Chicken Poach

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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.

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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.

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Chicken Poach

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
Whole peppercorns
Bay leaves

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.

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If you are not using a pasta cooker, you can use a muslin bag for your seasonings.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Remove the meat from the bones. It will be delicate light and dark meat.

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From this small-sized chicken, I ended up with 1 pound 4 ounces of meat.
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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.

Roasted Turkey Breast

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Roasting a whole turkey is no more difficult than roasting a whole chicken. The preparation is easy as well; not much more is required than seasoning and a little oil.

Perhaps, at least in the U.S., because the turkey is associated with Thanksgiving, people tend to only purchase turkeys for the “big” meal. And then, one feels obligated by their families to fix a stuffing or two, and all of the other side dishes that are expected on the Thanksgiving table. And that doesn’t include organizing hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and desserts. It’s a lot of work.

It’s sad, really. Because in reality, the roast turkey requires the least amount of time and attention compared to all of the other Thanksgiving dishes. One just has to estimate when the turkey is done, so as to time everything for the dinner table.

But I think once Thanksgiving is over, we tend to forget about the delicious turkey because we associate it with all of the hard work involved with the Thanksgiving meal.

Where I live, whole turkeys are only available prior to Thanksgiving. And that’s the case online as well, from my experience.

This year I planned ahead, sort of. When I purchased my Thanksgiving turkey from Lobel’s* in New York City (lobels.com), I also bought a couple turkey “breasts.” The legs and wings have been removed, so you’re left with a breast-meat-only dismembered turkey. I only bought two, but that’s two more than I would have in my freezer post holidays.

I personally prefer dark meat, but my husband eats more meat than I do, so I got these turkey breasts more for him. And it doesn’t kill me to make a little sandwich with leftover turkey.

So we’re just in to the New Year, 2014, and I decided to roast one of these turkey breasts. Or, I guess you’d refer to these as two turkey breasts…

I’d love to offer you the pricing for this beast, but there’s no information online anymore. It disappeared. Once Thanksgiving is over, that’s it for turkeys! Perhaps I shall start some kind of write-in campaign to get turkeys year around! I think it’s sad that they only make an appearance once a year.

I actually contacted Lobel’s email service to see what they said about the availability of turkeys, and this is the response I received:

“Thanks for getting in touch about Lobel’s. The demand for their turkeys is heavily centered on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, which is why they are only offered in November and December.”

Okay, so maybe it was a dumb question. But I like turkey. If it’s properly cooked.

The key to cooking turkey, whether whole or sliced into cutlets, is to not overcook them. I think turkey might have a bad reputation as being dry, although turkey meat is only dry if overcooked. As in the case of my mother in law’s turkey, but that’s another story.

If you ever come across one of these turkey breasts, they’re worth a good roasting. I was very happy with the results.

Roasted Turkey Breasts

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Thaw the turkey breast(s) out completely. I let mine get to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the turkey breasts in a roasting pan and cover with oil. Then season generously with salt, garlic pepper and pepper. Or, use what you prefer.

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Begin roasting the turkey, and after 30 minutes or so of good browning, reduce the heat to 350 degrees. All of these directions of course depend on how precise your oven is, and at what temperature the turkey was when you put it in the oven. That’s why a good meat thermometer is a must. I remove turkey from the oven when the thermometer reaches 155 degrees.

Mine was done exactly one hour after I put it in. So don’t start poking the turkey with the thermometer after only 30 minutes. Give it some time. However, don’t let the turkey overcook, either. Then it will be a sad, dry mess. You’ll have to put it all in a soup to moisten the meat in order to choke it down.

My turkey breast(s) looked like this when it was done.
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Let it rest, just like you would a roast chicken, before slicing it.

With this cut there are no legs or wings to remove. Simply slice along the middle bone, called the keel bone, that runs in between the breasts. Slice as far as you can downward, parallel to this bone. Then turn the breast sideways and cut perpendicularly towards your slice. You are left with a beautiful breast, that you can then slice crosswise for make beautiful, manageable pieces for serving.

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If you prefer, remove the skin first. See how moist the turkey is?

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And if you’re like me, it’s way more fun to enjoy the turkey in a fun sandwich, like on a jalapeno ciabatta bun, with melted Swiss cheese, and a cranberry-walnut salsa. Thank you Emita, for the fabulous salsa!

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All of us turkey lovers just have to figure out how to get turkeys year ’round!

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* I have purchased organic, free-range turkeys ever since we could afford to, and the difference between these and store-bought turkeys is astounding. Lobel’s has always produced a good turkey, as has D’artagnan. They don’t even need brining.