Monday, November 16, 2009

Hainanese Chicken Rice (Plus the Lazy Person's Version)

I’ve been meaning to make Hainanese chicken rice ever since I saw the foodie-licious Singapore episode of No Reservations. Then a group of us went to Fatty Crab in the West Village, where my husband pretty much inhaled his portion of chicken rice. As soon as we got back from NYC, I got to work constructing the ultimate chicken rice recipe.

To be honest, Steamy Kitchen really did most of the legwork for me. Her beautifully-photographed recipe was the backbone of my little chicken endeavor. I also tapped Epicurious for a few tips. On the side, I served a Burmese cabbage salad so amazing, it deserves its own entry.

But wait, did you know that there’s a super lazy, easy way to get chicken-flavored rice and moist, tender chicken meat? My mom taught me this little trick years ago, and other than instant ramen, it’s pretty much what I lived on in college (with steamed veggies on the side). Take your chicken pieces (dark meat works best, and you should leave the skin on) and put them in a Ziploc bag. Salt chicken generously with coarse salt (about 1 tablespoon per piece of chicken). Seal the bag and leave the chicken overnight in the fridge. Do not leave it longer than 24 hours; your chicken will become much too salty! Then just add two cups of white rice and three cups of water to your rice cooker. Rinse all the salt off the chicken pieces and lay them on top of the rice. Press cook. When your rice cooker has finished doing its thing, your chicken will be perfectly seasoned and tender and the rice will be savory and slightly sticky with all the salty juices from the chicken skin. For the deluxe version, read on.

Hainanese Chicken Rice (adapted from Steamy Kitchen)

Buy the prettiest, nicest chicken you can find: organic, free-range, and practically clucking. Trim the excess fat near the cavity opening and reserve for cooking the rice. Rub the chicken all over with coarse salt to get the grubbies off. Rinse well under cold water and pat dry. Then salt generously inside and out. Stuff the chicken with four slices of ginger and a bunch of well-cleaned green onions (I chop the root ends off for extra cleanliness, that’s up to you).

Place the chicken in a large Dutch oven or stockpot and cover with water. Gourmet suggests cooking the bird breast-side down, which I’ll try next time. And there will definitely be a next time. Cover the pot with a lid and bring water to a boil, then immediately lower the temperature and simmer for about 45 minutes (depending on the size of your chicken). You will probably need to skim the scum off the top of the broth a few times. I highly recommend getting a cheapy scum skimmer from Chinatown, but a spoon will also work.

After the chicken has been cooking for 45 minutes, prepare an ice bath for it. Use the biggest bowl or container you have, fill it about halfway with cold water and about half a bag of ice. Then lift your chicken from the pot, allowing the broth to drain back into the pot, and plunge it into the ice bath. This stops the chicken from cooking and ensures that the meat will be silky and tender. I love how all of the recipes I referenced admonish you not to discard the broth at this point. Are you crazy? You may as well tell me not to throw away gold bars. Season the broth with salt to taste. Set cooled chicken aside on a platter.

RICE (adapted from Epicurious)
Reserved chicken fat (plus vegetable oil)
3 cups of reserved broth from poaching the chicken
2 cups of jasmine rice, rinsed well
3 shallots, sliced
2 cloves of garlic minced
Salt to taste

1. Cook chicken fat in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat until fat is rendered. Discard solid pieces. You should have nearly two tablespoons of fat, but if not, add a bit of vegetable oil.

2. Cook sliced shallots in the chicken fat/vegetable oil mixture for a few minutes, until just starting to color. Add garlic and cook for about two more minutes.

3. Add rice and toast briefly (about a minute) before adding three cups of the reserved chicken broth.

4. Cover pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn heat to medium-low and cook for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow rice to rest for 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
    CHILI SAUCE (adapted from Epicurious)
    6 Thai birds eye chilis (preferably red for the color) or cayenne peppers
    1 shallot, peeled
    2 cloves of garlic
    2 tablespoons of ginger (about a thumb and a half)
    Juice from two limes
    2 tablespoons of sriracha (chili sauce)
    Pinch of salt

    Place ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

    2 teaspoons of soy sauce mixed with one teaspoon of sesame oil
    2 slivered green onions
    Quick-pickled cucumbers (slice cucumbers thinly, mix with one part coarse salt to three parts sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes then drain and splash with rice vinegar).


    Carve chicken. Make a little bed of rice on your plate. Place chicken on top. Drizzle chicken with a bit of the soy-sesame mixture and scatter green onions over. Lay out chili sauce and quick pickles in communal dishes for guests to serve themselves. Traditionally this is also served with a bowl of the broth as an accompaniment, but that seemed fiddly, so I decided to be greedy and keep all of the remaining broth for…

    The Best Leftovers Ever

    The next day, I had a big pot of leftover broth and a sizable portion of poached chicken meat. And when life hands me soup, I make soup noodles. Super duper easy: 1. Heat chicken meat in the broth. 2. Cook noodles/veggies in boiling water. 3. Feed face. I left out the step where you add copious amounts of chili oil because that’s just implied.

    1 comment:

    1. Hey KT.

      I am suffering in MI cuz I can't find any Chinese food.

      So I used the strange assortment of pots and utensils I found in the cottage I'm staying at and made this tonight. I'm about to sit down and enjoy the feast now.

      Thanks! :)


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