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Poached Chicken For School Lunch

The first full week of public school wrapped up here recently, and in deft move by higher powers, the reward seems to be two days off—there’s no school Monday or Tuesday, because of Rosh Hashanah. So, just when I’m up to speed making school lunches in the morning, my services are not needed.

Not that I’m complaining. Making lunch every day is both a blessing and a, er, vexation. The clock is always ticking, and there never seems to be enough time in the morning. And finding the time to shop and make sure everything you need is on hand is a real labor. Having had a few years experience doing this, though, I have a few things down pat, and recently, I was asked by to write about what I make each day for my children. I talked about sandwiches—my salvation for the past few years has been the sunflower-butter sandwich (and more recently, a red-pepper-humus sandwich) that my girls would eat without fail. Every day.

I was slightly ashamed about serving them the same thing all the time, but the exigencies of the working life always trumped my culinary concerns. I mentioned this in the Saveur article, ending it by saying that “The lack of variety, though, is something I'd like to work on!”

The miracle of children, of course, is that they are forever giving us opportunities to work on things, and just after I wrote that Saveur item, Nina said to me that she’d like some other items in her lunch, such as cold chicken. I was a bit shocked that she would be so specific, but glad, too, to get such healthy direction from her.  I jumped on the case.

Lately, I’ve been buying an extra whole chicken each week, and cutting it up myself to make various dishes. It’s slightly more economical to do this (rather than buying pre-cut breasts or legs, for example), though buying organic, as I do, renders the whole idea of saving money a bit silly, but never mind that for now. So, I happened to have two breasts of chicken, bone in, waiting in my fridge when Nina made her request for cold chicken in her lunch.

I love poaching chicken breasts because the meat plumps up, stays moist, and takes on the flavor of the poaching liquid. I fill a pot with water, turn the heat to high, drop the meat in, and add the following:


I start with a good shake of dried thyme, as it’s something that I always have around the house, and it’s flavor can’t be beat.


Then I add salt; another good shake right out of the container is fine.


And, of course a good pour of white wine. It’s a nice way to use up a bottle that’s been open for a few days, and maybe on the edge of its drinkability.


I cover it, and once the water comes to a boil, I turn it down to a low simmer. The chicken is done when it’s internal temperature is about 165 degrees. It will take about ten to fifiteen minutes or so.

The cooking itself infuses the whole kitchen with some lovely scents. When I was making this last weekend, I brought Nina over to enjoy the aroma. I lifted the lid of the pot, and a nice cloud of wine and thyme floated over towards her nose. I said, “Do you know what that is?” She shook her head. “It’s thyme,” answered. Her face lit up, and she said, “I’d like to put some in my room so it would smell like that."

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