“Perfect” Poached Chicken Breasts with Cumin-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

While Chris Kimball has a tendency to claim every one of his recipes is the best ever, I nevertheless wanted to investigate his latest claim that this recipe will render “perfect” poached chicken breasts. I remember he tried a something technique about 2 years ago (see here). The bottom-line is a little better than 2 years ago; the chicken is perfectly cooked and moist. His new technique use a vegetable steam to elevate the chicken from the hot pans bottom helps cook the chicken even more evenly. But my main complaint is the same as before. I care more about better flavor than perfect texture, and the lack of any carmalization whatsoever leaves a lackluster result. I paired the chicken with a delicious Cumin-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce; he also has a warm tomato-ginger vinaigrette; but leaving all the flavoring to the sauce makes this recipe just 3-1/2 stars. Still perfectly enjoyable, but coming up short.

Tasted better than the phone appears

Tasted better than the cell phone photo appears

I think that this recipe would be better if you quickly browned the chicken in a skillet before poaching. You can later use that same skillet to make your sauce, and use the sauteing of the shallot to build even more flavor.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $10
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original chicken recipe is here, and the sauce recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare them are given below:

Perfect Poached Chicken Breasts

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6- to 8-ounce each)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons sugar
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

  1. Trim chicken breasts, cover with plastic wrap and use a meat pounder to gently pound the thick ends until measures 3/4″ thick.
  2. Add 4 quarts water to Dutch oven, adding 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup salt, 2 tablespoons sugar. Whisk until salt and sugar are dissolved. Peel and smash garlic and add to pot.
  3. Put steamer basket into Dutch oven, which will prevent the chicken from touching to hot bottom. Submerge chicken with skin-side up, arranging so as to not overlap the chicken. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  4. Place Dutch oven over medium burner, occasionally stirring liquid to ensure even heating, for 15 to 20 minutes until the water measures 175-degrees. Remove your pot from burner, cover, and allow to sit for 18 to 22 minutes until the chicken registers 160-degrees.
  5. Allow chicken to rest of a cutting board for 5 minutes, covered tightly with aluminum foil.
  6. Meanwhile make your sauce according to the recipe below.
  7. After resting, slice chicken on bias into 1/4″-thick slices, set onto serving platter, cover with sauce, and serve.

 Cumin-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon lime juice
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

  1. Mince shallot and garlic. Chop 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro.
  2. Place a small skillet over medium burner, and heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until it begins to shimmer.
  3. Saute shallot for 2 minutes, then add in minced garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes and continue sauteing for 30 more seconds.
  4. Remove pan from heat and whisk in yogurt, water, lime juice, and another 1 tablespoon oil.
  5. Adjust salt and pepper according to your taste.
  6. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve, but stir in cilantro just prior to serving.
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4 Responses to “Perfect” Poached Chicken Breasts with Cumin-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

  1. Dale says:

    Made this for dinner last night and thought it was excellent. The sauce I made was the other one they printed (tomato vinaigrette). While I would not give it 5 stars it is solidly in the 4 range. I’d agree that the color of the chicken is pasty looking, but the texture and flavor trumps the color for me.

  2. Jonny Rashid says:

    I loved it. I made it tonight. I used an in-pot colander instead of a steamer basket, so I had to double the brine. I subbed 1/4 cup fish sauce instead of soy (put still put 3/4 cup soy sauce in the brine). It was delicious, even without the sauce. The sauce added to it. http://instagram.com/p/nJpGX1DZHG/

  3. Jim Turner says:

    I made this dish according the magazine’s instruction. It seemed like a good idea, and practical too.

    The results were fine, but I didn’t enjoy the process much. For instance, it was hard to know how long it was going to take. And it did indeed not look very nice. I often brine plain chicken breasts for grilling, and I just prefer that approach. But for recipes that require poached chicken, this is a good one to try.

    However, the other sauce, the Warm Tomato-Ginger Vinaigrette was very good! I chose it over the yogurt sauce because I thought the colors would look nicer over the white chicken. It was excellent, and I’ve already made it again for grilled chicken.

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