Poaching chicken

Tonight’s dinner is Campbell’s Easy Chicken & Cheese Enchiladas: one of those totally inauthentic and 100% delicious comfort food dinners we love.  Also pretty light on the calories and the wallet. (Obviously not my photo.)

I don’t know about you but I have quite a few favorite recipes that call for already-cooked chicken.  This is super handy if you have leftover chicken on hand.  I usually plan for one of these (say, chicken and dumplings or chicken stew or chicken quesadillas) to follow the night I roast a chicken.  But sometimes I just want those quesadillas tonight, dammit, and I don’t feel like roasting a whole chicken to get them.

In this case, you have three options (presented here in descending order of price: highest to lowest):

  1. Chopped or shredded cooked chicken in the deli case or with the packaged sandwich meats.  The advantage here is, of course, convenience.  It’s already cooked and already chunked up.  Hell, at the deli counter you can even specify precisely how much you need for your recipe.  But it’s not cheap.
  2. A pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.  These aren’t terribly expensive — particularly if you buy the day-old cold ones — and they have the added benefit of providing not only the shredded meat you want but a carcass you can make into killer stock.
  3. Poach one or two breasts.  This option is a teeny bit cheaper than #2 (depending on the ginormousness of the package of chicken breasts you buy and how they were raised) but leaves no carcass to deal with.  If you can hard boil an egg and you have a little extra time before dinner, you can poach chicken.

To poach chicken:

  1. Place 1 or 2 breasts in a 2 quart saucepan and cover with water to at least one inch above the meat.  If your recipe calls out ounces of meat weigh the breasts first.  This method of cooking won’t significantly alter their end weight.  If your recipe calls out cups of shredded or cubed meat the rule of thumb I picked up somewhere on the internet is that 12 oz chicken usually yields 2 cups of shredded or cubed meat.  
  2. Bring the water to a boil and then turn it down immediately to low.  When it is simmering set your timer for 12-14 minutes.
  3. When the timer dings remove the pan from the heat and cool immediately, with running water and/or ice cubes, just as you would hard boiled eggs or blanched vegetables.
  4. When the meat is cool enough to handle it should easily shred by hand (no two-fork nightmare!) or cut neatly into little cubes.

— Amanda

P.S. Our side dish will be Cooking Light’s Mexican Rice.

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