Poultry

CHICKEN CONFIT GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH

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IF LIKE ME, YOU’RE TURKEY-LESS OR DUCK-LESS, DON’T LET THAT STOP’YA

GRAB YOUR NEAREST LIMBS OF ANY SORTS AND GO TO TOWN!

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Life is going through some dramatic, if not crazy, changes.  And I’m mastering the art of adaptation.  I know I threw a bomb out last post without any proper context, and perhaps have gotten some friends worried.  I thank you all for the comfort, support, and unrelenting kindness that you gave this stranger who talks on the screen.   It is a compassion that I may even lack in comparison, embarrassingly, and such realization has helped pulling myself away from my emotional blackhole in a strange way, shown me perspectives.  If that makes any sense.  Still a bunch of gibberish, I know.

I promise I will explain everything next week.

Meanwhile, holy shit, Thanksgiving was last week?  Where have I been…

Well, this recipe was a whiff of fairy dust springing out of the ashes of post-Thanksgiving conversations.  Being genetically anti-turkey, I was dissing Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches on Instagram when this guy, rightly so, shut me up with these three little words – “turkey legs confit”.  OK, you win, and for the first time in my life, I’ve never felt so empty in my turkey-less habitat.  If you were like me, turkey-less, duck-less, goose-less or any fancy two-legged-less, don’t let it stop’ya.  Grab your nearest limbs of any sorts and go to town!  Chickens, why not!  In fact, any bone-in meats cured in ground bay leaf-salt then melted down slowly inside its own grease, is one of those things that guarantee to not suck .

Keep in mind that recipes of this sort is a vehicle-recipe, meaning it’s more like a tool, and it’s up to you where you want to be taken.  For me, I like to stay pure, especially when it comes to a dish whose glory lies within its singular yet complex, condensed, unadulterated poultry-ness.  Drowning it out with an avalanche of insecurity would mean wasting all those hours to get them to be independently fantastic.  Crisped up real good in some thyme-infused grease, then tossed together with a brightening note of Dijon mustard and white pepper, these chicken-bombs will take nothing more to sing other than some creamy cheese and crispy sourdough breads.  Soaked and pan-fried inside that confit-grease of course I don’t know why you ask.

It’s getting cold.  Keep your lips moistened with that precious grease.  Next week, we talk.

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CHICKEN CONFIT GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH

Yield: approx 6 sandwiches

Ingredients

    CHICKEN CONFIT:
  • 4 whole chicken legs (hopefully from good flavorful chickens)
  • 5 tbsp (71 grams) coarse sea salt
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • enough chicken fat or olive oil to cover
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • SANDWICH:
  • slices of sourdough bread
  • soft/mild cheeses such as brillat savarin, or brie
  • finely diced scallion

Instructions

  1. MAKE CHICKEN CONFIT: Place coarse sea salt and fresh bay leaves in a food-processor, and run util evenly ground together into "green salt". Rub the salt evenly over the chicken legs, with just enough to generously cover the surface, then let cure for 2 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven on 285 F/140 C. Rinse the chicken legs to remove the green salt then pat dry with a clean towel. Place them inside a baking container that will fit the legs snuggly and tightly (the less empty space there is, the less oil you'll need), then fill with enough chicken fat or olive oil to cover the legs. Scatter the garlics around, cover, then place on a sheet-pan and bake for 3:30 hours. Let cool completely inside the fridge. Can be made a few days ahead.
  3. To serve, carefully remove the legs from the oil, then place them skin-side down first in a large non-stick skillet. Heat over medium-high heat and cook until the skin-sides are golden browned, then turn and scatter the fresh thyme inside the skillet to infuse the oil, and slightly brown the meat-sides as well. Transfer the legs into a large plate (keep the oil inside the skillet). Remove all the skins and meats, and discard the bones. Toss the meats with Dijon mustard, ground white pepper, and 1 tbsp of the fat. Set aside.
  4. MAKE SANDWICH: Generously smear both sides of the breads with brillat savarin (or brie), scatter the scallions around, then a good pile of chicken confit. Inside the same skillet, leave enough confit-fat to generously coat both sides of the sandwiches, add the sandwich, and toast over medium-high heat until golden browned and crispy on both sides. Serve immediately.
http://ladyandpups.com/2016/11/30/chicken-confit-grilled-cheese-sandwich/
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SUPPLE SLOW-COOKED SOY SAUCE CHICKEN RICE

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Sometimes ideas arise upon the complete rejection of another.  This recipe is a perfect example of such.

