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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

Poaching liquid

1 tbsp rice bran oil (or other flavourless)

450g chicken thighs (approximately 500-600gm)

10 fresh curry leaves

¼ tsp Fenugreek seeds

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 star anise

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 red onion, peeled, chopped

½ tbsp ground turmeric

1 ½ tbsp Sri Lankan curry powder (or a medium strength curry powder)

400ml coconut milk

100ml chicken stock

Salad

1 telegraph cucumber, cut into ribbons (using a mandolin)

½ cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped

¼ cup mint leaves, roughly chopped

10-12 fresh curry leaves, coarsely torn

½ cup salted coconut chips

Rice and lentils

1 cup basmati rice, rinsed

1 cup red lentils, rinsed

Additional chicken stock if required

To serve

Naan

Coconut yoghurt

Chilli relish

Black sesame seeds

Method

Add the oil to a heavy based saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spices and stir constantly to prevent burning. You want to cook until a heady aroma is achieved then add the coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil then add the chicken and immediately remove from the heat. Cover and let stand for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Depending on the size of the chicken thighs, start to check the chicken after about 20 minutes in the poaching liquid.

Remove the chicken, reserving the poaching liquid and set aside. Return the poaching liquid to the saucepan and add the basmati rice and lentils. Place over medium-low heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the lentils have cooked through and the rice is soft. Check on it regularly and add additional chicken stock if required.

While the rice and lentils are cooking, toss the salad ingredients together.

Scoop the rice and lentils into a large serving bowl, top with the chicken and cucumber salad then dollop over some yoghurt, chilli relish and a sprinkle of black sesame seeds.

Middle eastern almond poached chicken with sumac butter

Middle Eastern poached chicken, spice roasted pumpkin and rice bowl

Poaching the chicken in the almond milk gives a glorious velvety result and is a wonderful contrast to the sweet, smoky and spice addled pumpkin.

Ingredients

2 double chicken breasts (600g)

2 cups almond milk

1 tsp toasted cumin seeds

Baharat and maple pumpkin

500g pumpkin, sliced into roughly 5cm wedges, skin on

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp Baharat spice mix or to taste

Rice

1 cup basmatic rice, rinsed

2 tbsp butter

1 small brown onion, finely dice

¼ tsp each ground cinnamon, allspice, cumin, coriander

1 ¾ cups chicken stock

Sumac butter

2 tbsp sumac

4 tbs butter

To serve

Steamed broccolini

½ cup each, roughly chopped almonds, pistachios

1 tbsp sesame seeds

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper and spread out the pumpkin. Add the olive oil, maple syrup and Baharat spice mix and, using your hands, toss to coat. Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes until an hour. You want the pumpkin to be soft and caramelised. If it is taking on too much colour and you are worried the maple syrup is causing it to burn, reduce the heat by 15 degrees or so and continue cooking.

Add the poaching ingredients to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once you have achieved a rolling boil. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for 45-60 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through. When ready to serve, slice the chicken as thinly or as thickly as you would prefer.

For the rice, add the butter to a medium sized saucepan and place over low to medium heat. Once melted add the onion and cook until fragrant and slightly translucent. Add the spices and rice and cook, stirring frequently until the rice is coated in the butter and spice mix. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed. Leave for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork.

To serve, add rice to serving bowls. Add a wedge of pumpkin, some sliced chicken and broccolini.

To make the nut mix combine the nuts and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Just before serving melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat, add the sumac and swirl a few times to incorporate then drizzle over the chicken and greens. Sprinkle over the nut mix and serve warm.