This past week has been very foggy with no sun in sight for at least 3 days in a row where visibility hovered around 50 ft to 1/4 mile. I thought I was in a Stephen King movie! On top of that, we received an Artic blast with freezing temperatures plus the fog.
Imagine my surprise when I looked at my Wisteria. The fog and cold air created mini-icicle thorns!
Chinese New Years is approximately a 2 week celebration filled with symbolic foods and family gatherings.
One such foods is chicken, which represents joy. I'd be joyful too with a bucket of fried chicken! However, no fried chicken tonight, in fact the opposite. The chicken is poached.
We called it "dem gai" which means "soaked chicken". I hope that's the meaning. My Cantonese comprehension is probably at the first grade level. Actually, I think it's below the first grade level. lol. Another name is "white cut chicken".
The resulting chicken should be very velvety, juicy and tender. This is a result of the long soaking.
Here's the recipe I used for tonight. Due to my time constraints, I ended up poaching the chicken.
White Cut Chicken
1 Chicken, 5 lbs
6 quarts Water
2 Green Onions,, coarsely cut
1 Clove Garlic, smashed
3 slices Ginger, about the size of a quarter
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1. Add the green onions, garlic, ginger to the water and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. [Traditionally, my parents would just use salt since the broth would be added to other dishes where the garlic and ginger would clash with the flavors.]
2. Wash and dry the chicken. Rub the salt on the skin and sprinkle into the cavity.
3. Add the chicken to the water... Breast side up. My reasoning is the breast will cook faster than the dark meat. [I don't know if my parents really had this as a rule, but it makes sense to me.]
4. The chicken is added to that pot and the heat is increased until the water barely simmers. [I added the thermometer just to see the temp... About 185F to 190F]
5. Poach for about 45 minutes with the water at 185F. [The traditional recipe is to actually bring back to a boil, lower the heat to simmer for 15 minutes... with the final step of turning off the heat and allow the chicken to soak in the hot liquid for about 1 hour.]
1/ Oyster sauce is used as a dipping sauce.
2/ I remember during the New Year banquets there was a little dish of seasoned salt... which I think was ground Sichuan peppercorns mixed with salt.
Sichuan Peppercorn Salt
1 t Sichuan Peppercorns, roasted in a pan until fragrant.
1 T Salt
Blend in a coffee grinder.
Sichuan Peppercorns. The actual flavor comes from the outer coating of the berry.
If you have the patience, pick out the black seeds from the peppercorn.
3/ Another condiment is a garlic-ginger-scallion mixture that's mashed with salt and hot oil. This is similar to a gremolata.
1 tsp Ginger, coarsely chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 Green Onions, finely cut
1/2 tsp Salt, kosher
1T Oil... I used canola.
The garlic, ginger, green onion and salt mixture.
No mortar and pestle... Use the end of the cleaver!
Heat the oil until it ripples... Pour the hot oil into the mash mixture. I added the mixture to the pan to slightly cook, in order to tone down the raw flavors in the mixture.
The finished chicken!
Since the chicken was poached, there was no browning... Hence the name, "White cut chicken."
Legs, thigh and wings are removed to allow the breast to be cut into smaller portions.
The chicken is now ready to eat. The condiments from left to right... Oyster sauce, Sichuan Peppercorn dipping salt and the garlic-scallion-ginger mixture.
I could tell the by the chicken breast that I could have pulled the chicken out a little earlier or turn off the heat at 30 minutes and just let the ambient heat finish the cooking.
Overall, the chicken was moist, but not as velvety as I had hoped... still good though. :-)