Put your chicken or half chicken in a large saucepan or casserole along with stock vegetables, spices and aromatics. Add enough water to cover, bring up to a simmer and skim the surface.
The secret is then to never let the liquid boil – if you have a meat or jam thermometer, keep it at about 85ºC. The chicken will take about 1½ hours from the time it reaches simmering point, depending on the size of the bird.
Properly poached chicken is a thing of beauty and versatility; substitute it for roast chicken, cool it and serve as part of a salad (eg. Coronation Chicken), or with virtually any vegetable or pulse, also cooked in the broth.
Caper-based, tartare, ravigôte or gribiche sauces all work well. Simon Hopkinson is king of the caper – his book ‘Week in, Week out’ gives all the details and more poached chicken suggestions.
The down side of poached chicken is that you don’t get the crispy skin - but don’t despair. Either put the poached chicken in a hot oven for a final blast, or after carving, chuck the skin back in the broth with the carcass for a second flavour extraction session. We owe it to the chicken!