Well, it’s been a long, cold spring, but it looks as if summer may finally be arriving here in Aberdeenshire. It can’t come soon enough for me! There’s one summertime dish that I absolutely love, and that’s poached chicken. Whether it’s served hot in its own light broth, or allowed to cool and served up in a fabulously summery salad, there’s a softness and succulence to the texture that I just can’t get enough of. We’ll look at the broth today, and later we’ll look at how to serve cold poached chicken – summer on a plate!
There are several methods you can use, but I find this one to be nice and simple. You’ll need a good free-range chicken, some summery vegetables and herbs, and a carbohydrate of your choice. I like a chunk of crusty bread to dunk in the broth, but you could equally add some noodles, quinoa or baby new potatoes to the pot while it simmers if you prefer.
Decide whether you want to leave the chicken skin on – it does add some flavour, but I quite like this broth clean and simple so I tend to remove it. Add the whole chicken to a large pot and add enough cold water to come within a few centimetres of the top of the chicken (you want it just covered once the veg has all been added).
Bring to the boil, and turn it down to a bare simmer – a bubble just occasionally breaking the surface kind of simmer, and definitely not a rolling boil, which will make the chicken tough. Cook for another hour or so – a large chicken may take a wee bit longer; just check at the leg joints to see if they’re still too pink, and cook for another while if so. Add your favourite veg and aromatics, throwing them in at points that will have them tender by the end of the hour. A typical pot for me would include:
- • A large (this is no place for stinting) bouquet garni of fresh parsley, thyme and bay
• A bulb of garlic, cut across the ‘equator’ (I love garlic – use less if this seems too much)
• A whole onion, peeled and cut across the ‘equator’ (I fish this out before serving)
• A good grind of black pepper (no whole peppercorns – remember, you want to eat this broth
without straining it!) – add salt to taste at the end of cooking
• Chopped carrots, celery, spring greens, asparagus, spring onions, fresh peas, broad beans
When the chicken’s cooked to your liking, remove it and strip some of the meat from the bones while you reduce the broth down a little – add the salt now. Shred the chicken into bowls, and ladle the stock and veg over the top. Serve hot, with crusty bread – the chicken is soft and juicy, the veg is fresh and tender, and the whole thing tastes like sunshine!