Hainanese Chicken

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If Singaporeans had to choose a national dish the title could easily go to Hainanese Chicken Rice. But it looks like any poached chicken topped over rice?! What makes this dish distinctively Singaporean lies in the flavoring of the rice and its accompanying chili and ginger sauce. Cooked in a delicious chicken broth flavored with ahem chicken fat, stir fried ginger, garlic, shallots and screwpine leaves, the rice alone stands out as a star. I substituted quinoa for rice because it has a lower glycemic index. Quinoa also cooks fast and absorbs the wonderful flavors of the chicken broth just as nicely. I can imagine Singaporeans crying in horror at my suggestion but give it a shot and let me know what you think.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (preferably organic/air-chilled)
  • 2 Tbsp of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp of chinese cooking wine
  • 5 thick slices of ginger
  • 8 stalks of scallions
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, bruised.

Steps:

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  1. Exfoliate chicken with kosher salt to clean skin and remove any gunk from its cavity. Rinse thoroughly.
  2. Rub the chicken cavity with 1 tsp of chinese cooking wine
  3. Stuff chicken cavity with ginger, scallions and lemongrass
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season boiling water with 2 Tbsp of kosher salt. The water must taste salty.
  5. Immerse chicken into pot of boiling water with breast side down. Water temperature will decrease immediately.
  6. Keep flame on high until water re-boils with chicken. Boil for about about 3-5 mins. Flip chicken over to breast side up. Cover the pot with its lid and TURN OFF FLAME.
  7. Let chicken sit in pot for 30 mins.
  8. Remove chicken from the pot and plunge it immediately into an ice bath to halt the cooking process.
  9. Once the chicken has cooled down, remove from ice bath and discard all the ingredients from its cavity.
  10. Pat dry and let it rest.
  11. Debone and slice when ready to serve. Reserve the chicken bones and stock.
  12. Optional – Mix 2 tsp of soy sauce and 1 tsp of sesame oil with 2 Tbsp of chicken stock. Spoon glaze over the sliced chicken and garnish with cilantro.
  13. Serve with Quinoa, Cilantro Ginger Sauce and Chili Sauce

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Cook’s Notes:

I have tried various brands of organic chicken and love Mary’s chicken from Whole Foods. Because it is air-chilled, water is not absorbed and the chicken retains its natural flavor and firmness. I have seen recipes where you bring the chicken to a boil starting with cold water or boil the chicken for 10-20  minutes then bring it down to a simmer. These are all attempts at meeting the key challenge which is, how to thoroughly cook the chicken breast while keeping it super juicy and tender. It is very important to have enough water in the pot to keep the water temperature constant. There must be enough water/heat to swirl around the chicken. This is the cheap Chinese version of “sous-vide” minus all the contraptions. This recipe is very technique driven. Unfortunately you will most likely undercook or overcook the chicken the first time. You will get better as you practice more.

 


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