Why Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Is Actually Genius

Why Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Is Actually Genius

It gets a bad rap from food snobs. Try this recipe for poached chicken in a summery salad and see how wrong they are

TOSS UP A topping of poached chicken breast makes this simple salad a meal. A turmeric dressing makes it sing. Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Eleanore Park


Eleanore Park

July 20, 2018 10:43 a.m. ET


EVEN ITS NAME highlights what it lacks. Boneless, skinless chicken breast actually benefitted from its association with austerity in the 1980s and ’90s, when low-fat was the diet trend du jour. But then the foodie faction stormed in, adding “flavorless” and “joyless” to the list of adjectives attached to this cut of chicken. I suspect the naysayers’ greatest beef with boneless, skinless chicken breast is that it’s just too easy—to prepare, to love. Did you overcook it a little? Pull the meat to pieces and fold in some herbs and olive oil or mayo. I promise you a perfectly textured chicken salad. Or use my foolproof cooking method as your starting point. Gently poached at a whispering simmer, this most amenable poultry absorbs flavors from the surrounding liquid, be it a flavorful broth punched up with aromatics or, as in the recipe below, coconut milk brightened with ginger and lemongrass that cooks down to a scrumptious sauce—or, if you chill it, a luscious salad dressing. Skin and bones have their benefits, sure. But sometimes you just don’t need the splatter and the hassle.

Summer Salad With Coconut Milk-Poached Chicken Breast and Turmeric Dressing

This recipe is as versatile as it is simple. The chicken can also be served warm, over rice, scattered with cilantro: Skip the chilling step and spoon the warm sauce over top.

TOTAL TIME 20 minutes SERVES 2

Remove outer layers from a 2-inch piece of lemongrass and crush with a pestle or the flat of a knife. Peel a 2-inch piece of ginger and crush. In a medium saucepan, combine lemongrass and ginger with 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk, ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil and add 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Reduce heat, maintaining a bare simmer, and poach chicken, flipping halfway into cooking, until cooked through, about 12 minutes. Remove chicken, reserving poaching liquid in pan, and set aside to cool to room temperature. / Meanwhile, make dressing: Add ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric to poaching liquid and simmer over medium heat until reduced by a quarter, about 5 minutes. Transfer dressing to a bowl and chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve, shred cooled chicken and toss with a couple spoonfuls of dressing. Arrange salad greens of your choice in a large bowl and toss in fresh herbs, thinly sliced radishes and enough dressing to lightly coat. Toss in chicken and serve.