A Simple Recipe for Mussels That will Amaze You
Learning from Marcella Hazan

My Roundabout Poached Chicken Breast Recipe

Whenever I travel, I bring food with me. During the long-ago days that I owned a car, I used to keep a loaf of sandwich bread on the passenger’s seat. It was for trips longer than a half mile. I’d eat a slice with one hand, keep my other hand on the wheel, and never take my eyes off the road.

I was always hungry. Afraid that I would not get enough to eat, I planned ahead. And if the planning failed me, I knew how to scheme.

Once, at a wedding in the Berkshires, the bride and groom tried to pass off passed hors d'oeuvres as the main course. I was looking around for dinner but the cake was being cut. We were miles from anywhere and I was starving. I went into the caterer’s kitchen and begged for something to eat. The only things on hand were a few eggs and some cheese. A kind chef gave me a midnight tutorial in how to make an omelet.

Over the weekend, we visited the Abuelita and went to a few parties. I didn’t do much cooking. The Abuelita decided not to buy mussels. But she did get cockles, and I used them to make a sublime variation on my linguine alle vongole.

As I’ve aged, my metabolism has slowed and I no longer worry about traveling with something to eat. This trip, however, I ended up carting food around the tri-state region for a different reason. I had a few things—basil, spinach, and chicken breasts—that were going to spoil if I left them in the refrigerator at home. So I took them to the Abuelita’s. 

My plan was to make a pesto with the basil. I even brought pine nuts with me. I didn’t have a plan for the spinach, but it didn’t matter. I never got around to making the pesto and the spinach sat unused. I poached the chicken breasts, though, before their expiration date. The pine nuts I brought back home.

Poaching chicken breasts is one of my new favorite things to do. It is very easy, healthy, and results in a tender, tasty, and extremely versatile piece of meat. It can be shredded for salads, and sliced for sandwiches. I used mine to make sandwiches at work today, pairing the white meat with ripe avocado and multigrain bread. 

Poached Chicken Breasts

  • one package boneless chicken breasts
  • water
  • white wine, to taste
  • dried thyme, to taste
  • salt, to taste

        Place the chicken breasts in a low pan and cover with water and wine.
        Add the salt and turn the burner to high.
        Allow the water to come to a boil.
        Reduce to a simmer and cook until the breasts are done, from two to ten minutes, depending on thickness.

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