Happy Birthday to us – Poached Chicken Breasts with DIY Mayonnaise

We’re on an egg roll these days.  Last week zabaglione, this week Poached Chicken Breasts with DIY Mayo–and next week… well, you’ll just have to check back next week.  One hint, picnic.  And no, I’m not talking about deviled eggs[Sound of SEO grinding to a halt.]  This post marks the one-year anniversary of The Garum Factory.  Happy birthday to us!  To everyone who’s been reading and following us and making comments, Thank you.  Writing a blog can be a lot like beaming messages from space back to earth.  Is anybody listening?  Is anyone there?   Thank you for not letting us languish in the void.

Melissa Clark wrote an excellent article for the NYT several weeks ago extolling the virtues of DIY mayonnaise.  Embers I’d long thought dead heated up faster than high school sweethearts friending each other on Facebook after three decades.  I whipped up a batch, tasted it and… Holy Toledo!   What I’d completely forgotten, in my DIY mayo hiatus, is how superior the homemade stuff is to commercial versions–eggy, rich, mouth-filling–and how easy it is.

As it happened  Jody and I were chatting about revisiting chicken breasts, a food we’d abandoned for tastier pastures after they became the ubiquitous and boring “white meat”.  Maybe it was time to think about doing them again, old school.  Poached chicken breasts.  Homemade mayonnaise.  A post is born.

Jody, I never know the answer to How long can a photograph take, anyway?  but I do know, if it weren’t for your food, none of us would be here.  Ken

NOTE: Please forgive the jumble of photos, especially if you’ve arrived here from a much later post looking for instructions on making your own mayonnaise.  After this piece was published we changed the format of the blog.  Unfortunately it wreaked visual havoc with some previous posts, including this one.

Poached Chicken Breasts with DIY Mayo

Serves 4

Note: You will need a circle of parchment paper trimmed to fit a large sauté pan (see photo).


  • 1½ pounds boneless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus additional juice if necessary
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 8 baby carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 8 baby turnips, cut in half
  • 1 stalk celery, from the heart, peeled and thinly sliced, about ¼ cup
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cornichons
  • ¼ teaspoon garum or Asian fish sauce
  • 1 head Bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chervil sprigs


  1. Trim the breasts of any fat or membranes.  Put into a bowl, season with salt and pepper, add the lemon zest, tarragon and 2 tablespoons olive oil and rub all over.  Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Combine the lemon juice, chicken stock, carrots, and turnips together in a large sauté pan, over low heat.  Season with salt and pepper, bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.  
  3. Add the chicken, celery and scallions. Wiggle everything around so the chicken is covered with stock.  Cover with a circle of parchment. Turn the heat down as low as possible so the stock is barely moving.  Poach 20 minutes or until the chickens are 155 degrees at the fattest part.  Remove from the heat and let sit 15 minutes. 
  4. Remove the breasts and vegetables to a large plate to finishing cooling. 
  5. Remove 2 tablespoons of the cooking broth to a bowl.  Turn the heat to medium under the remaining broth in the pan and reduce to a glaze.
  6. Separate the yolk and white of the egg.  Reserve the white for another use.  Add the yolk to the 2 tablespoons of broth with the mustard and whisk until frothy.   Starting one drop at a time, whisk in the canola oil.  Make sure the previous drop is completely incorporated before adding another drop.  When you’ve whisked about ¼ cup of canola oil into the yolk you can speed things up by dribbling the oil into the emulsion in a very thin stream.  Resist the urge to go fast.  When you’ve finished with the canola oil, whisk in the remaining olive oil in a thin stream.  By this time the emulsion should have thickened up considerably.  Add the remaining tarragon, the glaze, the capers, cornichons and garum.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding lemon juice, pepper and salt if necessary. 
  7. Slice each breast into 5 or 6 slices. 
  8. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter.  Top with the cooked vegetables, chicken and radishes.  Dollop with mayo and top with chervil sprigs.  Refrigerate leftover mayonnaise up to a week.  

Jody Notes:
This is an old-fashioned recipe.  It reminds me of my grandmother, who would poach chicken early in the morning in the summer, before, as she put it, “It got too damn hot to cook.”  At dinner she’d serve the cold chicken with homemade tarragon mayonnaise.  
Take care with the tarragon.  It  is to the herb world what chintz is to fabric – gentle in moderation, even a little French, but when used with a heavy hand, it’s overpowering and kind of sickening. 
Ken and I had a very simple vision a year ago… to cook what we wanted, to tell stories about what we cooked through the recipes, photographs and Ken’s great sense of humor.  It didn’t have to be polished, complicated or flashy… just good.  And if we made mistakes, and we did, that would be okay because the point was to bring you into the process in our kitchen and have a good time.  I hope it’s been as great a year of cooking for you as it has been for us.   
Ride, cook, repeat.

37 thoughts

  1. Has it really been that long? I told you not to let the dragon in the house, but I’m so glad you did. Fridays are just that much better now. It’s always TGIF around here with your writing, photos and recipes. Inspiring! Not to mention, the gauntlet of consistency you’ve thrown down.Impressive! That’s something I hope to master in this lifetime.

    As for the mayo, even the barest bones homemade mayo (without all the great flavors you add here) is sooooo good, and soooo easy to forget about. A terrific post for a day like this, when it’s just too damn hot for much of anything.

