Smother Me With Cream

With this kitchen clean sweep project of mine, Eminem's Cleanin' Out My Closet has been running through my head every time I stare into the fridge grasping for ideas on what to make. While I'm happy to report that the food snobs in the house haven't started buying dining out or ordering take-out in protest, I must admit that this endeavor is turning out to be a lot harder than I had expected it to be. I've been stretching my culinary imagination a little farther than normal, but nobody said that was a bad thing.

Last night, I'd asked Charisma to pull one some meat out of the freezer to thaw. I'd decided to play a guessing game on what I would make in the morning instead of obsessively planning like I usually do. I shouldn't have been surprised that she went with chicken since it was sitting at the top of the meat section, and she can't seem to get enough of the stuff. I went with poaching the chicken because it doesn't require a lot of ingredients, and the steps are super simple.

When I first started culinary school back in the day, I had never poached a chicken. My cooking repertoire at the time was bake, boil, fry, grill, or saute. Poaching was something you did with eggs, fish, or fruit, not any good piece of meat. The idea of poaching chicken conjured misguided imagery of nursing homes and baby food. I had never been so wrong. 

Served on a bed of steamed and buttered peas. Add some rice pilaf, if you're feeling classy.

Poaching works well with meats that don't need a lot of cooking time to tenderize them. Since the meats can embrace the flavors from the liquid they're poached in, it's important to season your cuisson (poaching liquid) very well, and try to use stocks or broths rather than plain old water. For the chicken, I decided to do what is referred to as a shallow poach, which means the liquid comes about halfway up the sides of the meat. 


Buttering the pan helps prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan, (Yes! This does happen!) and adds an extra dimension of flavor to the finished dish. 


The poaching liquid should only show slight surface movement and not be bubbling. Shallow poaching poaches and steams, so you want to cover the dish with a lid or a piece of buttered parchment paper. 

Poached Chicken with Blue Cheese Cream Sauce

You Will Need:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c white wine (I used Gew├╝rztraminer)
1 1/2 c chicken stock 
1 bay leaf
2 tsp dried Herbs de Provence
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c crumbled blue cheese (optional)

Slice the chicken breast in half horizontally to the thickness of a slice of sandwich bread. If you're using chicken thighs, just trim any excess fat and pound them with a meat mallet until desired thickness. 

Place the chicken in a well-buttered pan that holds the chicken closely together. Add the wine, stock, and herbs. Cut and butter a piece of parchment paper and cover the chicken breasts. Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce to a poach (between 160F-180F) for about 20 minutes. 

When the chicken is done, remove from the liquid and cover with foil to keep warm. In a separate bowl, whisk together cornstarch with 1/2 c of poaching liquid until the cornstarch has dissolved. Whisk the mixture into the pan with the rest of the cooking liquid. Add the cream. Simmer and reduce until the sauce is thick enough to easily coat the back of a spoon without clumping. Stir in 1/4 c blue cheese crumbles until melted. 

Serve each piece of chicken with about 1/4 c of sauce and sprinkle with remaining blue cheese on a bed of steamed and buttered peas (or any steamed vegetable really. Your call!). Add a side of rice pilaf if you're feeling classy.

*Note: If you don't like blue cheese, you can substitute feta or go without any cheese at all.

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