­fer­ent than what you’re used to. And that’s what makes it so for­giv­ing.

First, I use a flavour-packed wine-in­fused stock to poach in­stead of wa­ter. The flavour dif­fer­ence is big. Sec­ond, I use mostly resid­ual heat to cook the meat. As in, I bring the chicken stock, wine and aro­mat­ics to a boil, then add the raw bone­less, skin­less chicken breasts. I bring the liq­uid back to a boil, then turn off the heat, put a lid on the pot, then let the chicken cook. That’s it.

This method al­lows the chicken to cook slowly, ab­sorb­ing the sea­son­ings and let­ting the wine in the broth deepen the flavour of the meat. The chicken is never tough and doesn’t taste “boiled,” which some­times hap­pens when you put raw chicken in cold wa­ter and boil it.

I started poach­ing chicken in this man­ner to use in chicken salad. Moist chicken just tastes bet­ter in salad than grilled or baked. And be­cause the chicken is so juicy, you need less may­on­naise when you pre­pare it this way. But now I make poached chicken breasts for many other dishes - on a green salad; sliced and tossed with pasta; chopped and mixed into soup; mixed with bar­be­cue sauce for an easy “pulled” chicken wrap; etc.

How­ever you use the chicken, be sure to sea­son it with salt be­fore serv­ing, as there is no added salt in the poach­ing liq­uid.

WINE-POACHED CHICKEN BREASTS

Start to fin­ish: 45 min­utes Makes 6 breasts 1 1/2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock or broth 3 cups white wine 3 medium car­rots, cut into 2-inch chunks 3 stalks cel­ery, cut into 2-inch chunks 2 medium yel­low onions, halved 4 cloves gar­lic, smashed 4 sprigs fresh thyme 6 bone­less, skin­less chicken breasts In a large (at least 6-quart) stock pot or Dutch oven over medium- high, com­bine the chicken stock, wine, car­rots, cel­ery, onions, gar­lic and thyme. Bring to a boil, then gen­tly add the chicken breasts one at a time. If the chicken breasts aren’t en­tirely cov­ered by liq­uid, add a bit more stock or wa­ter. Re­turn the liq­uid to a boil. As soon as the liq­uid boils, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Al­low the breasts to poach for 30 min­utes, then use tongs or a slot­ted spoon to re­move from the liq­uid. Chicken can be used im­me­di­ately, or re­frig­er­ated for up to 3 days. The poach­ing liq­uid can be saved for an­other use. It can be frozen, then thawed and boiled be­fore reusing. Nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion per breast: 150 calo­ries; 30 calo­ries from fat (20 per cent of to­tal calo­ries); 3 g fat (0.5 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 85 mg choles­terol; 55 mg sodium; 0 g car­bo­hy­drate; 0 g fi­bre; 0 g sugar; 27 g pro­tein.

AP PHOTO

This recipe for wine-poached chicken breasts pro­duces moist, ten­der meat that works well in sal­ads, pas­tas, soups, wraps

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