Tender, juicy chicken - not stringy or tough - is essential for good chicken salad. Poaching your chicken is an ideal way to get this texture. Poaching also does not require you to heat up your oven, which we are always hoping to avoid in the middle of the summer.
To poach chicken for chicken salad or other dishes requiring soft shredded chicken, like tacos, start with two or more chicken breasts on the bone. Rest of the directions below...
Basic method: Put enough water to cover the chicken breasts in a heavy pot. Add at least 1 cup of white wine and 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Add the chicken breasts and reduce back down to a bare simmer or less. The water should NOT boil again - bubbles should only come up every minute or so. Cook for about 30 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Cover with a cartouche, if you notice too much liquid evaporating.
Turn off the heat, cover tightly and let cool on the stovetop for half an hour, then put in the fridge overnight to cool completely. When cool shred the chicken off the bone with two forks and chop fine.
Dress it up: Add herbs, spices, or onion and garlic for the chicken to absorb. We like to saute an onion and some garlic in butter until soft, then add the water and wine. You can also poach the chicken in broth - chicken or vegetable - which will make taste even richer. Make sure to let the chicken cool in its broth.
Tip: After shredding the chicken off the bone, return the bones and any cartilage to the pot and simmer for another hour until reduced. You'll have a weak broth that is great for soups and making rice.