Friday, February 4, 2011

Chinese New Year Meal #4 - Liuyang Black Bean Chicken and Smacked Cucumbers

Get excited!  It's time for Chinese New Year Meal #4!  Low and behold, it's another Fuchsia Dunlop recipe.  We are mildly obsessed, can you tell?  We just have so many of her recipes that we have been wanting and/or dying to try that it seemed a little silly to try to track down other recipes if we're going to be cooking 7 Asian (I think at this point I am committed to making 7 Chinese recipes) this month.  And all of her recipes are just so good that we can't resist.  I mean, we could resist if we had to, but that would just be silly.  

This meal was another winner.  The Liuyang Black Bean Chicken is packed full of deep, hearty flavors - a combination of the black beans, ginger, garlic, with a touch of heat.  And it's really easy to cook.  I mean, you have to reconcile yourself to "deep frying" the chicken chunks in peanut oil.  It's a traditional Chinese cooking method of "passing through" in which you briefly deep fry the protein you're using, then remove most of the oil, and stir-fry everything together to finish the cooking process.  I know it sounds labor intensive and intimidating, but I promise that it's really simple to do.  The chicken is tender, just cooked through, and delicious.  And then there are the cucumbers.  They are the perfect counterpoint to the heavier flavors of the chicken.  They are almost unbearably fresh and I mean that in the most delicious way possible.  The flavors there are very light and subtle - a little heat from the chili, a touch of acidity from the rice vinegar, and a hint of garlic.

Recipes after the jump!

Liuyang Black Bean Chicken
Adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province
By Fuchsia Dunlop

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp light soy sauce
8-10 garlic cloves, peeled and any large cloves cut in half
2 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices
4 scallions, green parts only, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
4 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed
1 tbsp clear rice wine or Shaoxing wine
2-3 tsp dried chili flakes
2 tsp clear rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 cup peanut oil for shallow frying

Cut chicken into bite-size chunks.  Put chunks in a bowl, add 1/4 tsp salt and soy sauce.  Mix well.  Set aside.

Heat oil over high heat until it reaches 350-400 degrees F.  Add chicken in batches and stir-fry until it changes color.  Remove from wok with slotted spoon and set aside.  Allow oil to return to temperature.  Repeat with remaining chicken.  Allow oil to return to temperature, return chicken and fry again until golden.  Remove and set aside.

Drain off all but 3 tbsp oil from wok and return to medium heat.  Add ginger and garlic.  Stir-fry until aromatics are fragrant and garlic cloves are tender, about 1-2 minutes.  Add black beans and stir-fry until fragrant.  Splash in rice wine.  Add chili flakes and stir-fry until the oil begins to turn red, about 20 seconds.  Return chicken to the wok and toss with oil.  Add vinegar and salt to taste.  Stir-fry to combine.  Add scallions and toss.

Remove from heat, add sesame oil and serve.

Smacked Cucumbers
Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province
By Fuchsia Dunlop

1 English cucumber (about 13 oz)
Version 1:
2 tsp chopped salted chilis
2 tsp garlic, very finely chopped
3 tbsp clear rice vinegar
a couple pinches sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
chili oil
Version 2 (we made this version):
2 tsp garlic, very finely chopped
2 tbsp clear rice vinegar
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp dried chili flakes

Place cucumber on a chopping board and whack hard, several times, with the flat of a cleaver blade, so he vegetable splinters and opens up with jagged cracks.  Chop into bite size pieces.  Place in a bowl, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt, and leave for about 30 minutes.  Drain off water in the water in the bowl.

To make Version 1, add chopped salted chilis, garlic, vinegar, suar and salt to taste.  Mix well and leave for a few minutes to let the flavors blend.  Just before serving, add sesame oil and chili oil to taste, toss, and serve.

To make Version 2, add the garlic and vinegar with more salt to taste.  Mix well and leave for a few minutes to let the flavors blend. Heat oil in a wok over high heat until smoking.  Scatter chili flakes over the cucumber, then sprinkle the hot oil over, which will sizzle.  Mix well before serving.

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