The Heart of New England
Poached Chicken with
Mustard Cream Sauce
by Charlie Burke

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A simple and often overlooked method for preparing chicken is poaching.
Many “roasting” chickens weigh four to five pounds, which is larger than the
ideal size to roast. Smaller birds, three pounds or less, roast more quickly which
makes it easier to get evenly cooked white and dark meat. We routinely roast
two smaller chickens, giving us left over meat and plenty of bones for chicken

The larger sizes actually have more flavor and cook evenly in poaching liquid,
which then becomes a flavorful broth for use in a sauce or a soup. (The liquid is
a broth when the raw meat is cooked in it, while a stock is made from
previously cooked bones.) Poaching also produces moist meat for chicken
salads and sandwiches. Using free range or organically raised chicken increases
flavor in both the broth and the meat.

Herbs, spices and aromatic vegetables added to the pot yield their flavor to both
the broth and the chicken, permitting the cook to blend favorites. Vegetables
used to flavor the broth will be overcooked when the chicken is done, but
potatoes and other vegetables can be added toward the end of cooking for a one
pot meal. Carrots and mild turnips are traditional, but others such as squash,
leeks and parsnips would be fine. I particularly like the flavor of tarragon with
chicken, and its subtle flavor in the broth carried over into the simple mustard
cream sauce made for this meal. The broth, alone, spooned over the chicken and
vegetables, makes an excellent sauce and is actually the way poached chicken is
usually served. Whisking in some butter enriches its flavor.

4 – 6 ample servings:

1 4 ½ - 6 pound chicken
1 medium onion
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1-2 garlic cloves, whole
1 teaspoon whole pepper corns
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
3 large sprigs tarragon
2 Turkish bay leaves
1 tablespoon sea salt


1 cup cooking broth
1 tablespoon Dijon type mustard
¼ cup cream, sour cream or no fat cream substitute

Wash chicken under cold water, place one tarragon sprig into the cavity and
place into a large pot. Add remaining ingredients and cold water to cover the
chicken. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat, reduce to simmer and cover.
Skim surface of solids occasionally and cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours. If adding
vegetables for the meal, cut them into equal size and add at 1 hour. They can be
removed if done before the chicken or left in the broth to continue cooking if
necessary once chicken is done. Cook chicken until the legs move loosely or the
temperature of the thigh is 175 degrees. Remove from broth, place on carving
board and tent with foil. Let rest at least ten minutes, and carve just before
serving. Strain broth and skim excess fat from the surface.

To make sauce:

Place the one cup of broth into a small sauce pan over high heat and boil until
reduced by half. Remove from heat, and whisk in mustard and cream. Add salt
and pepper to taste.

Serve the sliced chicken with your choice of vegetables and with either the broth
or mustard sauce. It makes a great family meal and is equally appropriate for

Poaching is easy, and the cooking is largely untended. Become familiar with it,
adding your own favorite flavors to the broth for economical and versatile
meals. The leftover broth and chicken for soups and sandwiches are an added

About the author:

An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice president of
the New Hampshire Farmer’s Market Association ( and helps
run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife, Joanne, he grows
certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton,
Poached Chicken
The Heart of New England
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