Sunday, November 7, 2010

Poached Chicken with Ginger and Scallion Sauce

Growing up I ate a lot of Cantonese food - some that my mother or grandmother made, and then some that they purchased at various restaurants.  I loved eating things like roast suckling pig, drunken chicken, wonton noodle soup, and dim sum.  Well, I still love eating those things.  Any sort of roast meat of the sort that you can find hanging in the window in Chinatown brings me back to my childhood, as does this dish, which you often find called "White-cooked Chicken," which describes the cooking method just as much as it describes the dish itself.  It's one of those dishes, like my mom's Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup, that I find incredibly comforting.  Alex was worried that it would be bland because basically all you're doing is poaching a chicken in water (most recipes call for whole chickens, but since we just eat the breasts anyways we poached a whole skin-on, bone-in chicken breast) and then topping it with a sauce made of peanut oil, ginger, scallions, soy sauce and shaoxing cooking wine.  I get why he would be worried.  Poached chicken does sound terribly bland. 

All in all I really liked this chicken, but I might be biased due to nostalgia.  Then again, Alex (who was initially skeptical) liked it too.  There are a few things that I think could have been executed a little better with our recipe.  First, the ginger just didn't seem to cook all the way through in the sauce.  I might recommend mincing the ginger, or shredding it, rather than grating it in the future.  The grated ginger was a little too wet to really fry up in the oil.  Also, I might add the ginger first and then the scallions in the sauce to give the ginger a little extra time in the pan.  As for the chicken itself, while I don't think it's absolutely necessary, I think in the future I might try Kylie Kwong's recipe for White-Cooked Chicken, which calls for a flavored stock in which you poach the chicken.  The chicken itself is supposed to be delicately flavored, deriving most (if not all of the flavor) from the scallion and ginger sauce.  But it wouldn't hurt to have a slightly more flavorful base to begin with.  Generally you serve this chicken over steamed white rice, but Alex really wanted to serve it over noodles and of the varieties of noodles that we had in the apartment, the rice vermicelli seemed like the best option (although in the future I think I will insist upon actual rice because I think it soaks up the sauce better). 

Recipe after the jump!

Poached Chicken with Ginger and Scallion Sauce

1 large whole bone-in, skin-on chicken breast
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
2 tbsp sesame oil
6 tbsp peanut, vegetable, or corn oil
1/4 cup fresh ginger, finely grated (as I said above, I would finely shred the ginger, rather than grating it in the future)
3 scallions, green part included, trimmed and cut into fine strips, 4 inches long
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp shaoxing wine

Place the chicken in a large pot filled with enough water to just cover the chicken. Add 2-inch piece of ginger. Bring to a boil and simmer about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the chicken stand in the cooking liquid until just warm. Drain, reserving the broth to cook the noodles (or rice). Rinse the chicken under cold water, pat dry, and rub lightly with sesame oil.

Cut the chicken breasts off the bone and then slice into pieces. Set aside.

Cook noodles or rice with the reserved broth, according to package instructions. Plate noodles or rice in individual plates or bowls. Top with chicken.

Heat the peanut oil in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Add ginger and scallions to hot oil. Cook until fragrant and ginger starts to turn golden around the edges, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Using a slotted spoon, remove ginger and scallions and scatter over the chicken, leaving the oil in the pan. Add the remain ingredients to the oil, bring to a boil and pour over the chicken. 

Serve immediately.

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