Saturday, January 15, 2011

Poaching--and not the illegal hunting kind

In this age of grilling and roasting, boiling meat seems a little passé—unless you're on the cutting edge of the sous vide movement. I have just been resold on the art of poaching meat, chicken in particular. I just found a recipe in my Mark Bittman Food Matters cookbook for a version of the classic 'white cut chicken' recipe, a standard Chinese delicacy that I have, until this point, only eaten in restaurants. I order it on a regular basis whenever I go to Hon's Wun-Tun House in Vancouver, and I've also had a nice version of it at Rice Bowl here in Saskatoon, although it may not be on their current menu, since they appear to be headed further down the Korean road (which is okay, too).

White cut chicken is simply poached bone-in chicken, served sliced with a simple green onion and ginger dipping oil. Sometimes, it is served with three dipping sauces, including soy and chili. Mark Bittman's version includes squash as well as the chicken. He only suggests serving it with soy sauce, but since the dipping oil is my favourite part, I decided to make it, too. I found a version on line. I should have known this sauce was that easy to make. Keep in mind, this is quite salty and strongly flavoured, so a tiny bit goes a long way.

You might suspect that poached chicken would be bland, but bland it is not. In fact, the poaching liquid is salty enough that someone who is sensitive to salt might find the combination of the chicken and the salty dipping sauce to be too much. Me, I loved it.

I'm going to share my adaptation of Bittman's recipe for 'Anise Scented Poached Chicken with Squash'—we liked it so much that after we cooked half of the chicken, as the recipe calls for, ate it all, and before dinner was over, decided to cook the remaining half chicken in the poaching liquid as well, so that we could enjoy it the next day. I served it with a brown and wild rice blend, and some steamed snow peas tossed in with a few leftover veggies from our take out feast from the Mandarin, earlier in the week.

Poaching liquid:
5 or 6 slices unpeeled ginger
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 star anise
2 T. salt
1 t. honey

1 acorn squash, peeled and sliced into wedges
1/2 chicken, cut into pieces

Combine poaching liquid ingredients and bring to a boil. Add squash and chicken, bring back to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the chicken and squash sit in the water, covered, for another 15 minutes or until the chicken is done. Mark Bittman says to check with an instant read thermometer to make sure the chicken is done. I was just using pieces (I had cut up a large Hutterite chicken, to be specific), and could tell when they were done because they were tender all the way through. I served the squash and chicken straight out of the pot.

Be sure to provide napkins, since you will want to get all the shreds of meat off the bone. I just made a mess of my keyboard, chowing down on leftovers, so I'm speaking from experience.

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