Let’s face it: we hear “poached chicken breast” and we hear “tasteless, rubbery, no thanks.” Before we jump to conclusions, can I interest you in some nutmeg-thyme gravy?
The key to making tender poached chicken breasts is low heat: keep the chicken cooking in the gentlest possible simmer, turn the heat off after a few minutes, then let it sit in the hot, just-below-boiling water for a while longer for some more residual heat cooking. While the USDA states that 165° is the internal temperature to hit for all poultry, pasteurization of meats happens not with heat but also with time. If you are using bigger breasts, they might take a while longer to cook—as long as you can hit 150° internal temperature and hold it there for at least 5 minutes, your chicken should be safe to eat. If possible, choose smaller breasts to use with this recipe.
The other key to making poached chicken that you’d want to eat is to smother it in a delicious sauce. That gravy that I was talking about? A little butter, a little white wine, a little spice, and there you have a drizzly flavor bomb. At once comforting and elegant, you might want to make a double batch, just in case. And if, like me, you like your sauces creamy, this white barbecue sauce might just be your cup of tea. If you’ve made this recipe, drop us a comment down below and let us know how you liked it!
In a large pot, stir together water and salt. Add chicken and cover with a lid. (Optionally, let marinate for 30 minutes for a more seasoned tasting poached chicken.)
Place the pot with chicken over medium heat, and bring to a bare simmer. Reduce heat to lowest possible setting and let simmer for 3 to 4 more minutes. Turn off the heat, keep lidded, and allow chicken to cook in residual heat until internal temperature reaches 165°, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on breast size. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the cream sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Whisk in flour and cook until golden, 1 minute. Slowly whisk in wine while stirring and bring to a simmer. Cook until wine has reduced, about 2 minutes, then gradually stir in cream, water, and thyme and simmer until bubbly and thickened, 3 to 4 minutes.
Slice and serve chicken with cream sauce. Garnish with red pepper flakes and lemon zest, if desired.