Sunday, 10 January 2010

Summer Linguine with a Cold Sauce of Poached Chicken, Tomatoes and Basil

A perfect lunch for a hot day: a chilled sauce of tender oven-poached chicken, cherry tomatoes, garlic and summer herbs poured over hot linguine. This is an easy dish, quickly put together, and more so if you poach the breasts in the morning and leave them to cool in their liquid until you're ready to use them.

Photograph by Michael Le Grange, from my book Scrumptious. Bowl by David Walters.
 Image © Random House Struik 2012

I have tried many methods of cooking chicken breasts, but this is the only one than results in perfectly tender and succulent flesh without a hint of rubberiness or stringiness. You could poach them in a saucepan, but this method guarantees perfect results and I can heartily recommend it.

This salad is lovely topped with a shower of crumbled peppered Feta cheese.

Summer Linguine with a Cold Sauce of Poached Chicken, Tomatoes and Basil

To poach the chicken:
6 large deboned, skinned chicken breasts
enough hot water to cover them
2 bay leaves
half an onion, thickly sliced
3 whole cloves
a carrot, roughly chopped
a few stalks of parsley
a slice of lemon

For the sauce:
a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley (or rocket, or both)
a small bunch of fresh basil
600 g ripe cherry tomatoes, halved, or sliced if they are big
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2-4 fat cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (to taste: I like it very garlicky)
80 ml fruity olive oil
2 Tbsp (30 ml) white wine vinegar
1 tsp (5 ml) Tabasco sauce (or a teaspoon of red chilli flakes)
1 tsp (5ml) salt
1 tsp (5 ml) white sugar
plenty of milled black pepper

To serve:
a packet of linguine or spaghetti
extra olive oil
crumbled peppered feta cheese [optional]

Heat the oven to 180 ยบC. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and put them in a single layer in a ceramic baking dish (don't pack them tightly). Add the bay leaves, onion, cloves, carrot, parsley and lemon slice, and pour over enough boiling water to just cover the breasts (about 500 ml). Place, uncovered, in the hot oven for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and poke a hole into the thickest end of a breast: it should be just cooked. If there's any trace of pinkness, place the dish back in the oven for another few minutes. Cover with clingfilm and allow the breasts to cool completely. (They should be refrigerated if they're not going to be used immediately).

Now make the sauce. Strip the leaves from half the parsley and basil sprigs and chop roughly (reserve the remaining sprigs).  Place in a mixing bowl and add the tomatoes, spring onions, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, Tabasco, salt, pepper and sugar. Toss well to combine.  Remove the chicken from its poaching liquid and, using your fingers, tear into pieces. Add the chicken to the bowl.  Now measure out 80 ml of the cool poaching liquid and add it to the bowl. Season generously with black pepper and toss again to combine. Cover the bowl and set aside in a cool place, or in the fridge, for 30 minutes to allow the dressing to soak into the chicken.

Cook the linguine in plenty of salted boiling water until just al dente.  Drain the pasta quickly and tip it into a large platter. Chop the remaining basil and parsley and add it to the sauce. Toss again, then pile the cold sauce on top of the hot pasta. Crumble the feta over the pasta, and drizzle with more olive oil. Serve immediately.

Serves 6
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Nina Timm said...

Love the picture of the poaching pot, I always keep a few cooked/poached chicken breasts at hand for these kinda meals. Lovely summery flavors!!!

Jeanne said...

Why do I not poach more chicken breasts?? Come to think of it, why do I not make more summery pastas??