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Poached chicken is not just for those times when you're planning to make a huge vat of chicken salad or when you're simmering a whole chicken for an old-fashioned stew. Poached chicken is actually a perfect way for desperate cooks to speed dinner to the table.

By design, poaching chicken is quick and easy. Just bring the water to a boil with the chicken already in the pot. Then reduce the heat for a few minutes to simmer, and finish cooking. After draining the water, slice the boneless, skinless chicken breasts (with a knife and fork, taking care not to burn yourself) and throw a couple of handfuls of ice over the slices in a colander to speed cooling.

The result is incredibly tender, moist chicken that's great for serving hot with your favorite fruit salsa, or cold over a salad, as in today's recipe. By the time you're ready to eat, the chicken is cool, tender and ready for a hot summer night's dinner.

Menu Greek Chicken Salad

Pita wedges

Sliced apples

2whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 1/3 cups deli-prepared potato salad

2bags (10 ounces each) prepackaged salad blend

2large, ripe tomatoes

1can (2 1/4 ounces) sliced black olives

1/4 cup already-crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup bottled Greek, Caesar or vinaigrette salad dressing, or more to taste
Pour 6 cups water into a 4 1/2 -quart Dutch oven or soup pot and begin bringing it to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Cut the breasts in half, add them to the pot and cover. When the water has come to a boil, (after about 5 minutes), reduce the heat to low. Continue to simmer for 7 more minutes or until the breasts are no longer pink inside.

Meanwhile, assemble the salads: Place 1/3 cup potato salad in the center of each of 4 serving plates. Top with 4 cups (half a bag) of salad greens. Cut each tomato into 8 wedges. Arrange 4 tomato wedges on each plate over the greens. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons olives and 1 tablespoon cheese over each salad. Set the plates aside.

When the chicken is done, use a knife and fork to cut each breast half into 8 slices. Place all of the slices in a colander and cover with ice cubes. Place the colander in the sink and spray the chicken with cold tap water for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the chicken reaches room temperature.

Place 8 chicken slices over each salad and drizzle each plate with 2 tablespoons of dressing, or more to taste. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

Cook's note: We always put the potato salad on the bottom for a little added surprise.

Approximate values per serving (using Nutritionist IV software): 490 calories (56 percent from fat), 29 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 144 milligrams cholesterol, 34 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 832 milligrams sodium.

Send us desperate tales of woe or everyday success stories and your favorite quick recipes to Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016; or e-mail:

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