My enthusiasm for cooking is waning and it’s not only because I don’t want to heat up the kitchen. Anyone who lives in the Northwest knows that when summer finally arrives, we NEED to go outdoors and take full advantage of our beautiful, long sunny days. There will be plenty of time for more serious cooking in the fall and winter. But for now, a simple salad really hits the spot — which is when knowing how to poach chicken or fish really comes in handy. Don’t worry, you can get complicated with it if you are so inclined but if you want to keep things quick and easy, this is the way to go.
Poaching requires bringing a pan or skillet of salted water to a boil, sliding in a piece of fish or chicken breast and letting it barely simmer — 8 to 10 minutes for fish, 18 to 20 for chicken. I kid you not — that’s all you do and the results are very moist and tender, ready to eat as is or made into a salad. Not only that, you’ll have a light broth left over to use in a cold soup.
We’ve gotten in the habit of picking up a fillet of Keta salmon nearly every week at the University Farmers Market from our friends at Loki Fish. This is wild salmon season so they have their freshest catch available now. One fillet will feed the two of us, sometimes with a little left over. I left the skin on while poaching and removed it after. I still can’t believe what a simple cooking method poaching is. A recipe is barely needed but here’s what I did — this method will work for other types of fish too, just adjust your cooking time to the thickness of the fish.
Poached Fillet of Salmon
1 lb wild salmon fillet
Water to cover
1/4 t or so of salt
optional: herbs — parsley, tarragon, bay leaf work well, 1/2 cup dry white wine
Place enough water to cover your fillet in a saucepan or skillet. If you aren’t sure how much is needed, put the fish in a pan, cover it with water by an inch or so, then remove it until after the water has come to a boil.
If you’re using herbs to flavor the water, put several sprigs of each into the water, bring it to a boil, remove from the heat and let herbs steep for 10 minutes or so. Add salt (and wine) to the water.
Bring the water to a very gentle almost simmer. Slide the fillet in and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.
Lift fish from the liquid with a slotted spatula, remove skin and fat.
I made a poached salmon salad with a couple of chopped scallions, about 1/3 cup mayo, a tablespoon or 2 sour cream, juice of one lemon, and some chopped parsley, salt & pepper. No leftovers from that dinner…
Poaching a chicken breast is basically the same as fish except it needs more time to gently simmer. I put a couple of thyme sprigs in the water, just because I have them. 18 to 20 minutes works for a medium-sized chicken breast. I left mine in the broth to cool after removing it from the heat but when I’m in a big hurry to get out of the kitchen, I just simmer it a little longer to make sure it’s completely cooked. Remove the pan from the heat and lift the chicken out of the water. Cut into the thickest part and you’ll be able to tell right away if it’s done by looking at the meat.
I made a curried chicken salad but poached chicken makes delicious enchiladas or serve it sliced with some mayo or special sauce on the side. Even though I’m not particularly interested in cooking right now, I love looking at the new Canal House Cooking, Vol. # 4. The salmon salad above is based on their halibut salad and here’s their curried chicken salad.
Canal House Curried Chicken Salad
1 whole cooked boneless skinless chicken breast, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 t curry powder
1/4 cup currants
2 T minced chives
Salt & pepper
Mix together the mayo and curry powder in a large bowl. Add the chicken, currants and chives and fold together. Season with salt & pepper.
Canal House says their recipe serves four but definitely not at my house. Next time I’ll use two chicken breasts and hope for some leftovers.