Sunday, December 8, 2013

Uncle Lang's Three Tea-Cup Chicken

For a long time I had a strict no dark (poultry) meat policy.  Considering how much I love duck it made absolutely no sense.  Clearly I don't a problem with greasier, moister meat.  I just don't like dark meat chicken or turkey.  It's both a textural and a flavor issue for me.  I know it doesn't really make sense, but I just can't help it.  In the past few years I have discovered that I do like dark meat in a few limited applications.  When I order Indian or Chinese chicken dishes I try to plan my orders around those dishes that will involve chicken breasts, rather than chicken thighs or legs.  When I order fried chicken, I eat the breast and then give Alex the legs, thighs or drumsticks.  The Perfect Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs and Mario Batali's Leo Maya's Chicken with Green Sauce are among the only recipes we have made at home using dark meat chicken that I have enjoyed.  There are a few Asian stir-fries where I haven't minded the use of chicken thighs, but left to my own devices I would use chicken breasts and deal with the potential dryness if necessary.

So I guess it's not too surprising that I didn't love this dish.  Don't get me wrong - it was fine.  And the sauce was actually quite flavorful.  I was pretty happy with the sauce and would definitely use it to braise things in the future.  But the sauce didn't really penetrate the chicken legs.  If it had, the dish would have been immeasurably better.  Once you got past the surface layer it was just... dark meat chicken.  And maybe if you actually like the flavor of dark meat chicken that's not such a bad thing.  But I don't...  Like I said, it's no surprise that I didn't love it.

Recipe after the jump!

Uncle Lang's Three Tea-Cup Chicken
Available at Serious Eats

3 whole star anise
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 chicken legs, skin on
3 medium garlic cloves, smashed
6 slices fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, lightly toasted and ground
1/2 cup chicken stock

Whisk together star anise, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and rice wine in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

Place a large wok over high heat. When it starts to smoke, pour in oil. Swirl oil around, and then add chicken legs skin side down. Adjust heat to medium-high and cook undisturbed until they are browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the chicken legs, and add garlic and ginger. Continue cooking until the other side is browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add Sichuan peppercorns, soy sauce mixture, and chicken stock. Toss chicken pieces with sauce. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Then cover the work, reduce heat to low, and cook until juices run clear in the legs, about 10-12 minutes. Remove legs and set aside on a plate.

Turn heat to medium-high, and reduce sauce until it lightly coats the back of a spoon, stirring often. Serve chicken legs with sauce. Pair with white rice or broccoli.

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