One of my favorite ways to eat a whole, pasture-raised chicken is to poach it. It’s a two-for-one: not only do you get a delectable, toothsome, easy-to-digest chicken, you also end up with homemade chicken broth that you can use for other dishes or sip daily to boost your immune system.
By the way, a poached chicken is not to be confused with a boiled chicken.
When you cook chicken in a pot of water, where the temperature has reached 212 degrees, with large bubbles constantly rising to the surface, you are boiling the chicken. The end result is an inevitably dry and tasteless chicken.
Poaching, on the other hand, is a gentler way of cooking that yields a tender and moist chicken.
See below for a fail-safe way that I poach a chicken.
One 3 or 4 pound whole, pasture-raised chicken
Filtered water to cover (the chicken)
Place enough filtered water in a large (8 quart) stockpot to cover the chicken. Bring water to a boil.
While you wait for the water to come to a boil, wash the chicken. Remove any innards (liver, heart, gizzard, neck) from the cavity and rinse as well. Cut any excess fat off the chicken.
Once the water comes to a boil, lower chicken gently into the stockpot; it should be fully submerged in the water.
Add the gizzard, liver, heart and neck. Lower the heat.
Let the water come back up to a gentle, steady simmer (bubbles should barely be forming at the surface of the water)—nevera roiling boil (because the temperature will be too hot and overcook the kitchen).
Simmer the chicken (uncovered) for apx. 10 minutes; using a ladle to skim off any fat or impurities.
After 10 minutes, turn off the heat. Transfer the stockpot to another burner. Cover and let the chicken steep 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the chicken. A smaller chicken will need less time; a larger chicken, more time.
After 50 minutes, check the chicken. It should be tender and cooked through. If not, let it steep another 5 or 10 minutes.
When done, remove chicken from the hot broth (carefully) and place in a large non-reactive bowl. When cool enough to handle, butcher the chicken…simply cut through at the joints, using a sharp chef’s knife.
I love to eat poached chicken with a generous drizzle of “green sauce”, like scallion pesto.
2 bunches organic scallions, white and green parts, chopped into rounds
1/4 cup organic lemon juice
2 to 3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy.