Relatively lean meats such as chicken are quick to prepare and make healthful meals, but they aren't especially forgiving in the hands of a novice cook. The lean muscle tissue quickly becomes dry if it's overcooked, making for a less than pleasant dining experience. If you find yourself with an overcooked bird, several ways exist for you to moisten it on the fly or salvage it for later meals.
Give It a Bath
One of the most useful ingredients to keep in your pantry is a good-quality chicken broth, either concentrated or in ready-to-use form. If you find yourself with too-dry chicken, heat some broth in a pot or your microwave until it's hot but not boiling. Slice the chicken, and layer it into a shallow baking dish. Pour in the chicken broth, and keep the dish warm for 10 to 15 minutes in your oven or over a low burner. The chicken will absorb some moisture from the hot broth, and more will adhere to its surface. Don't let the broth boil, because the last thing you want to do is cook the chicken further.
Sauce It Up
When chefs make sauces, they aim for a consistency that will cling to the food without being thick or pasty. That's important, because a sauce that's thick enough to cling to the food lends richness and moisture to each bite. A good sauce is your best friend when mealtime is upon you and the chicken is overcooked. Scratch-made or store-bought gravy can save the day, if it's appropriate to your meal. If it isn't, whip up something more suitable such as a cream sauce or white wine sauce.
Use Your Noodle
If you have the option, shift gears and change your plan for the meal. Pasta-based dinners provide a good option for moistening and salvaging a dried chicken. Dice or shred the meat and add it to a white sauce or tomato sauce, which will camouflage its dry texture. Boil up a batch of your favorite pasta, fix a side salad to go along with it, and nobody will know you were improvising. You can give the same basic idea an Asian slant by using rice as the base for your meal, and coating the chicken slices or pieces in teriyaki or sweet-and-sour sauce.
Fight Again Another Day
Another option is to pull a completely different meal out of your bag of tricks, and set aside the chicken for another day. With mayonnaise, chives and minced celery, today's dry chicken can become tomorrow's chicken salad sandwiches. Alternatively, shred the chicken and use it in tacos where the taco sauce and crisp lettuce will lend it moisture. If you'd prepared vegetables and gravy to go with the chicken, combine them in a chicken pot pie or use them to make hash for the next day.
- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee
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