Simple Poached Chicken

One of my favourite things to do when the weather is grey and gloomy is cook something, preferably something that bubbles away on the stovetop while you do other rainy day activities like build a puzzle or read a book. Here is an abridged recipe from my cookbook "Cooking Meat" for a Poached Chicken. It is a simple recipe, and definitely one that can be modified to suit your palate (and use up whatever is in your vegetable drawers).

Serves 6 to 8  

1 (3½ pounds) whole chicken
2 onions, cut in large dice
2 carrots, cut in large dice
2 turnips, cut in large dice
1 celery stalk, cut in large dice
1 leek, washed thoroughly and cut in large dice
5 garlic cloves, halved
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
1 herb bundle 
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup shredded cabbage  (Savoy or green)
12 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp finely chopped thyme
Salt and pepper
2 cups roughly torn stale French bread

1. Place the chicken, onions, carrots, turnips, celery, leeks, garlic, salt, peppercorns, and herb bundle in a deep pot and just cover with cold water. Bring the water to a low simmer over medium-low heat and poach the chicken, uncovered, for 1½ hours, skimming and discarding any fat and impurities that rise to the surface.

2. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. It should read 180˚F. (If not, cook the chicken for 5 to 10 minutes more and check again.) The meat will be pulling away from the bone, especially around the leg knuckle. Turn off the heat and allow the chicken to cool in its own liquid.

3.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle, transfer it to a cutting board, reserving the poaching liquid in the pot. Using a sharp knife, cut the breasts and legs away from the carcass. Using your thumb, strip off any meat clinging to the carcass and put it back into the pot with the vegetables. Discard the skin from the breasts and slice the meat before adding it to the pot. Discard the skin from the legs and strip the meat away from the bones. Place the leg meat back in the pot and discard the bones. Discard the herb bundle, then bring the broth to a simmer over medium-low heat.

4. To finish the chicken, melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the cabbage and mushrooms, stir well, and cover. Steam the vegetables until fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Season with the thyme and salt and pepper to taste, and keep warm.

5. To serve, place a few pieces of torn-up bread at the bottom of each bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of the cabbage and mushroom mixture, then ladle a good amount of the chicken and vegetable mixture with some broth over everything and serve.
Note: I like to dollop mayonnaise on top of this poached chicken, but lots of things will work if you want, including a grating of cheese or a drizzle of olive oil.

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