Friday, September 23, 2011

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese chicken rice is a dish that sounds like it should come from Hainan Island off the south coast of China, but I saw it far more in the week I was in Singapore than I ever did in China.  It's entirely possible that I just wasn't looking while I was in China, but there you have it.  Hainanese chicken rice has always reminded me of White-Cooked Chicken (aka Poached Chicken with Ginger and Scallion Sauce).  But I love White-Cooked Chicken, so that's a good thing.  In my mind there is no other way to cook chicken that leaves it that succulent and moist.  Alex's complaint is that poached chicken doesn't have the flavor of other chicken preparations, but I feel like nothing tastes more purely of chicken than poached chicken.  And if you love chicken the way I love chicken, that is a really good thing.  Granted, I always want poached chicken to be served with some sort of sauce (like a ginger-scallion sauce, or this spicy chili sauce).  As usual, Alex's complaint was that he wished the poached chicken had more flavor.  I thought it was delicious.  And I thought the spicy chili sauce that was served with it was also delicious.  It was spicy, bright and just a little sweet.  The one criticism of Alex's that I will agree with is that the flavors of the chicken are subtle and delicate enough that the sauce obscures the flavor of the poached chicken.  So use the sauce judiciously if you really want to taste the chicken.  But if you're going for spicy goodness, by all means dunk your chicken right in the sauce and go with that.  Either way you will have a wonderful meal.  

But (and I say this because I am trying to save you from repeating our mistakes) do not make the mistake of starting to cook at 7 or 8 pm.  If you do that you won't be eating until 9 or 10 pm because scrubbing the chicken, seasoning the chicken, and then poaching the chicken takes a long time.  It's fairly easy to do, but it does take awhile.  And I didn't read the recipe all the way through so I didn't realize just how long it would take when I proposed it.  I have a bad habit of doing that...  So unless you really do want to eat a late dinner (even by NYC standards), my advice would be to go ahead and get started on this bad boy on the early side.

Recipe after the jump!

Hainanese Chicken Rice
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

For the chicken
1 whole chicken (approximately 3.5 lbs), preferably organic
kosher salt
4-inch section of fresh ginger, in 1/4-inch slices
2 scallions, white and green parts, cut into 1-inch sections
1 tsp sesame oil
For the rice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-inch section of ginger, finely minced
2 cups long-grain uncooked rice, washed and soaked in cool water for 10 minutes or longer
2 cups reserved chicken poaching broth
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
For the chili sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp reserved chicken poaching broth
2 tsp sugar
4 tbsp sriracha chili sauce
4 cloves garlic, grated
1-inch ginger, grated
a generous pinch of salt, to taste
For the table
dark soy sauce
Few sprigs cilantro
1 cucumber, thinly sliced or cut into bite-sized chunks

To clean the chicken, with a small handful of kosher salt, rub the chicken all over, getting rid of any loose skin and dirt. Rinse chicken well, inside and outside. Season generously with salt inside and outside. Stuff the chicken with the ginger slices and the scallions. Place the chicken in a large stockpot and fill with cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat, then immediately turn the heat to low to keep a simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Check for doneness by sticking a chopstick into the flesh under the leg and see if the juices run clear or insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh not touching bone. It should read 170F.

When the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. Immediately lift and transfer the chicken into a bath of ice water to cool and discard the ginger and scallions. Reserve the poaching broth.
Drain the rice. In a sauce pan, heat 2 tbsp of cooking oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the ginger and the garlic and fry until fragrant. Add drained rice and stir to coat, cook for 2 minutes. Add the sesame oil, mix well. Add 2 cups of reserved poaching broth, salt and bring to a boil. Immediately turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit (with lid still on) for 5-10 minutes more.

Stir together chili sauce ingredients in a small mixing bowl until smooth and bright red. Set aside.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the ice bath and rub the outside of the chicken with the sesame oil. Carve the chicken for serving.

Serve chicken topped with cilantro sprigs, rice and cucumber. Serve chili sauce and soy sauce on the side.

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