When you start with best-quality chicken, poaching and serving it as simply as possible allows its flavor to shine.
This simple salad makes a beautiful luncheon dish or light dinner in late summer, when tomatoes are at their peak. Bouillon cubes provide salt and bump up the poaching liquid, which may be strained, reduced and frozen for future use.
Make Ahead: The dressing can be prepared up to 3 days in advance. The chicken can be poached the day before and the dark meat dressed the day before. The cooked white meat can be refrigerated in water or broth to keep it moist. The entire salad can be assembled up to 3 hours ahead and refrigerated, loosely covered with plastic wrap.
- For the chicken and poaching liquid
- One 2 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, preferably pastured (giblets removed)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut crosswise into thirds
- 2 stalks celery, cut crosswise in half
- 1 large onion, cut into quarters
- 1 bay leaf
- 12 sprigs thyme, tied together
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 4 chicken bouillon cubes
- 5 to 6 quarts water, plus more for cooling the cooked chicken
- For the dressing
- 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
- 7 ounces regular or low-fat Greek-style yogurt
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 scallion, white and light-green parts, chopped (2 tablespoons)
- 1/2 small clove garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon oregano leaves
- 1 tablespoon flat or curly parsley leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- For the salad
- 3 large (each 10 ounces) romaine hearts, cut in half lengthwise
- 3 large ripe tomatoes, such as beefsteak, cored and cut into half-moon slices
- 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled, for garnish
For the chicken and poaching liquid: Combine the chicken, carrot, celery, onion, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns and bouillon cubes in a stock pot. Cover with the water (as needed) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium so the liquid bubbles gently. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Remove from the heat; cover and let it stand for 1 hour.
Transfer the chicken to a separate pot; fill with cool water; that will help stop the chicken from cooking further. (It's best to keep the cooked chicken submerged in cool water or broth to keep it from drying out before the dish is assembled; discard this liquid after it is used.) If desired, strain and refrigerate or freeze the poaching liquid/broth for another use. Discard the used vegetables, herbs and peppercorns.
Transfer the cooled chicken to a cutting board and separate the wings, thigh and leg joints from the bird. Pull off all of the meat from those parts, discarding the bones, skin, cartilage and sinew. Cut the meat into 1/2-inch cubes and place in a medium bowl.
Starting at the top of the breastbone, cut the breast halves away (discarding the skin), keeping your knife as close to the carcass as possible and making sure the tenderloins are still attached to the breast meat. Trim the breast halves to make them look tidy, place them in a bowl and cover them with cool water or broth. Pick whatever meat you can from the carcass and add it to the cubed dark meat. (There should be 2 to 2 1/2 cups.)
For the dressing: Combine the buttermilk, yogurt, feta, scallion, garlic, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper in a blender. Puree on medium speed until smooth. Transfer to a 2-cup container. There should be about 2 cups.
When ready to assemble the salad, combine the cubed meat with 1/2 cup of the dressing in a medium bowl. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.
For the salad: Lay the romaine halves on individual dinner plates or on a platter. Overlap the slices of half a tomato down the length of each romaine portion. Sprinkle a little salt over the tomatoes. Top the tomatoes with a thin row of the dressed cubes of chicken.
With the blade of your knife at a 45-degree angle, cut the breast halves widthwise into wide, 1/2-inch-thick slices. Lay slices of breast meat over the dressed chicken. Ladle more dressing over the breast slices.
Garnish the salads with crumbled feta.
From Sourced columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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