Boneless skinless chicken breasts are versatile, high-protein, low-fat, and convenient to use, but can easily turn dry and tasteless if overcooked. This recipe, slightly adapted from one in “The Walks of Life,”relies on a simple poaching method that ensures tender, juicy, aromatic results. Once cooled, the chicken is shredded and dressed in a light soy-based dressing loaded with garlic and ginger (chilies if you like heat) then tossed with red onion slices, cilantro leaves, and toasted sesame seeds — a delightful, low-fuss way to ring in the Chinese New Year (January 22) or to whip up for a healthy entree any day or night. Serves 4. RECIPE HERE. – Susan Puckett
For the chicken:
- 1pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts(brought to room temperature 1-2 hours before cooking)
- 6 cups water
- 3 thin slices ginger
- 1 scallion, halved crosswise
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions (white parts only)
- 1 heaping tablespoon garlic (3-4 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 or 2 fresh Thai bird’s-eye chilies or a pinch of dried chile flakes (optional)
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar (or white rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar)
- 1 ½ teaspoons oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- Fine sea salt to taste
- Prepare the chicken: In a medium pot, combine the water, ginger, and halved scallion and bring it to a boil.
- Completely submerge the chicken into the water and allow it to return to a boil. Then immediately reduce the heat to its lowest setting, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and allow it to continue to steep in the hot liquid, untouched, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and set it beside the sink.
- Check the chicken for doneness by piercing the thickest part of the meat with a sharp skewer to see if the juices run clear. If not, leave it in the water for 5 more minutes or so, then check again.
- Transfer the chicken to the ice bath for about 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle, then shred the meat and transfer to a serving plate. (Reserve the flavorful broth, if desired, for cooking jasmine rice or other uses.)
- Make the sauce: In a medium heatproof bowl, combine the scallions, garlic, ginger, and chilies (if using). Heat the neutral oil in a wok or small saucepan until shimmering, and carefully pour the aromatics in the bowl. Mix in the soy sauce, vinegar, oyster sauce, sesame oil, ground Sichuan peppercorns, and sugar.
- To serve: Toss the chicken in the sauce, along with the onion, cilantro, and sesame seeds. Season to taste with salt. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.