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Perfect Poach

Somewhere in the quest for the body beautiful, poached chicken became the fodder of diet followers. And with that, any idea of gastronomic indulgence and ‘the poach’ fell by the wayside.

In my mind, as someone who lives their life mouth first, I can only describe this as a travesty; a great culinary injustice. Poaching is a wonderful way to add flavour, improve the texture and prevent any dry and cooked on the outside, raw in the middle chicken misadventures. When done well, poached chicken is unsurpassed. Here are four ways to glorify a bit of poached chook

A common method is to add the chicken to simmering or boiling liquid. Some say simmer the chicken until its done while others tell you to remove the pot from the heat as soon as the chicken is added then let it stand for 40 minutes or so until the chicken is cooked through. Personally, I like to cook the chicken over a really low heat for about an hour. Yes, it is far more time consuming but it never subjects the chicken to the higher temperatures of boiling water that can cause toughening. I’ve used a mix of methods here – so I encourage you to try them and find your favourite.

Beer sake and miso poached chicken

Beer, Miso and Mirin poached chicken

The flavours of this are light and lovely while still delivering that miso (and beer) induced creamy, salty, malty goodness. I charred some baby leeks but if unavailable you could substitute with some Pak choy, just add a little extra spring onion to ensure you get that little kick.

Ingredients

Poaching

500g chicken breast (about 2)

2 tbsp mirin

½ cup sake

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup beer (I used a pale ale style)

1 5cm knob of ginger sliced

Noodles

180g udon noodles

1 tbsp rice bran oil

6 shitake mushrooms, sliced

1 spring onion, sliced on the diagonal

4-6 baby leeks, washed and sliced lengthways

Method

Add the poaching ingredients to a medium sized saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove chicken, reserving the poaching liquid, and allow to cool. Slice.

Bring the poaching liquid back to the boil. Add the udon noodles and cook for 4 minutes. Strain, reserving about ½ cup of the poaching liquid.

Place a frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil and once shimmering fry the shitake mushroom slices. Remove once golden. Add the baby leeks and char slightly then pour over the remaining poaching liquid.

Transfer the noodles to a large serving bowl. Top with the sliced chicken then scatter over the shitake mushroom and sliced spring onion. Add the leeks to the side if using then spoon over the poaching liquid from the frying pan.

Serve warm.

Kaffir lime and coconut poached chicken

Lemongrass, ginger and kaffir lime poached chicken

This dish is wonderful eaten warm or cold. If you are planning on eating cold or leftovers the next day, add some extra fresh peanuts and fried shallots as these will soften. If yo chose not to make the nuoc cham dressing there are some great deli versions out there for those pressed for time or inclination.

Ingredients

Poaching liquid

2 lemongrass stalks, bruised

1 x 5cm knob ginger, sliced

½ cup master stock

5 kaffir lime leaves, coarsely torn

400g chicken breast, room temperature.

400ml coconut milk

Salad

1 cup green beans, trimmed

1 medium sized cucumber, sliced

½ cup Thai basil, leaves picked

½ red onion, thinly sliced

½ cup roasted peanuts

2 kaffir lime leaves, deveined, very finely sliced

2 tbsp fried shallots

175g rice stick noodles

Nuoc cham dressing

¼ cup fish sauce

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tbsp palm sugar

100ml water

Juice of ½ lime

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 red chilli, very finely chopped

Method

Add the poaching ingredients to a medium sized saucepan and place over low heat, you want it to reach just below simmering. Cook for approximately 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through and just firm to the touch. Gently remove the chicken, place into a bowl and using two forks shred the meat. It helps to add a tablespoon or so of the poaching liquid to the shredded meat.

To make the nuoc cham dressing, place fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and water in a pan over medium heat and stir to combine. Bring mixture to just below boiling point, then set aside to cool. Add garlic, chilli and lime juice, and stir to combine.

Add the noodles to the poaching liquid. This may have cooked down a little during the poaching process so if the noodles aren’t generously covered, add a little chicken stock and cook for 3 minutes (or for length of time suggested on packet instructions).

While the noodles are cooking, add the salad ingredients to a large serving platter or bowl. Strain the noodles and add to the serving bowl. Top with the shredded chicken and extra Thai basil, red onion, peanuts and serve. Drizzle with nuoc cham dressing to taste.

Sri Lankan curry poached chicken with cucumber herb salad, yoghurt and chilli

This poaching liquid is used for the chicken as well as the rice and lentils – it imparts amazing flavour so why stop there – strain it off and cook it down to scoop over the chicken or dip into it with some piping hot naan.

Ingredients