The easiest always-moist poached chicken

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Poached chicken is a really handy thing to have around, for making chicken salad, sandwiches, and a whole lot more. When I have the time and the will, I poach whole chickens and stock them in the freezer. These days though, I don't have the time or the energy for such tasks, so I cheat a bit and poach boneless chicken breasts.

While chicken breasts are so handy, it's very easy to overcook them. This method is just about the easiest and most foolproof way of cooking the white meat so that it's moist and tender, yet cooked through properly.

Method: Easy moist poached chicken breasts

  • 1 boneless chicken breast, cut in half
  • Water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • Sake or sherry
  • A piece of fresh ginger

Use a pan that is deep enough to hold the breasts plus water to barely cover them. I use a small frying pan.

Put the water, salt, a splash of sake or sherry (optional), and a piece of fresh ginger that you've sliced up roughly, skin and all, into the pan. Put the chicken breasts in, and turn on the heat. Heat up until the water is boiling, then turn over the breasts.

Turn off the heat and pull the pan completely off the heat (important if you're using an electric range), cover with a tight-fitting lid, and let it rest there, off the heat, for 10-15 minutes depending on how big the chicken breasts are. (If you are doing this in the morning, this is the time to go take a shower!) Poke the center of the breasts - they should be bouncy and slightly yielding, not rock-hard. If they feel too soft, poke a hole in and peek inside - if it's a bit too pink, put the lid back on and leave for another 5-10 minutes. If the liquid has cooled down too much, take the chicken out, heat up the liquid on its own, add the chicken back to the liquid and put the lid back on for another 5-10 minutes.

You can store the poached chicken breasts in their liquid, well covered in the refrigerator, for about 2-3 days. You can also freeze them, either whole or sliced or shredded up. Add the chicken to salads, to stir-frys at the last minute, and more.

Recipe: Chicken and yogurt salad with cucumber and peach

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This is a very refreshing summer salad. The yogurt dressing keeps it low-fat. Peaches in a savory salad? Trust me - it works!

If you make this salad for bento, be sure to pack it with an icepack, especially in hot weather (see Summer bento safety).

To make 2 rather large portions:

  • 250g / about 9 oz. poached chicken breast, cut into chunks
  • 1 small cucumber
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. anardana powder (ground pomegranate seeds; you can omit this if you can't find it)
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped mint
  • 1/2 cup plain thick (Greek) yogurt
  • 1 ripe but firm peach

Slice the cucumber as thinly as possible - using a food cutter or mandoline makes this a lot easier. Sprinkle with salt, and massage the cucumber with your hands to make them limp and exude moisture. Wrap the cucumber slices in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze tightly to expel as much moisture as possible.

Cut the peach up into chunks - you can peel it if you want, but I usually don't bother.

Combine the yogurt with the spices and mint. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Taste and add a little salt if needed.