The other day (I say “the other day” a lot, which really means “last year”), I was watching this video on YouTube, a michelin-starred chef explaining how to make his “perfect roast chicken”.  Curious, so I watched, as he demonstrated with a straight face on how he cooks his chicken slowly inside a low-temperature oven for 4 hours, then afterwards, finish browning the skin inside a skillet, and after which, injecting the chicken with melted butter.

I mean, is this guy serious?

I don’t even know where to begin.  First of all, the whole notion that one could crisp up a whole, uncut chicken inside a skillet is basically again the laws of physics.  The extremely curvy and maneuvering silhouette of a chicken is exactly the reason why people resort to a three-dimensional heat source to tackle it in the first place.  Steaks, flat.  Chickens, curvy.  Simple logic.  Is he Doctor Manhattan?  Did his pure geniuses allow him to leap into another dimension of space and time to warp his chicken to the skillet?  Of course not!  That patchy-browned chicken looked like it just suffered from a skin-graft.  But you know what, even if, just because I’m nice, even if one could disobey the laws of physics and pull this whole thing off, why would I spend 4 hours of slow-cooking in the pursuit of supple meats, just so I can over-cook it later while I roll it around a super hot skillet like a total moron?  “Not too long in the skillet.” he said.  Yeah, like you mean just long enough to color the outer patch of the thighs plus to realize that this is complete idiocy?  No injection of butter can help you, my friend.

Can you believe this guy….

But wait a second now…. there there there….

Even though his low-oven chicken method is, in my humble opinion, not the answer for crispy skin roast chickens, it would actually… work perfectly for something else.

I don’t know if you know, but there is a whole other branch of philosophy on cooking chicken where crispy skins are actually not the holy grail.  Instead, it’s the extremely supple, juicy, and almost silky slick texture of the meat that reigns supreme.  And this dish called soy sauce chicken, seen hanging inside the steamy windows of Cantonese restaurants everywhere in the world, is where cooks put their relentless pursuit for such texture to the test.

Traditionally, the chickens are cooked inside a pot filled with a shallow, simmering layer of soy sauce-mixture, turning every so often until the skins take on a deep amber sheen and the meats are cooked to perfection, after which it’s hung to cool down to room temperature in order for the salty skins to tighten and become elastic, and the meats to become “jelled” almost.  Not that this traditional method doesn’t work, but it has its flaws.  First, again, uneven heat source, making it that much more difficult to cook the chicken evenly.  Second, the risk of burning, which requires the cook to stand-by and babysit the chick as it matures safely into perfection.

A low temperature oven, solves both.

The whole chicken encased in its own skin inside a low oven is almost functioning as a sous-vide operation, and on top of which, the coating of that deeply savory and aromatic soy sauce mixture never gets burnt, but instead, gets condensed and caramelized on every inch of the skin as the meats slowly and gently comes of age.  The result, on first trial, is perfectly, and I mean perfectly silky and luscious chicken meats that literally slips down my throat, wth firm and salivatingly salty skins that, in my mind, goes head to head with crispy.

The dish is served with hot steamed rice, a good moistening from the strained sauce, and scallion oil, which is the part that will hear no objection from me.

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CRISPY SKINS ARE NOT THE HOLY GRAIL.

BUT INSTEAD, IT’S THE EXTREMELY SUPPLE, JUICY, AND ALMOST SILKY SLICK TEXTURE OF THE MEATS THAT REIGN SUPREME

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*UPDATED 2017/06/02: Added an internal temperature for the chicken for perfect doneness.

SLOW-COOKED SOY SAUCE CHICKEN RICE

Ingredients

    SOY SAUCE CHICKEN:
  • 1 small-size (1.2 to 1.4 kg/2.5 to 3 lbs) free-range chicken (weight includes the head)
  • 2 (45 grams) scallions, cut into chunks
  • 1" (20 grams) ginger, sliced
  • 2 star anise
  • 1/2 cup (118 grams) soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) shaoxing wine
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) rock sugar, or light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp ground mushroom powder (see note)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • SCALLION OIL:
  • 2 cups (120 grams) finely diced scallions
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup (105 grams) canola oil
  • STEAMED JASMINE RICE TO SERVE

