Warm chicken salad with chili and spinach

 I usually do not eat chicken breast. Chicken breast is like the ugly sister compared to the juicy, moist and flavorful thigh meat. To me breast are bland, dry, stringy white plonk of meat that even the French tu-tu sauce or a deep fry dip into a hot pot of oil couldn't save it from the yanky texture. I would usually avoid eating them at all let alone cooking them. Well unless, unless I was on a diet. Ahrr… what a miserable thought.

As Chinese, we are taught from young to price the chicken thigh meat. On our dining table, whenever we featured a whole chicken in any form, steamed, fried, roasted or curried, the best cut which is the thigh and drum meat will be served to guest, the elderly or man of the house. The dry breast is often left to lower ranking family members - the women and the children. Now that we are grown up, we naturally moved up the rank and our chopsticks always aimed straightly at the thigh and drum meat. I grew to dislike breast.

Fumbling through cook books, food magazine or mindless recipe gawking, there are always beautiful pictures of poised and perky chicken breast. They look mouth-watering! Deliciously juicy! How did they cook it to result in moist tender breast meat that will fulfill every diner dreams. Am I missing something? A minute under they are rare and pink inside. Not quite edible isn't it? A minute more, the middle is just done right but the sides and outside are overcooked and dry. It must be the prep work! I set forth to solve my chicken breast dilemma - trying different methods, poaching, butter poaching; soaking in milk, butter milk perhaps?… until I stumble on a magical brine - a simple salt water bath; the holy grail that hadn't fail me ever since.
 This is the method. It takes some trust, but believe me — it works flawlessly every single time.

Here it goes...
Prepare a salt water bath for the lovely breast. I didn't use any measurement. Just make sure the chicken breast are fully covered with the brine. As for the amount of salt to water, just add salt until you find it very salty. Let the chicken breast sit in the brine for half and hour to an hour. Rinse off the brine and you are ready to use as per normal.

Serve 4 very hungry people.
4 chicken breast (brined)
1 whole garlic, skin on broken into individual clove
1 small onion thinly sliced
2 handful cherry tomatoes, halves
1 bunch of tarragon or any other herbs
2 red chillies (optional)
Handful of baby corn
Baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for cooking the chicken breast
Fruity extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Rinse the chicken from the brine and pat dry with kitchen paper. Lay a layer of wax/greaseproof paper on a chopping board, large enough to lay out the chicken breast.. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken breasts and sprinkle evenly the chopped herbs on both sides. Cover the top with another layer of wax/greaseproof paper. Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness with your fist or the handle of a knife.

Heat the sauté pan over medium-high heat. When it is quite hot, add the olive oil and swirl the pan. Turn the heat to medium. Add the chicken breasts and the garlic cloves and onions Cook for just about 1 minute to help them get a little golden on one side. Then flip each chicken breast over. Now add the cherry tomatoes, baby corn and chili. Let it cook for another 5 mins. Mixing the vegetable around for even cooking. Push the vegetables to one side and flip the chicken again and cook for another 2 mins. Doublecheck them to make sure there is no pink in the middle then remove the chicken breast and let it rest on a bowl.

Sauté the vegetable until cook. Turn of heat. Now the garlic should be soft enough, pressed them out and discard the skin.

Lay baby spinach a large serving plate, tip the warm vegetable over,  sliced the chicken breast at a diagonally thinly and lay on top of the salad. Pour over the chicken juices collected from the resting bowl. Drizzle with extra virgin oil and fresh pepper.

till next post, ss. 

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