Category: Chicken

Beer-Braised Sichuan Chicken

This Henan Chinese recipe was adapted from Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food, a Sichuan restaurant that opened in New York City with a lot of promise but, to me, lacking of flavor. I looked forward to the San Francisco-based restaurant opening here, but when I finally made it with my friend Lauren, I was disappointed that there was no depth to the spiciness of their dishes.

Sichuan food tops my list of favorite cuisines and I’ve always tried to cook it at home. They require a lot of ingredients, but once you buy them, you won’t have to do it again any time soon. (Well, unless you cook as much as I do.)

With the dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorns I smuggled from my trip to Bhutan, the search for good spicy recipes has been resurrected. I think toasting the spices here is key even though the original recipe didn’t call for it–maybe that’s what I mean when I think of depth of flavor. Before I ladled to serve, I used a flour sifter to strain the spices from the liquid. (I didn’t have a fine-enough strainer.) You can use a spice bag if you have it handy, but I wanted all of the flavor to fully soak while cooking.

Oh, this is probably the only time I’ve ever bought Budweiser, too! Any lager-style beer like Tsingtao is okay as well.

Ingredients:
8 chicken pieces
1 1/2 tbsps salt
2 tbsps fish sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
5 pieces dried red chiles, toasted
2 tbsps Sichuan peppercorns, toasted
2 tbsps fennel seeds, toasted
2 tbsps cumin seeds, toasted
2 pcs star anise, toasted
4 pods green cardamom, toasted
2 tbsps Sriracha hot sauce
2 cups chicken stock
16 oz can of Budweiser
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
a handful of fingerling potatoes, washed
a handful of parsley, roughly chopped

1. In a large bowl, season chicken with salt and fish sauce and let sit 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, set a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add oil. Once oil is hot, work in batches to brown both sides of chicken pieces, about 6 minutes per batch, transferring chicken to another bowl as you go.
3. Return chicken to pot, increase heat to high and add all remaining ingredients except the parsley. Bring pot up to a rolling boil, cover and cook until chicken and potatoes are tender and sauce is reduced, about 20 minutes.
4. Before serving to a bowl, use a fine strainer to get rid of all the solid spices and discard.

Chicken Biryani

I live across the hall from a Pakistani family I’ve grown to know since I moved in the building 3 years ago. I know the wife stays at home because I always see some piece of furniture keeping their main door open whenever I leave or return home. It’s to keep the smell from staying in, she told me, when I peeked inside one time and called her name. I told her that I knew the purpose because I can smell the fragrant spices from the elevators.

When she was done cooking, I heard a knock on my door. It was her with a bowl of homemade chicken biryani for me. Ever since that first time, I’ve also been sharing some of the meals I’ve cooked and the goods I’ve baked with her family. I’d be stupid to break a Pakistani home-cooking connection.

Note that this is not her recipe. I found it online and made my own changes according to what I have in my pantry. I used to make my own ginger-garlic paste and freeze them in sheets, but ever since the Microplane Premium Classic zester came into my life, I just finely grate fresh ginger and garlic now and get the same result I would by using a food processor but without all the parts to wash afterwards. And with the spatula from GIR, or Gear That Gets It Right, I can easily scrape the paste from a bowl and spread it evenly on the chicken pieces.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp cumin seeds, grounded
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp coriander seeds, grounded
6 cardamom seeds, shelled
salt
1/2 cup tomato purée
a large scoop plain yogurt
a small knob of ginger, peeled, grated
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or grated
oil
1 red onion, sliced
2 boneless chicken breasts, chopped
2 cups of basmati rice
a pinch of saffron
1/4 cup of milk
chicken broth
a handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

1. On a small frying pan, toast the cumin, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, half of the cardamom seeds and salt until they start to get fragrant. Be careful not to burn. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
2. In a bowl, mix toasted spices with the tomato purée, yogurt, ginger and garlic with a spatula. Marinate the chicken with this mixture and keep aside for a few minutes, or up to 3 hours.
3. When ready to cook, heat oil in a pan. Fry the onions until golden brown. Add the marinated chicken and cook for 10 minutes.
4. In the meantime, set your rice cooker to cook the rice. Soak saffron threads in the milk while cooking the rice. When most of the water from the rice cooker has subsided, pour in the saffron-milk mixture and add the remaining cardamom seeds. Using the same spatula, mix everything when cooking is done.
5. Scoop the cooked rice onto the frying pan with the chicken. Mix well. If your biryani gets dry and thick, add some chicken broth at different intervals of cooking. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.