Instructions

  1. TO PREPARE THE CHICKEN: This dish should be done with small-size chickens. Asian chickens tend to come with the neck and head attached. If yours doesn't, then it should weight even less (around 1 kg/2 lbs). In a pot, combine scallion, ginger, star anise, soy sauce, chicken stock, dark soy sauce, shaoxing wine, rock sugar, oyster sauce, mushroom powder, smoked paprika and black pepper. Bring to a simmer to cook for 5 min, then place the pot over ice to cool down to room-temperature.
  2. I marinated the chicken directly inside the pot, but I would recommend doing it in a large zip-lock bag, because it allows more surface area to be submerged in the marinate. So, place the chicken and the soy sauce-mixture inside a large zip-lock bag, and rub until coated evenly. Transfer to the fridge to marinate overnight (recommended), or at least 4 hours. Either way, turn the chicken once in a while, and remove from the fridge 2 hours before cooking.
  3. PREPARE SCALLION OIL: Place diced scallion, grated ginger, salt and ground white pepper in a large bowl. Heat canola oil in a pot over high heat until it just starts to smoke a little, then pour it evenly over the scallion-mixture. It will sizzle enthusiastically. Stir the mixture evenly with a spoon while hot, then let rest for at least 2 hours before using.
  4. TO COOK THE CHICKEN: Preheat the oven on 300 F/150 C. Choose a pot that will fit the chicken neatly without too much empty space. Remove the chicken from the zip-lock bag, then transfer the marinate into the pot. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat, then add the chicken inside. After turning it once or twice to be coated, transfer the pot inside the oven, UNCOVERED. Every 15 min, come back to it and turn the chicken, basting/brushing the sauce evenly over every surface, then return the pot back in the oven. The chicken will be perfectly done with a beautiful sheen after about 55 to 60 min, until the internal temperature around inner thighs reaches 172 F/ 77 C.
  5. KEEP IN MIND that this timing is for a small chicken about 2-plus lbs. I haven't done it with large chickens (and wouldn't want to), but just purely guessing, I would add 20 more minutes to every 1 extra lb, but go by the internal temperature just to be safe. ALSO, when I say "perfectly done", I mean it as really supple meats with a bit of pink inside the bones.
  6. After the chicken's cooked, hang it either by kitchen-twines around its wings or with meat-hooks, then brush the skin thinly with vegetable oil (keeps it shiny and prevents drying). Let it cool down to room-temperature. Strain the sauce, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as you can, then discard the solids. Add 2~3 tbsp of chicken stock to the sauce to thin out the saltiness, set aside.
  7. To serve, cut the chicken in small pieces and place over steamed jasmine rice. Ladle everything with the sauce and a good dollop of scallion oil. Sprinkle with ground white pepper.

Notes

The chicken is served at room-temperature over hot rice.

To make mushroom powder, simply grind dried shitake mushrooms in spice-grinder until finely ground.

http://ladyandpups.com/2016/09/20/supple-slow-cooked-soy-sauce-chicken-rice/
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CHICKEN SATE W/ “DIRTY” PEANUT SAUCE

WHY NOW?  WHY THEN?  NO REASON.  IT WAS JUST A SWITCH TURNED ON,

LIKE THE DAY WHEN A GIRL STARTS TO LIKE A BOY.

Craving, is a strange thing.

It’s been 8 years since the first and last time I visited the island of Bali, and not in the almost 3 decades before nor the years after, had I given this thing called sate (or satay) even the slightest attention.  Weird, given that I have, since then, graced through the feeding grounds of Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong, trapped in the seduction of rice noodles folding under that intoxicating broths, infatuated with fish heads bubbling inside the sinisterly red gravy, undistracted from the fetish pursuit of just how transcendently sexy it could be, inside the supple thighs of a chicken gently poached in herbed stock and served over rice.  Might I even add that when it comes to meats-on-a-stick, I did plenty damage around the globe.

But sate?  Yeah sure I saw it somewhere here and there.  But what, why and how, honestly, I couldn’t care less.

Perhaps I’ve always suspected them to be dry, a reasonable doubt given the skimpy amount of meats having to fully char over charcoal.  Or that they, out of the mere once or twice close encounters, appeared to have been on the sweeter side of seasoning, a repellant for a set of taste buds that can’t appreciate dinner oozing into the dessert category.  Either way, it’s just never been my thing.

But then, out of nowhere, in the least likely form of seduction, it caught my attention on a Thursday night TV program playing on repeat.

As far as the AFC program goes, I can’t gush much about it, just an Asian traveling show featuring an assortment of sate in Indonesia.  In terms of writing, not even a great one.  As I said, an unlikely seduction.  But before I even understood what I was feeling, first, curiosity blossomed.  Why now?  Why then?  No reason.  It was just a switch turned on, like the day when a girl starts to like a boy.  What is sate?  What have I missed?  The eye-smearing smokes coiling above glowing charcoals started to intoxicate.  The snippets of meats clothed in pastes, fanned out and flapping above the fire started to portray, not dry, but tightened strips of meats condensing in flavours.  The oily and sticky dipping sauce… the squishy bread in mopping duty… the bitten pickles that sharpened my imagination…   all of a sudden, aligned.

