Last spring we traveled to Paris with the kids. We rented an apartment and traipsed all over the city every day. Fueled by croissants and baguettes, we climbed the Eiffel Tower, played in the fountains around the Pyramid of the Louvre, and picnicked amidst the statues of the Jardin des Tuileries. At night, our noisy tribe settled at outdoor terraces of local restaurants and feasted. Nine months later, we still talk about our magical days and nights in that beautiful city.
One of the most wonderful things about our meals was the freedom from the tyranny of children’s menus. The kids’ meals were concocted from suggestions from the waiter. In this new land of good food and good living, the kids didn’t even notice that the ubiquitous chicken nuggets were not available. The first night, they enjoyed grilled juicy steaks with crispy French fries. And the second night, the waiter produced tender, melt in your mouth chicken breasts on a bed of mashed potatoes with some gleaming carrots, so sweet they tasted like candy. When I told them the meat they were eating was chicken, they didn’t believe me. Poached chicken was a revelation.
I had never thought of it as a child food, having only eaten it napped with delicate sauces in white tablecloth restaurants. But poached chicken is actually ideal picky eater fare. It has no brown bits, no hard bits, and definitely no yucky bits. It is just plain, tender enough to cut with a fork, bland chicken.
Poaching sounds fancy, but it is actually an incredibly easy way to prepare chicken. Submerge it in a liquid of your choice, bring it to a light boil, and boil it for 10 minutes. Then turn the heat off, and leave the chicken in the liquid for another 10 minutes. Voila! Your chicken is now poached.
The liquid you choose will greatly impact the flavor of the chicken, especially if you use chicken breasts. They will soak up whatever flavors you offer. I like to poach chicken breasts in chicken broth, but you could use plain, salted water if you choose. A nice tomato flavored broth might be nice as well.
Poaching some chicken breasts early in the week will give you material to work with all week long, to make chicken salad, to toss with shelled edamame and teriyaki sauce for a quick Asian stir fry, to make breadless chicken fingers to dip into ranch dressing, apple sauce, or ketchup, or to top plain buttered noodles on a soccer practice night. It’s the type of ingredient that will become a staple as soon as you introduce it in your life.