  2. Wow…hard to believe it had been a year already – I echo Sally’s comments – reading your blog every Friday morning starts my day off with a big smile.
    Glad you included Garum sauce in this recipe. Happy Birthday and congrats on a fantastic first year (and I’ve learned a lot of new favorite recipes!)

    • BA, you’re so clever! Neither Jody nor I consciously assumed we should include garum in our anniversary post, but it obviously belonged. Gald the spaghetti with kale, salami and toasted garlic is working for you. Ken

      • Too sweet! And I meant to say this morning (though forgot in my haste to do work something or other) that this dish looks wonderful. For so many years, we couldn’t get good chicken and something like this was unimaginable. But now, thankfully, things are different and I can’t wait to try!

  3. Perfect! I woke up this morning wondering what I could make for dinner for friends this evening that would stand up to this heat and not have me in the kitchen all day. When I realized this was a Garum Factory morning, I hoped I would have my answer. And I did! Hooray! Happy, Happy Birthday–you two are the best.

    • Chip, Jody told you about our secret love language! Hardly a day goes by that one or the other of us doesn’t wake up, roll over, and say in as chirpy a tone as possible, “Good morning, Love Bird!” Ken

  4. Congratulations on your one-year blog anniversary. (I just celebrated one year too). I love the photographs. They make everything look so appetizing and the step-by-step is really helpful too. The tone of your blog is charming and I never miss reading it.

    • Thank you, Sonia. Congratulations to you too! I don’t know how you feel, but it certainly feels like a milestone for us (and one that on some days we weren’t sure we’d reach). Ken

  5. Happy birthday! I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and cooking from its recipes over the past year, and I look forward to continuing to do so. Of course, now I’m going to spend my morning with an image of that poor dog flying around its little outer space capsule…

    Not sure if you follow Tamar Adler at all, but a few weeks back she did a quick little piece on Food52 about making mayo from scratch.

    • Hi, Molly–Thank you! I’ve enjoyed reading you as well. Sorry about planting the image of poor little Laika in your brain–under no circumstances should you rent MY LIFE AS A DOG (great great flic) or you’ll never get her out of your brain. Re: Tamara Adler, I just bought her book, probably after seeing either you or Sara reference her (see the kind of esteem in which I hold you). I wasn’t aware she was involved in Food52–a blog I almost can’t bear looking at because it shows you what you can do with photographs if you have a production team to help you out. Ken

  6. Happy returns! Thanks for the wonderful recipe- poached chicken so much preferred over roasted- esp in 100++ temps! You’ve tapped into my foodie passions and New England ‘roots’ so often this year!

  7. I have never made the homemade stuff, but I`ve always wanted to try. This dish looks absolutely amazing…and simple too! Amazing!

    • You SHOULD make mayonnaise yourself, at least once in your life–so you can know what Kraft and Hellman’s are aiming at, and how far wide of the mark they are. You won’t go back. Once you get it down, it’s literally a 2-minute process and it is SO much better! Ken

  8. This is one classy looking chicken salad, and those baby veggies are gorgeous!

    If it weren’t for your being ‘freshly pressed’ last fall, I’m not sure I would have even found you guys, and what a loss that would have been (for me). Happy 1st Birthday …. and many more!

    • Donna, you are so sweet! I hope if you ever pass through Boston that you give me a call so we can meet for a drink. It’s funny, I feel like your blog recently has been a Proustian trip down through my past. I had forgotten just how many classics a friend and I cooked from Julia. Ken

  9. Happy Blogiversary! I’ve enjoyed following and cooking along over the past months and looking forward to many more! I always enjoy your off-the-wall references (Laika!?) and culinary trivia (the history of the pressure cooker!?) and of course everything I’ve made from this site has been delicious (can’t even start listing examples). And I think I heard about Tamar Adler from Molly but I’ve definitely talked about her on our blog too (and to a poor co-worker who I thought would listen.)

    • “Blogiversary”!!??–For some reason that words triggers the manic animated Alice in Wonderland scene in my head–“A very merry un-birthday! To you! To you!” I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it. You can’t reference Laika unless you know some people will get it. ;-) Ken

  10. Congratulations on a splendid first year! Everything is superb–the recipes, the photographs, and Ken’s inimitable prose!

  11. Long time reader, first time commenter. I just wanted to say that I’ve gotten a ton of enjoyment out of this site over the past year. Thank you!

  12. Happy birthday! Congrats on your first year.:) I have been thinking about trying to make my own mayo for ages – you have reminded me that I have still yet to do that!

    Thanks for mentioning the city in which I grew up (yes, I grew up in Toledo, ha ha) – and I look forward to seeing you around, probably at Rialto!!

    • Hi Jen–I knew that that certain je ne sais quoi of sophistication you emanated had to have come from someplace far and exotic-Toledo! Napa seems such a long time ago – I thought for sure we’d run into each other at Rialto, but our daughter’s dance schedule has been so crazy the last couple of months I haven’t been in very often. Thanks for the good wishes – I’m sure we’ll reconnect. Good luck with the mayo. Ken

  13. Has it really been a year already? Time sure flies when you’re having fun, and by that I am referring the treat it is for all of us readers that get to share in your kitchen wisdom and great photography. Congratulations on a fab 1st year, and I look forward to many more posts to come. Homemade mayo rules!

  14. Pingback: Simple Poached Chicken | Paleo Lifestyle | Paleo Lifestyle

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