Poached Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives and Green Beans

Active time: 40 min Start to finish: 40 min
Makes 4 servings.
Suggested Wines:
Mantinea '02 of Domaine Spyropoulos ($14)
Domaine Skouras Moschofilero '02 ($13)
Domaine Skouras St. George '01 ($12)
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (1 3/4 lb total)
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 cups water
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
1 fresh thyme sprig
3/4 lb haricots verts or other thin green beans, trimmed
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3 cups)
1/2 cup brine-cured green and black olives such as picholine and Kalamata, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon torn fresh oregano leaves
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Sprinkle chicken all over with 1 tablespoon salt and let stand.
While chicken is standing, bring water, broth, and thyme to a boil in a 4- to 6-quart heavy pot, then add beans and cook, uncovered, until crisp-tender, 3 to 6 minutes. Transfer beans with a slotted spoon to a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Add salted chicken to broth and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, 6 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let stand, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes .
Transfer chicken with tongs to a cutting board and cool, about 5 minutes.
While chicken is cooling, stir together tomatoes, olives, oregano, pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 4 tablespoons oil in a bowl.
Holding a knife at a 45-degree angle, cut chicken across the grain into 1-inch-thick slices.
Divide green beans among 4 plates, then arrange sliced chicken over beans and top with tomato olive mixture.
Cook's note:
Beans, chicken, and tomato olive mixture can be made 2 hours ahead and chilled separately, covered.
Internet Reviews:
This is fabulous. The poaching technique works perfectly. Amazingling easy and worked really well at my recent dinner party. Will definately make again.
I love the poaching hint and how tender the chicken comes out. This is one technique I will apply to other chicken recipes. The tomato/olive salsa is also a keeper. Enjoyed by all!
Absolutely delicious and easy! I served this as part of my in-law's 50th wedding celebration which we catered at our home. It was a hit with all our guests and the leftovers were fantastic the next day. It's part of our family recipe book!
Notes on Poaching Chicken:
It's easy to overcook chicken even when using a gentle method like poaching. That's why we're big fans of a fail-safe method that has its roots in China. Lillian Chou, the food editor who developed the recipe for boneless chicken breasts with tomatoes, olives, and green beans (at right), learned it from her mother, a native of Canton, and she wouldn't poach a chicken any other way. (Coincidentally, Chou's mother's recipe for velvet chicken appeared in the May 2004 issue — see link at right.)
Essentially, what you do is briefly simmer a whole chicken or chicken parts in seasoned water and/or broth (we use a combination; see chart below), then turn the heat off, cover the pot, and let the chicken finish cooking in the hot liquid. The result? Moist, flavorful, beautifully textured meat that pulls off the bone easily. (Don't be alarmed if a whole bird is slightly pink around the joints; it is completely cooked.) The chicken is delicious as is (rather like a classic pot-au-feu), in a salad, or further cooked in a potpie or casserole. An added bonus is that this is truly a back-burner recipe.
If you're feeling ambitious after poaching chicken on the bone, toss the bones back into the pot along with a cut-up onion, carrot, and celery stalk, and reduce it to make stock. You'll only get a few cups' worth, but tuck it into the freezer and reach for it next time you need to make a pan sauce or enrich some store-bought chicken broth.
With the exception of a few brief (mostly Chinese) mentions, a prowl though our library didn't turn up too much on the subject of off-heat poaching, so we consulted a couple of experts. According to Nina Simonds, an authority on Chinese food, the method is often used for "drunken" chicken or seafood dishes. "The poaching liquid includes a great deal of good-quality rice wine," says Simonds, "which adds terrific flavor." Gray Kunz, chef-owner of New York City's Café Gray and famously adept at fusing Asian and French flavors, is also a devotee of the technique. "The key word is simmer," he says. "Cook a chicken at a bare simmer in water, with your aromatics — vegetables and herbs — and a splash of white wine. Let it steep, and before you know it, you're done. You can cook all sorts of things like this." A minute later, he has an idea. "One of these days, I would like to try poaching a turkey." We'll keep you posted.