TENDER EDIBLE CLOUDS MADE WITH CHICKEN BREASTS?!! WHAT IS THIS WIZARDRY, DANNY?!
Holy shit, did you watch Season Six of Mind of a Chef with Danny Bowien from Mission Chinese Food?
Did you see where his mentor Yu Bo, in episode two, turned a puddle of pink chicken-slush into pillows of fluffy-looking curds, something they call, chicken tofu?!
Did you gush outloud, tender edible clouds made with chicken breasts?!! No special curd-forming acid or salt required, virtually fat-free, and answers the prayers of millions of suffering souls of how to triple the volume of two pieces of chicken breasts without adding much more calories, but more importantly, transforming its woodsy nature into custardy, melt-in-your-mouth, weightless pillows of savory delights?!!!
Did you close your eyes and imagine exhaustively of what it’s like to cuddle the impossibly light and quilted bodies in between your tongues, a dream that feels unreal but known to be true?!!
Did you marvel?!
Did you cry?!
Did you say oh please baby Jesus dear Lordy, can someone please tell me how this wizardry is performed?!!
Well, guess what, you’re welcome.
And the spicy version drenched in chili oil, you’re double welcome.
- 2 pieces (350~400 grams) chicken breasts, cut into small chunks
- 2 egg whites
- 2 cups (500 ml) store-bought or homemade chicken stock, plus 1/4 cup to adjust
- 1/4 cup +2 tbsp (60 grams) potato starch or cornstarch
- pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 cups (1000 ml) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
- 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
- salt to season
- egg yolks, optional
- schmaltz/chicken fat for drizzling, melted
- toasted sesame oil for drizzling
- finely chopped herbs like scallions
- freshly grated nutmeg and white pepper
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp light brown sugar
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 grated cloves of garlic
- xi'an chili oil
- finely chopped scallions
- ground white pepper
- MAKE CHICKEN TOFU: In a blender, combine chicken breasts, egg whites, 2 cups of store-bought or homemade chicken stock (see note), potato starch and grated nutmeg. If your stock is already salty, then there's no need to further season, but if it's unsalted, season with salt. Blend the mixture until it's completely smooth and resembles the texture of thick creamed soup. It should be loose enough to run smoothly in the blender. If it appears too thick, add more chicken stock to adjust. I know it sounds crazy so far but just carry on with the steps.
- Strain the chicken-puree through a fine sieve into another pot. Fill the sieve just half-full, then tap it firmly against the side of the pot so the thick mixture gets filtered through. After all the liquid has gone through, you'll see white, stringy impurities being left in the sieve. Invert the sieve and rinse it under forceful water to clean it, then repeat until you've filtered all the chicken-puree. I promise that this is the only annoying part.
- In another large pot, bring 4 cups of chicken stock and 1/8 tsp of white pepper to a medium boil. Again, if the stock is unsalted, season with salt. Slowly pour 1 cup of the hot stock into the chicken-puree, whisking constantly, until evenly incorporated (this step is kind of like tempering eggs). Then with remaining 3 cups of chicken stock still boiling, pour the chicken-puree right into the the center of it. When you pour, make sure you hold the chicken-puree about 1 feet above the stock and pour it all in a single, quick and continuous motion. We want enough force from the downpour for the two mixture to mix evenly without the need for furthering stirring. Now turn the heat down to low and cover with lid. Periodically come back to make sure the bottom isn't burning (but do it without overly breaking up the curds), and cook for 25 minutes until the curds are fully cooked and solidified. It will looks like fresh curds bubbling in clear consomme.
- TO SERVE IT PLAIN STYLE: Plain is the traditional way that this dish is served. Ladle the curds into a small bowl along with some consomme. Drizzle with melted schmaltz/chicken fat (if you're rendering your own schmaltz from chicken fat or skins, add the crispy cracklings as well), a little bit of toasted sesame oil, finely chopped scallions, a dusting of grated nutmegs and white pepper. Add an egg yolk on top for richness, but it's equally delicious with or without.
- TO SERVE IT SPICY STYLE: Whisk together soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, light brown sugar, toasted sesame oil and grated garlics until the sugar has completely melted. With a slotted spoon, ladle the chicken curds/tofu into a bowl, then season with the soy sauce-mixture and a generous dousing of xi'an chili oil. Top with chopped scallions and grated white pepper.
The stock is quite literally the essence of the dish, so please use the highest-quality ones you got, even if it's store-bought.