There are times when it’s easy to purchase a rotisserie chicken, cut up the meat, and use it in soup, a salad, or in enchiladas. Sure, it saves time, but I’ve never purchased one that wasn’t overcooked. Delis have different temperature guidelines than I do.
Roasting your own chicken is simple, and I don’t think there’s anything much more wonderful than serving a just-roasted chicken.
However, there are two benefits to poaching a chicken. One is the lovely tender meat, and the second is the wonderful poaching liquid. And there are so many different ways to create a flavorful broth besides the basic onion, carrot, and celery. So I take my chicken poaching quite seriously!
Poaching a chicken takes a few hours from start to finish, but it’s not all active work. I recommend that you have a plan for the poached chicken. You can use the meat in a bastilla, pictured at the top, in soups, stews, crêpes and enchiladas, a byriana, a curry – the possibilities are endless.
Then I would also recommend that you have a plan for the remaining chicken broth. It can be used for cooking legumes and grains, as a base for soups and stews, or reduced and even frozen for future use.
1 whole chicken
3-4 carrots, cleaned, halved
3-4 stalks celery, cleaned, chopped coarsely
A few ripe tomatoes, halved (optional)
Bunch of parsley*
1 large onion, quartered
Garlic cloves, halved
Remove the plastic bag of innards from the chicken. Then rinse the chicken and place the chicken in a large and deep pot. I prefer a pasta cooker because you can remove the chicken and vegetables without further straining the broth.
If your husband isn’t watching, add the innards to the pot. If he’s eyeing you, save the innards for the dogs.
Add the remaining ingredients, adjusting for your tastes.
If you are not using a pasta cooker, you can use a muslin bag for your seasonings.
Add water to cover the chicken. Place the pot on the stove, bring the water to a boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to simmer. I like to poach a chicken for about 1 1/2 hours; you can’t overcook the chicken but you want to maintain the volume of water.
For additional ingredients, consider fresh herbs like sprigs of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Or use whole cumin and coriander seeds. It all depends what you want the remaining broth to taste like. These additions have little effect on the chicken’s flavor, but significantly flavor the broth.
Once the chicken is poached, remove the lid and let the pot rest until the chicken can be handled safely. If you’re using a pasta cooker, gently remove the insert and let the broth drain. Save the broth! Never discard it.
Carefully place the chicken on a cutting board to further cool.
If everything was cooked in one pot, remove the muslin bag and let the broth cool. Taste the broth and reduce it if the flavor needs to concentrate. It can also be salted at this point if desired.
Remove the meat from the bones. It will be delicate light and dark meat.
From this small-sized chicken, I ended up with 1 pound 4 ounces of meat.
If you want to enhance your broth, place the chicken bones in the broth and simmer for a while. Another thing that I’ve done is to blend the cooled broth along with the carrots, celery, tomatoes, onion, and garlic. The parsley is optional. That way, the broth is already more soupy, and the vegetables don’t go to waste.
Enjoy your poached chicken and home-made chicken broth!
* If you will be using the chicken broth for a Southwestern or Mexican dish, I suggest substituting cilantro for parsley.