Recommended tool/s:
Microplane Premium Classic Zester
The Spatula by GIR (Gear that Gets it Right)

Chicken with Caramelized Shallots in Sherry Sauce

I roast chicken for myself at least once a month because there’s always a lazy, quiet day that’s perfect for a properly roasted chicken. What I didn’t know until this past weekend is that I can roast one and serve it to dinner guests. I always want to impress when I invite guests to my home and have always thought that the more work I put into cooking, the better the food. And it has been for the most part; I just never thought chicken was something that would bowl people over. With this recipe, however, using sherry vinegar sauce and then served with other dishes that included apples, it made a whole autumn feast presentable. I saved so much time cooking chicken instead of my usual repertoire that I was able to make three separate vegetable sides plus a cake for dessert!

If you have a good butcher, ask them to debone the chicken and cut in half, but leaving the legs and wings intact. You may also buy separate chicken pieces; about 3 pieces will fit into a large oven-safe skillet. If you have an iron grill press, it’s good to use it to keep the chicken pieces flat. If you only have a Teflon frying pan (which you certainly can’t put inside the oven), you’re better off using the same baking pan you’re using for the shallots just so it’s hot before cooking the chicken–just remove the shallots after roasting to avoid burning them.

I also saved the rendered fat from the chicken and for leftovers the next day. I fried some white rice and added a blob of it (there’s no better way to describe it) to make a quasi-Hainanese chicken rice. It was so delicious and guiltily satisfying with some pickled cornichon to cut through the grease.

Ingredients:
6 pieces of chicken thighs and breasts
salt and pepper
10 shallots, peeled
a stick of butter
vegetable oil
1/4 cup of sherry vinegar
thyme sprigs

1. Preheat the oven to 425º. Season the chickens generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Place the 6 of the whole shallots in a small baking pan. Toss with salt and pepper, add a medium-sized knob of butter and pour in 1/4 cup water. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for 20 minutes. Uncover and roast for 15 minutes longer or until the shallots are tender and golden. Set the pan aside.
3. When you’re ready to roast the chickens, place two oven-safe skillets in the oven for 15 minutes. When the skillets are hot, carefully remove them from the oven and add vegetable oil to each skillet. Place 3 chicken halves in each skillet, skin side down. Roast for about 30 minutes,
checking halfway through, until the juices from the thigh run clear.
4. Remove the skillets from the oven and pour off the fat in a separate container for later use. Turn the chicken pieces over, skin side up and deglaze each pan with 1/4 cup of sherry vinegar, gently scraping the bottom to release any browned bits. Add another knob of the butter, thyme and 2 shallots to each pan. Return to the oven and roast for 3 extra minutes.
6. To serve, place a chicken piece, a couple of shallots and a bit of the pan sauce on each plate. Fry some rice with the chicken fat for an Asian flair. Garnish your plates with thyme sprigs.

If you have more time and feeling like you need a challenge, why don’t you try to prepare your own chicken suprême, or a semi-boneless poultry breast half with the wing joint still attached? A new iPad app from Inkling called The Professional Chef has amazing videos and photographs from the Culinary Institute of America. Unlike cooking demos on TV, you don’t get bogged down by the screaming obnoxious white-haired guy–you can just concentrate on the cooking matter at hand with the calm narrating voice guiding you at every step. You may buy each chapter for $2.99 (Chapter 16: Fabricating Meats, Poultry, and Fish) or the entire app for less than $50 using the link below.

Recommended tool/s:
The Professional Chef iPad app from the Culinary Institute of America

Black Bean Chicken with Cashews

When I’m traveling, I usually pack my own food to eat on the plane. My default is the artichoke salad from Snack here in New York City or a banh mi sandwich from one of the Vietnamese shops in Chinatown, but sometimes when I’m heading back home, I forget to buy something to-go or I would have eaten my one packed meal by the time they’ve rescheduled my return flight for the third time that day.

If I must eat at the airport when I’m traveling and there are no Starbucks shops to be found so I can at least buy a decent cold sandwich–I really can’t tell you why I trust Starbucks’ sandwiches over any other deli’s at airports–I opt for the dirty Chinese food rather than the fast food burger. A, because if I’m going to indulge a guilty pleasure, it better involve rice to make me feel less guilty about eating it after, and B, I’ve tried the airport burger route before and I wasn’t a happy camper when I finally got on the plane.

