Sometimes the simplest cooking methods are the most rewarding. Case in point, consider a simmering stock pot with a whole chicken gently poaching inside. Once it is cooked, it produces a tender, low-fat, succulent meat. The French call it poule-au-pot and the very mention of your appreciation for this simple supper will evoke an emotional response from any Francophile.
You start with a fresh 1.7kg chicken. Remove all the plastic and any innards. Place it in a large pot and cover with water. Throw in any fresh herbs you have on hand, as well as a little lemon rind, half an onion (diced), a few baby carrots, garlic cloves, thyme, black peppercorns – be expressive with your stock pot!
Cover the pot with a lid and when the water comes to a gentle boil, add the salt. If you add salt beforehand it takes longer to reach boiling point. Now you can add a few small potatoes, place the lid on and simmer for 20 minutes. After that, add chunks of your other favourite root vegetables and cook for 30 to 40 minutes.
You know when the chicken is cooked as it will be easy to remove the leg from the body of the bird. If not, continue to simmer for a few more minutes. Now you have a pot of super chicken stock and a perfectly poached chicken.
Take the chicken out of the pot and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Throw in some peas or other greens of your choice and cook them in the luscious broth while you start carving the bird.
If you like eating a lighter dinner, serve slices of the poached chicken with new potatoes, steamed asparagus and a salad. You could also add some chutney mixed with a little crème fraîche, or a spoonful of pesto, mustard or horse radish and serve this beside the poached chicken.
Simple poached chicken
Ready in 1 hour, serves 4
- 1.7kg fresh chicken
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 3 sprigs of fresh parsley
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 1 piece of lemon zest (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
1. Place the chicken in a large pot.
2. Add as many or as few of these ingredients as you have on hand (except salt).
3. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer. Add salt, cover and gently simmer for 60 minutes.
Six tips for what to do with the stuff in the pot:
1. The stock can be reduced down further to create a sauce and frozen to use later on.
2. In its current form, the stock can be used for soup. Check the seasoning – any further cooking or reducing will intensify the flavour.
3. Poached chicken makes the perfect filling for a sandwich with a little mayonnaise and fresh tarragon or basil.
4. Use the shredded chicken to top nachos or baked potatoes. You could also fill a quesadilla with the chicken, along with some spinach and feta.
5. Who doesn’t love chicken salad? Try salad greens, cooked bacon, avocado and pawpaw, topped with a herb dressing.
6. This cooked chicken can be used in an omelette, added to a soup, a pasta dish at the last minute or even a stir-fry.