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GENERAL TSAO’S CHICKEN WINGS

This is a seriously, seriously great General Tsao’s recipe.  I was never a General Tsao’s fan but this, this I can really down a bucket.

The recipe is roughly based on The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook, which I have, as I always do, rendered almost unrecognizable.  Besides sugar and ketchup, almost none of the original ingredients has remained intact (see note at the end of the recipe) but something tells me that it can stand proudly on its own.  The chicken wings are impossibly crispy, and more importantly, stay crispy even if they are hopelessly coated with this fruity, tangy, sweet and spicy sauce under that rich and deep rouge color with an almost jewel-like gloss.  Really, this sauce, a reduction of pomegranate and cranberry juice with a layering of vinegars, chili paste and garlic .  I don’t even care if you did it justice by frying your own batch of crunchy jacket-ed wings.  I mean drench your McNuggets in it for all I care and I guarantee you that you’ll still want to bottle your own.

I don’t have much else to add, especially about the mystical emergence of General Tsao’s chicken in virtually every Chinese restaurant in the US (I mean Netflix has a documentary on it for crying out loud).  When things are looking good, just shut up and wing it.

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SEOUL, AND CHICKEN GALBI RAMEN

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THANK YOU, SEOUL, FOR CARRYING THIS LIMP SPIRIT THROUGH ITS STREETS, FEEDING HER WITH NOURISHMENT, GIVING HER SUNLIGHTS.

So, 7 days went fast.  And we’re back.

This past week, instead of a “vacation”, was really closer to being on a emotional exile.  After two years of relentless, losing battles against too much realities, I just wanted, no, needed to be casted away, to somewhere unfamiliar, string-less… without memories, where I don’t have to… function.  Where I could just drift.  If only for a little bit.  So in a sense, it isn’t really fair, to the city that happened to be used as my emotional rebound.  Seoul.

We spent two days in Seoul following Hong Kong (which was more like a business trip for Jason).  It was, without saying, not nearly enough time to properly court a great city so rich and immersed in its cultures and cuisines, let alone in a state of mind that was… exhausted at best.  Normally, I attack my travels with mannerless enthusiasm, seeking if not prying for all it has to give whether or not it’s being offered.  But this time, I wasn’t really thinking about that, about work, the duty of a blogger, about the game.  I was wondering without thoughts.  If I saw something, I ate.  If I felt something, I took a photo.  At best, the memory was documented in loose fragments, then slowly pieced back together as I uploaded my mindlessness into digital form, computed at last .  So I’m not even going to pretend that I was capable of any profound insights, opinions, or even recommendations for Seoul.  I would not insult it like that.  Instead, this is a mirage of its potentials, not fully explored, but it lays the promise of future reunion.

But above all else, I should probably say thank you, to Seoul.  For carrying this limp spirit through its streets, even if only for a couple days, feeding her with nourishment, giving her sunlights, though at times, she stared blankly into space.  For that, I will always be grateful.

Oh and by the way, this chicken galbi thing it’s got?  Basically boneless thighs marinated in gushing garlicky red, then caramelised inside a hot skillet then tossed with carbs and hot cheese.  Sick.  Just sick.  Just something, I guess, to miss Seoul by.

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MAMA’S BRAISED CHICKEN LEGS ON RICE W/ FRIED CHILI CAPERS

IT IS, DILEMMA.

FORTUNATELY, ONE THAT COULD BE TACKLED WITH A BIT OF REVERSE-ENGINEERING.

We don’t, most times for good reasons, screw with heirloom recipes.  Recipes that are passed down for generations.  Recipes that our grandmother learnt from her grandmother, so on and so forth, are generally deemed as the sum of all collected wisdoms in a pot, sacred, untouchable.  Recipes that should and will be followed, obeyed even, without any desecrating thought of adding an extra tbsp of mustard here or a dash of unholy spices there, otherwise somewhere inside the dusty family album, grandma’s tearing up.  Because this is how it has always been done, as far as recipes go, is an unarguable instruction.

But should they be?  My family, for one, doesn’t have an “heirloom recipe”.  Not really.  My mom is a fantastic cook, which probably isn’t a credit to both of my grandparents whom, from what I’ve heard, were either too short-lived or too much of a diva to teach her anything in the kitchen.  And as far as paying-it-forward goes, she never writes anything down.  So all in all, a single generation and one big approximation, I think, is probably not an heirloom recipe makes.  But, if I were to pass down anything from my mother’s repertoire of ambiguous recipes, if there’s anything that resonates my memory of cooking and eating together as a family, it is this.  My mom’s braised chicken legs over rice.

