From “The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen” by Jacques Pepin, Houghton Mifflin Co, 2003. All notes are Jacques’.
“To most Americans, Danny Kaye is remembered as a splendid comedian and actor. I think of him as a friend and one of the finest cooks I have ever known. In every way, Danny was equal to or better than any trained chef. His technique was flawless. The speed at which he worked was on par with what you’d find in a Parisian brigade de cuisine. Danny taught me a great deal, mostly about Chinese cuisine, his specialty.
Whenever I traveled to Los Angeles, Danny picked me up at the airport and took me to his house, where we cooked Chinese or French food. His poached chicken was the best I have ever had.”
1 chicken, about 3 ½ #
½ cup sliced carrot
1 cup sliced onion
1 small leek, washed and left whole
1 rib celery, washed and left whole
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
About 7 cups tepid water, enough to cover the chicken
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Tabasco
5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 dozen Boston lettuce leaves
2 dozen fresh tarragon leaves
For the chicken:
Place the chicken breast side down in a tall narrow pot so it fits snugly at the bottom. Add remaining ingredients. Water should come about 1” above the chicken. Bring to a gentle boil, cover and let boil gently for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit in the hot broth for 45 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pot, and set it aside on a platter to cool for a few minutes. (The stock can be strained and frozen for up to 6 months for use in soup.) Pick the meat from bones, discarding fat, skin and bones. Shred the meat with your fingers, following the grain and pulling it into strips. (The meat tastes better shredded than diced with a knife.)
Mix the dressing ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken salad. Add chicken shreds to dressing and toss well. Arrange the Boston lettuce leaves in a “nest” around the periphery of a platter, and spoon the room-temperature chicken salad into the center. Sprinkle with the tarragon leaves and serve.