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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Boiling eggs, poaching chicken, and simplifying enchiladas

If you look for advice on hard-boiling eggs online, you’ll find at least two dozen methods. A confusing mix. I’ve done it various way, the latest being to bring them to a boil, immediately remove from the heat, and let them cool until I can handle them. Sometimes they peel easily, sometimes not; sometimes they burst in boiling, and I have to make egg salad instead of deviled eggs. I think now I’ve found the solution, but it takes careful attention.
Start the eggs in cold water. Add a splash of vinegar so that the whites won’t spread if they do crack. The minute the water reaches a slow boil (you just begin to see bubbles on the surface), turn down the heat. I’ve finally learned to do that on my hot plate (thank you, daughter Megan) and can now keep it just above boiling. Leave the eggs at this slow boil for ten minutes (time it carefully); at the end of the ten minutes, immediately drain the hot water and run cold water over the eggs. Since cold water in a Texas summer is not really cold, I put a couple cups of ice cubes in the water and let the eggs sit until they are cool enough to handle. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. Peel under cold running water (I was astounded that son Jamie didn’t know to do this.) Perfect eggs for devilling, neither over- nor under-cooked.
If I’ve been unhappy with my hard-boiled eggs, I’ve been really frustrated trying to poach chicken. I dutifully put in celery tops, onion, peppercorns, etc. but a friend and I agreed the chicken is always tough. I coped by buying rotisserie chicken but that’s more expensive, and I hated the boning chore. (Daughter Jordan recently taught me that if you bone them while still warm from the store, the meat slides off the bone; I’d been sticking them in the fridge and boning when I needed them.)
The other day I decided to try poaching again. The Bon Appetit method calls for putting 2 lbs. chicken in 4 cups of water and adding 3-1/2 tsp. salt. Yes, that’s a lot of salt but it will make the meat moist but not salty. Then bring the water to the same slow boil you use for eggs but flip breasts immediately and remove from heat when the surface begins to roll and bubble. Let sit ten minutes. I did that and had chicken that was raw in the middle. So I put it back on that low boil. I think I kept three chicken half-breasts at a low boil for another ten minutes and then removed them to a cutting board to rest, cool, and collect themselves. Not only was it moist and flavorful, it shredded easily for my chicken enchilada recipe.

Chicken enchiladas made easy
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 pkg. taco seasoning (or make your own—recipe in Gourmet on a Hot Plate)
2 4 oz. cans green chilies (divided use)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can Rotel (I prefer the mild with lime)
2 cups sour cream (divided use)
Corn tortillas
Cheddar cheese
Poach chicken and cool. Shred and place in mixing bowl. Sprinkle with taco seasoning and stir well. Separately mix 1 can chilies, mushroom soup, Rotel, and 1 cup sour cream. Add to chicken mix and stir well.
Grease a flat, rectangular casserole dish—preferably the standard glass one. Cover bottom with flat tortillas (no, I didn’t fry them first). Add half the chicken mixture. Cover with more tortillas. Add remaining chicken mixture. One more layer of tortillas.
Mix remaining green chilies and sour cream. Cover top of casserole. Then cover it with grated sharp cheddar. Bake at 350o until heated through. Serve immediately.

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