I don’t quite remember when she started cooking this dish, but by estimation, somewhere right after we moved to Vancouver from Taiwan.  This tastes and smells like coming home after school.  And as a notoriously picky eater back then, this evoked my first acknowledgment of hunger.  In my wishfully sentimental heart and eagerness for an “heirloom”, I would pick this recipe out of it all, to be passed to people by whom I would like to be remembered.  You.  But coming back to what I was saying, I don’t regard heirloom recipe with absolution.  If anything, and I’m sure as in most cases, it is a progression.  If I were to pass this recipe on, looking back, I wouldn’t do it exactly the way she did it.

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NASHED-UP HOT CHICKEN CUTLET SANDWICH

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HOT DICKS SO BIG

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Today is the 4th day, the longest duration since 2002, the year I moved to New York, that I’ve ever gone without ingesting a drop of coffee.  Not a drop.

Because on September 6th 2015, an otherwise wonderfully uneventful morning, my coffee-stash abruptly ran out on me without a warning as if it was premeditated, leaving me in a cold-turkey caffeine withdrawal that I’m frankly too sleepy to wrestle.  Right of course, I don’t live in a no-man’s land.  There’s a convenience store downstair just 3 minutes of walking from where my ass sits, ready to supply me lacking but coffee-like substances that will ease the cold sweats and wobbling mind.  But more to my own surprise than anything else, I didn’t go.  In the passing 96 hours of brain-paralysis, waiting for my online coffee shipment which hasn’t came yet, I just stayed inside my bunker chewing and spitting out green tea-leaves, mainly trying to open my eyes without much success.  Shit, I can’t even open them now.  Did you know you can type with your eyes closed?  Uh Whast was thsr?

This episode told me something about myself.  You know I would never sell my sloth short of its worth, God bless its noble soul, but apparently I have underestimated it all this time.  Apparently, I’m even lazier than the human instinct to stay lucid.  Su[er HumN, RElly.

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TURMERIC BUTTER CHICKEN RICE

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WHEN YOU RELEASE THE CHICKEN-BAG WITH A SCISSOR OVER THE BED OF COCONUT RICE, ALMOST LIKE GOD-SENT, A STREAM OF PROMISED GOLDEN LIQUID WILL PERCOLATE FREELY INTO EVERY THIRSTY GRAIN OF HAPPINESS THAT YOU’LL ALMOST HEAR THEM PURR.

Hey, I own a shit load of cookbooks, I do.  And I’m not saying it isn’t a problem.  Especially when it’s become a very common first remark that people make when they visit our apartment, noticing from the ungoverned stacks that seem to occupy every flat surfaces of every able furnitures, evidently overrunning our shelving-space that is already working its double-layer capacity.  And my worst fear is that before long, Jason has to kindly ask Thomas Keller to scooch over before he can “relieve” himself, if you see what I mean.  So yeah, there is an issue there.  But you know, I guess it could be reasonably understood.  I mean, for someone like me and for what I sort of do, I guess, it makes sense.  What doesn’t make sense, at all, is that for someone who owns this many cookbooks, I have almost never cooked a recipe from any one of them.  And I mean never, except maybe once but not really, ok?  Because I can’t follow instructions.  Period.  Now this is really bizarre.  For one, I create recipes and expect people to follow them explicitly all the time.  But if you didn’t, don’t fret it, because guess what?  Ha!  I can’t follow a recipe for a damn either!  It’s really more of a severe birth-defect than anything else, like the other day when I absolutely made up my mind that for the first time ever in my cooking life, even if it kills me, I was going to execute a recipe like how the creator had intended, and yet, I still derailed.

The particular recipe that I owe my grave apology to, is the turmeric-rubbed chicken from Eat With Your Hands Cookbook.  Now I have to give myself some credit here.  At first try, I really did manage to change ONLY HALF of the recipe!  Instead of roasting the turmeric-rubbed chicken over lemongrass and coconut milk, I decided it was in both of our best interest to do it over a bed of lemongrass and coconut rice.  The urge of putting a “sponge” underneath a grease-dripping hot body overruled my determination to obey, so I’m sorry for that.  But for the other half of the recipe, including rubbing the chicken with turmeric butter and letting it sit for 24hours, I followed painstakingly.  But the thing is, have you ever tried rubbing butter over the skin of a chicken?  Try sticking a piece of lard on a teflon surface to get a feel of it.  It’s practically impossible!  They just don’t bond!  And even though the butter is sufficiently seasoned, the “emulsion” prevents the seasoning from seeping into the chicken, even after the whole 24 hours of it.  So at the second try, it became inevitable, that in spite of my best effort, I had to sabotage the recipe completely.

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