chicken Tag

How to make perfectly butterflied and crispy skillet chicken

While I try to concentrate on cookbook post-editing…

Let’s talk simple geometry here.

A bird is a three-dimensional object.  The surface of a skillet is a two-dimensional plane.

How do we warp a three-dimensional object for it to make perfectly parallel contact with a two-dimensional plane, in the explicit interest of a chicken, creating that impeccably even, blistered and crispy skin?  Aside from the fact that it’s super fun, of course (it is).

Here’s how.

Plus a five-minutes pan sauce too delicious for its simplicity.

Ate this two days in a row and counting.

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KHAO SOI NEUA/BEEF

KHAO SOI HAPPENS TO HAVE THE RIGHT BALANCE OF BOTH EXOTICISM AND SAFETY IN THE EYE OF A CAUTIOUSLY CURIOUS BACKPACKER.

Scad has been said about khao soi on the internet — some well-informed and some, not so much — so I think I will not bother.  It’s possibly the most famous dish from Northern Thailand, a somehow debatable status in my view.  Being back from a quick trip in Chiangmai Thailand, the capital of khao soi, I’m attempted to assume that its popularity among foreigners is contributed to its relatively benign characteristics if compared to the other more “adventurous” yet far more stunning dishes the region has to offer.  Khao soi, being chicken or beef in coconut curry with egg noodles, happens to have the right balance of both exoticism and safety in the eye of a cautiously curious backpacker.  It certainly isn’t, by far, the best thing we’ve tasted on this trip.  But I’ve always wanted to formulate a khao soi recipe after I’ve actually tried it at its source, so here it is.

Pushing it further on its muslim Chinese origin, I’m replacing dried chilis with Sichuan douban chili paste for a more complexed flavor, as well as inviting the mild tinge of numbness and floral quality from Sichuan peppercorns.  Another trick is to dial down on the amount of coconut milk in the broth itself so it can be reintroduced again right before serving, increasing depth and layers of flavors as how it is done in some of the better khao soi restaurants we’ve encountered.  In a bit of a disagreement with the blunt, under-processed pickled mustard greens that are often mindlessly chopped and scattered in the noodle as a failing contrasting agent, I’m replacing it with pan-fried pickled caperberries that provides sharp pops of sourness and complexity.  Then last but not least, a reminder of Sichuan peppercorns in the topical chili paste to bring it all together.

Enjoy.

 

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THE INCREDIBLE CHICKEN TOFU – FROM THE MIND OF A CHEF

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.

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WORLD PEACE CURRY, AND HAPPENS TO BE GLORIOUSLY DELICIOUS

SOUTHEAST ASIAN AROMATICS, KOREAN CHILI PASTE, INDIAN SPICES, GREEK YOGURT, ITALIAN SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, CHINESE ANISES, AND IN THE END, A LITTLE PUSH OF ALL AMERICAN CHEESE.  AN OTHER-WORLDLY CURRY THAT TASTES LIKE THE PINNACLE OF HUMANITY

I’d like to introduce you to world peace curry.  

Why?  Because curries are better than humans.  Curries know how to coexist in unity.  Even though at a glance it feels like an impossibility, a chaos without logics, a discord of competing self-interests and cultural clashes, but curries always find a way to be the most delicious repeal of our disbelief.    Don’t believe me?  I put it to the test.  An unlikely coalition of southeast Asian aromatics, Korean chili paste, Indian spices, Greek yogurt, Italian sun-dried tomatoes, Chinese anise seeds, and in the end, an intrusion of American cheese?!   It should end in war but instead, it rejoices slowly and bubblingly in a lusciously rich, creamy, intensely aromatic, complex yet beautifully balanced alliance of flavors, savoriness and tang.  It tastes like the pinnacle of humanity, our best hope for world peace even against our cynical judgements.  And also, perhaps most importantly, the best you’ll ever put in your mouth.

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BUFFALO WINGS SOUP DUMPLING W/ SKIN CRACKLING

YOU’RE TRYING TO TELL ME THAT YOU DON’T WANT THIS?

You’re probably looking at this and asking yourself three questions.

A).  Isn’t dim sum month over?

B).  Why do we need a soup dumpling that tastes just like buffalo wings?

C).  Are we making soup dumplings at home now?  Is that what it’s come to?

Look, all very legit questions, deserving very responsible and adult-like responses.  But I’m afraid that in the absence of an adult in this room, I will have to assume the task of answering them myself.  In my best effort to be thorough to Question A), I guess, I lied.  OK, next question.

Why do we need a soup dumpling that tastes like buffalo wings?  Okay, who’s being the baby now?  Grow up.  Adulthood is not about needing things.  It’s all about wanting things.  And you’re trying to tell me that you don’t want a delicate pouch of dumpling filled with melty minced chicken and a sudden explosion of red-hot and tangy stream of sticky juice and spicy, garlicky butter?  Where everything is so carefully contained within a subtly yeasty wrapper so thin that one could almost see through its sinister intent, resting on top of a shard of chicken skin cracker that shatters into intense poultry-ness, only to be cooled down by a dollop of sour cream twinkling with crumbled blue cheese?  All is one.  One is all.  Spicy, tangy, juicy, fatty, crispy, creamy, delicate, intense… all in an ecstatic dance of all the best stimulating senses.  You don’t want that?  I think you need that.  OK, next question.

Are we making soup dumplings at home now?  Yes we are.

Because?  See answer to Question B.  Plus, it’s easier than you think.

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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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