We roast chicken. We grill chicken. We saute chicken. We fry chicken… Once in a while we boil chicken, though we try not to do that! We steam chicken (Asian recipes usually). Is there a best way? No. Is each way uniquely delicious? Yes. Do we get sick of the same thing day and in day out? Of course.
So here’s a new way. It involves two techniques: poaching and searing.
Poaching is one of the greatest and underutilized cooking techniques in our arsenal of techniques. In this case, you hold a protein at the exact right temperature (around 180 degrees) in a highly seasoned stock or broth, until the proteins are cooked through. It is gentle, imparts a HUGE amount of flavor, and leaves the meat cooked through, juicy, tender, and full of whatever flavor you choose. This technique also works well with salmon.
Poaching has a negative reputation because it is too similar to boiling (though they are in reality vastly different), and it isn’t fun, like grilling or searing, and so on. Make a broth… bring it to 180 degrees… put the meat in… bring it back up to temp… wait…. wait… remove the meat…. and so on. Boring? Sure. But done right, the resulting flavor will be exciting enough.
This recipe involves a ‘short’ stock for the chicken, the fore-mentioned poaching, and then a gentle sear in a pan. Try it. It’s incredible, and is truly unique. I included a morel mushroom sauce because the two go together like peas and carrots.
Poached and seared chicken
Prep time: 30 min
Active cook time: 2 hr
Makes 3-4 portions
For the Chicken:
1 whole chicken, legs and wishbone removed, skin on
1 leek, white part only, well washed
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 in pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 1 in pieces
1 yellow onion, large dice
1 tbsp peppercorns
4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 stick rosemary
For the saute:
cracked black pepper
2 springs thyme
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup dried morel mushrooms
reduced poaching broth
1 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 shallot, thin sliced
Place everything except the chicken in a medium-large stock pot and simmer for 20 min. Season well with salt, and add the chicken (the chicken will bring down the temp). Bring the temp of the broth back to 180 degrees and hold at that temp for about 1/2 hr to 45 min, or until the chicken reads 155 in the middle. Remove the chicken and let drain.
Strain the broth and begin reducing it over high heat. Reduce until about 2 cups remain. Reserve.
When chicken is cool, carefully remove the breast meat from the bones, leaving the skin intact. In a large, heavy bottom saute pan, heat the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in the pan, skin side down with the herbs and butter. When brown, flip once. When other side is brown, return to skin side down, and cook for about 1 more minute. Remove from pan and let rest 5 minutes.
Prepare the sauce while the chicken is cooling from the poach. In a heavy bottom sauce pot, add the morel mushrooms, shallots, and white wine. Cook until wine is almost completely reduced. Add the poaching broth and reduce by 3/4. Add the cream and reduce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer the entire thing to a blender and blend until very smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Cut the chicken on a bias and fan out on a plate. Spoon sauce over and enjoy.
I like to serve this with sauteed spinach, rosemary potatoes, and simmered root vegetables. The flavor in the chicken paired with the morel sauce is remarkable, and I hope you like it as much as I do.