The Chinese man and I understood each other with just hand signals. I waved my hand against my throat to ask for the head to be chopped off. I shook my hands so that he would understand that the legs also have to go. I had no clue what the gray chicken was in the store until another customer told me it was Silkie chicken. Do I cook it like regular chicken? I asked. Yes, she said, but it’s silkier inside; that’s why it’s expensive.
When my mother saw it this morning, she recognized it as the manok ng Intsik, Chinese chicken. They’re poofy and they look like they wear pajamas. She said that one of my grandfathers, the Chinese one from her cousin’s side, used to cook the black chickens all the time. Do I cook it like regular chicken? I asked. Yes, she also said, but the meat is moist and it doesn’t dry up like normal chicken. Oh, that’s what the man meant by sirr-kee.
I Googled it and sure enough, they are from Asia and they are white and poofy. Pajamas aside, Silkies are a rare breed because they have black skin and bones and their feathers look like hair. They are also able to sit (how cuuuute!) and they have five toes (aaaaw!). Because they’re docile, they make good pets.
Mario Batali had a recipe using game hen. After being convinced that Silkie is just like regular chicken, I went to the grocery store to buy sage, pomegranate and a bottle of Marsala. Never have I needed only three ingredients that took two hours to accumulate. It was almost 2pm when I got back home. I ate some prosciutto and baguette for lunch in between soaking the pomegranate seeds and preheating the oven.
The recipe was so easy to follow, it took less than an hour to cook. Too easy in fact, that I was skeptical it was going to taste good. I should never doubt my ability to cook because this turned out to be delicious and, well, sirr-kee.
1 Silkie chicken, rinsed and patted dry
seeds of large pomegranate
1 cup Marsala
12 sage leaves
zest of an orange
1 stick of butter
salt, pepper and olive oil
1. In a small bowl, cover the pomegranate seeds with the Marsala. Set aside, covered, for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 375Âº. Season the chicken inside-out with salt and pepper.
3. Drain the pomegranate seeds and reserve some of the liquid. Stuff the birds with half of the seeds. Tie chicken legs together with kitchen twine.
4. In a large ovenproof sautÃ© pan, heat some butter with the olive oil over high heat. Add 3 sage leaves and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the remaining 9 sage leaves and the rest of the pomegranate seeds.
5. Tranfer the pan to the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and drizzle 3 tbsps of the reserved Marsala liquid. Dot the chicken with some more butter and baste with the pan juices. Roast for another 15 minutes or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced.
6. Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, melt the remaining butter over low heat. Add the zest and cook for 5 minutes so that the zest absorbs the butter. Remove from heat.
7. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Sprinkle with the zest and drizzle pan juices with pomegranate seeds over it.