But when I do buy bad Chinese food, I’m always thinking that I can do a better and a much cleaner version. I already have the ingredients in my pantry; all you really need are a strong arm and a really hot skillet or wok to flash-fry everything.

Ingredients:
4 pieces chicken breasts, sliced in smaller pieces
oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
rice wine vinegar
2 tbsps black bean sauce
1/4 tsp cornstarch
1 package of broccoli florets
1/4 cup cashews, roughly chopped

1. In a deep skillet, heat some oil. Add the chicken pieces and flash-fry. When some parts are starting to turn white, add the onion and garlic. Sauté to continue cooking the chicken and to soften the onions.
2. Add a splash or two of the rice wine vinegar and spoon in the black bean sauce. Stir. Add a little bit of the cornstarch at a time to thicken the sauce. Use some water or broth to get the consistency that you want.
3. Lower the heat and add the broccoli and cashews. Keep sautéeing to finish cooking the chicken and to cook the broccoli until tender.

Related post/s:
Sichuan pickles is the most Chinese thing I’ve made in the kitchen
Sweet and Sour Pork, too

Braised Whole Chicken with Green Peppercorns

The Dr. tuned me into the new Cooking Channel when he came in from Boston to visit. I’ve stopped watching the Food Network a long time ago after I’ve noticed that most of their shows were targeting eaters that are not too adventurous. It seems that the Cooking Channel is their way to separate that content from the ones that involve personalities and cuisines of different origins. In a few hours alone, I saw segments shot in Vietnam, India and Italy which did not involve any screaming or bleached blonde hair.

My favorite so far is Luke Nguyen mainly because he’s traveling all over Vietnam with that ridiculously curious Vietnamese-Australian accent. He was in a green peppercorn farm that reminded me so much of the Philippines countryside. I actually remembered seeing the peppercorns the last time I was in Kalustyan’s but had no idea what to use them for, so after watching his show, I made a return trip to buy a packet.

The recipe also called for chicken. I had ordered a whole chicken from Holton Farms in Vermont who’s currently running an ingenious idea on how Community-Supported Agriculture could change the way we buy produce. My neighborhood in Harlem became one of their test spots after I convinced them to deliver in my neighborhood in exchange for getting them new customers who also live in my building. When I saw this recipe on TV, I thought it’d be a relief not to make another roasted chicken.

You can buy green peppercorns from Kalustyan’s, the heavenly spice store on Lexington Avenue in Curry Hill here in New York City. While there, pick up a sachet of annatto powder as well, but really, I didn’t think it added any thing special to the dish except for some more reddish-orange color. The original recipe called for oil, but the powder was less expensive so I opted for that instead. I also forgot to pick up tomatoes, so I ended up using half of the small can of tomato paste I had in my pantry.

I imagined this to be richer in taste, but it was subtle in flavor. Perhaps it was the coconut juice that made it a tad sweet and differentiated it from other tomato-based stews I’ve made before.

Ingredients:
green peppercorns
3 cloves of garlic, minced
salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 whole fresh chicken, washed, patted dry with a paper towel
oil
4 tbsps tomato paste
2 small carrots, chopped in bite-sized pieces
1 tsp annatto powder
4 shallots, sliced
3 cans of coconut juice
a splash of fish sauce

1. Lightly bruise 4 tbsps of peppercorns in a mortar and pestle. Remove and transfer to a small bowl. Add half of the minced garlic, a dash of salt and sugar and mix. Use this as a rub for the chicken and massage all over. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
2. In a large Dutch oven, heat some oil and sauté the remaining garlic and 2 tbsps peppercorns until fragrant. Set aside in the pot and add the whole chicken. Brown chicken on all sides for some nice color and then carefully remove to a plate.
3. In the same pot, add the tomato paste, carrots and annatto powder. Stir to combine and then add shallots, coconut juice and fish sauce.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil and skim off any impurities that rise to the top. Return the whole chicken and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes. Turn the chicken after about 20 just to make sure the other side is also submerged into the coconut broth.

Related post/s:
Learn about the good things that Holton Farms is doing for our communities
OpenSky sells a nice 3.5 Le Creuset in flame