A Newsletter #12

i poached chicken

a salad so nice i made it twice.

Hello, I’m back from my Brooklyn sabbatical, where I drank alcohol and stayed up late sharing feelings with friends in a field of goldenrod every night. It was the month-long slumber party of my dreams (if I had dreamt up a slumber party when I was 22 and could drink every night without consequence), almost never wearing jeans and refusing to use utensils, two sides of the same blissful coin.

While I’m not drinking every night anymore (good for me? lol), I still haven’t put on A Jean or used a fork in days. Despite owning a large pile of Hard Pants (don’t ask me to get rid of any even though I only wear two pairs!) and a drawer full of forks (they’re all different, and I need each one), I’ve found both to be useless to me recently, relics of my former life. While they may feel like two very different choices, I believe eating with your hands is a spiritual extension of refusing to wear pants, subtle but effective ways to free yourself from the things that don’t actually serve you. I don’t like my food touching, but I do like touching my food.  

Anyway, when I return from being away, the first thing I usually do is convince myself I need to move apartments immediately and order Han Dynasty (dry-pepper style chicken, wontons, cucumbers). This week, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about eating poached chicken, which made me wonder if I was pregnant (a logistical impossibility, if you must know!). I’m guessing my steady diet of Cheez-It’s and chilled red wine over the last month had not provided enough nutritional value for my body and it was trying to tell me something. Whatever it was, I simply had to poach some chicken, an urge I have never had once before in my life.

*leaves Brooklyn once*

[POACHING LIQUID OR SALTED WATER? As a fan of “unfussy cooking” (I am fussy in almost every other way), I will always try to do the minimum work for the maximum result. Why would I spend money on ingredients to make a “poaching liquid” when salted water would probably be just fine? Is that piece of shrimp really benefitting from that artfully halved head of garlic you simmered in the water? This weekend, a friend and I talked about this at length when he insisted on a “court-bouillion” for the shrimp we were poaching (for shrimp cocktail!) which I obviously rolled my eyes at because, lol I am never making a “court-bouillion.” I told him I feel like a quartered onion (for savoriness) and sliced lemon (for acidity and lemony flavor) would be plenty and couldn’t we just agree that onion and lemon dropped in some well salted water was all you needed for effective seasoning?

Well, guess what, I researched court-bouillion and reader: turns out I absolutely did make a court-bouillion (the defining characteristics being: quick to make, derived from vegetables, the inclusion of acidity and exclusion of animal fat). The shrimp were perfect in every way, markedly better than if we had not added both the onion and the lemon, I promise. Court-bouillon: You’re okay!]

So, I brought a pot of well-salted water to a bare simmer, dropped in a quartered onion and sliced lemon, then carefully lowered in three boneless, skinless breasts (a cut I rarely purchase, but I had a vision and the vision called for boneless, skinless breasts). I made sure that CB never came above a strong simmer (my friend Lauren calls this a “champagne simmer,” when you can just see tiny bubbles….like champagne) and watched over my chicken, prodding the pot more than is necessary. I sacrificed one breast, periodically slicing it open in both the thinnest and thickest parts to check for doneness and timing. I ate a lot of sort-of-raw chicken, but guess what, I’m still here. 2020, baby!

this looks much better than the actual poached chicken, which, unfortunately, will always look like poached chicken 🥴 (and yes, i’m still wearing that nap dress).

The chicken was extremely good— better than it had to be, honestly, but please do not compare it to other chicken. I will not say it’s better than a seared bone-in, skin-on thigh or whole roasted bird or fried wings or anything else with skin and fat and bones, because this relationship only works if you trust me and if I said that, you’d know I was lying and what on earth could possibly compete with skin and fat and bones? But I will say, after spending some time with this chicken, poaching is in fact officially my favorite way to get superlatively juicy, perfectly cooked, well-seasoned chicken breast.

I let it cool a little, then shredded and tossed it with toasted fennel-chili oil (basically the dressing for the Tomatoes Dressed in Toasted Fennel and Anchovy in Nothing Fancy minus anchovies, although anchovies would be so good on chicken like this) and a bit of lemon. I ate more than a few pieces directly from the bowl, then scattered the rest over a small pool of salted yogurt next to some crunchy lettuce, cilantro and thinly sliced celery. Using my hands, I nestled a little piece of chicken into some greenery and dragged it all through the yogurt while drinking wine out of a too-fancy glass for no reason at all. I was, of course, definitely not wearing jeans.

i did go out of my way to drink from a nice glass, and you know what? i appreciated me.

As if my night couldn’t get any better (poached chicken breast? Pinch me!), you absolutely KNOW I used that leftover CB to cook some dried beans, which, no, I didn’t soak, thanks for asking.

For the full chicken salad recipe (including THE POACHED CHICKEN, which I’m sure you can not WAIT to make), become a paying subscriber and that recipe will land in your inbox tomorrow. 

QUARANTINE ACTIVITIES

Run several errands a day but be sure to do them several hours apart, just to leave the house now and then. This ensures you are getting plenty of exercise and also prevents you from being productive at all because you’re not really home long enough to complete any one project: Great! If you are in New York, go see Susan Kim at her pop-up, Doshi, next Wednesday at Hunky Dory in Crown Heights from 2-8pm and let her feed you incredible food. Maybe go for early/first dinner, then decide you’ll bike over the bridge for more food from Wildair in celebration of Mexican Independence Day for late/second dinner.  Read this newsletter by Sari Azout, the only time I’ve been happy to see the word “content” (while you’re there, subscribe!). Read The Vanishing Half and know that if you were still riding the subway, it would be the book you see everyone else reading, too. Miss the subway. A lot. Prepare yourself to enter into a committed relationship with the 2020 election from now until November 4th. Commit yourself to *at least* one actionable item. Volunteer for a campaign in your state, city, or district. Volunteer for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Volunteer to become a poll worker. Volunteer to phone bank in a swing state to flip a senate seat (you don’t need to live there to do that!). Ask your friends to phone bank with you and set up a fun ZOOM for it! Just like regular hanging out, except on our COMPUTERS! Just like regular! (Vote Save America is a great place to have most of your questions answered with excellent state-specific resources on all of the above).


For the month of September, proceeds from paid subscriptions will go to Heart of Dinner, a NYC-based organization that’s working to provide home-cooked meals and handwritten letters, combating hunger and isolation for the homebound and elderly Asian-American community of New York. Learn more about them here.
Past supported organizations to put on your radar: The Okra Project / Food Issues Group / La Cocina