Monday, August 6, 2012

Poached Chicken with Three Sauces: Friends show up when you need them most

To SH - my hero in my time of need

You know the saying that friends are the ones that are with you when times are hard?

I experienced this, this past weekend when I was under the weather.  The symptoms, to my confusion, were very much like those I had when I was pregnant, only I was sure I was not.  But the overall malaise, inability to feel like my normal self, and the strong desire to lay down and stay down for hours on end were very debilitating to my ability to mother my children.  Add the fact that Husband was out of town for work and it meant that it was me and me alone to care for three rather nice Children.

But cooking was the last thing on my mind.  And there were many commitments to push through which I did, by barely eating and drinking little.  I slept when I could and lay down when I could.  And finally on Sunday, although I was feeling a bit better, I was in no mood to do anything but stand.  Cook?  HA.  I figured out a meal that would require minimal cooking (rice porridge made with frozen rice in the fridge, bacon, and some sliced cucumbers) and sat there feeling proud of my ability to think of throw something together despite my complete desire to just tell the kids to starve.

But, like a spark in the night, I got a text. "Are you home?  I'm bringing you food."

"Yes.  I'm home.  But you don't need to."

"I'm bringing you food.  Make rice if you don't have any.  Be there in a minute."

My friend and neighbor SH brought me a complete meal.  Poached chicken, three sauces (with a special one of ginger made just for me because she knows I like it) and some vegetables.  And Children attacked that meal like there was no tomorrow.

"Mommy?  Is there more chicken?  Why does this chicken taste so good?"

"Mommy, why is Auntie S a better cook than you are?"

"Mommy, can Auntie S make this chicken for me tomorrow?"

I was too grateful to care that Children had decided that someone else's cooking far exceeded my own.  After all, it had been a long while since I'd seen Children gobble up food that quickly.

I texted friend SH lots of thanks and then asked if she would teach me her chicken method.  She readily agreed and I get to post it.  YIPPEE!!

The most lovely thing about this chicken is that the great bulk of the time is cooked without your help.  The chicken is allowed to sit in hot water, on a stove that is OFF, until it is poached to perfection, which according to my friend is a Chinese method.  We talked about the merits of cooking it this way, one of them being the ability to make it ahead and the other being that it is energy effective.  Once the heat is set, you just allow hot water to do most of the work, which is really very smart.  The method may seem a bit finicky at first as there are two separate water boil markers, as well as a time when you have to lift the chicken out of the water to drain lukewarm water out of cavities, only to fill them up again with hot water.  But give it a try, because once mastered, you can have poached chicken without barely thinking about it.

The result is a super moist and succulent poached chicken. It is not dry, it is not stringy, but rather, lush and silky.  It can be served warm, room temperature, or even chilled, as long as you have hot rice and delicious dipping sauces.
Poached Chicken with Three Dipping Sauces
Serves 8

4 ½ to 6 lbs whole chicken (the better your chicken, the better your flavor, since there isn’t a lot of extra going on in this recipe) - this chicken needs to be fully defrosted if frozen with no frozen bits. A fresh chicken will work better here.
5 slices of ginger
1 onion, or leek, or a few cloves of garlic (to flavor the water)

4 inches ginger root, peeled finely chopped (I use my mini food processor)
3 scallions, finely chopped
½ cup vegetable oil
¾ teaspoon salt

2 jalapenos, finely chopped (I use my mini food processor)
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup rice wine vinegar

5 scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup soy sauce (I prefer low sodium, Kikkoman green)

Fill a large stockpot with water. The water should be at a level which will allow you to completely SUBMERGE your chicken underwater, with no problem. Bigger is better here. (I tried a smaller pot only to have to dump and start over in my bigger pot.) If in doubt, until you master this recipe, err with the bigger pot. You don’t want overflow of chicken water all over your kitchen. You can do a test run with your raw chicken, by submerging in water to see how much you need. Remove chicken before boiling water.

Cover your stockpot and bring water, ginger, and onion/leek/garlic to a boil. In the meanwhile, salt chicken liberally and give it a bit of a salt scrub. Rinse thoroughly and set aside, until water is fully boiling.

Once water is fully boiling, place chicken into the water, making sure that it is completely submerged in the water. Leave pot uncovered and bring chicken and water to another rolling boil again. While waiting it to boil again, you can skim off any scum off the surface of the water, if you intend to use the broth for rice porridge or something else. If you don’t want to use the broth for anything, go ahead and just wait for the chicken and water to boil again.

Once water is boiling, using tongs carefully lift chicken out of the water. You want to drain all the cavities of any lukewarmish water. While water is boiling, carefully re-submerge chicken into the water to fill all the cavities with hot boiling water. Cover pot with lid and TURN OFF stove. Do NOT remove lid of pot for the next 1 hour if your chicken is under 5 ¼ lbs, or the next 75 minutes if your chicken is over 5 ¼ lbs.

While your chicken is enjoying a nice soak in the hot water, begin making your 3 dipping sauces.

For the ginger sauce, mix together finely chopped ginger, finely chopped scallions, oil and salt together in a bowl. Mix and set aside.

For the jalapeno sauce, mix together finely chopped jalapenos, sugar, and vinegar. Set aside.

For the scallion sauce, place chopped scallions in a bowl. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a small, fry pan or sauce pan. The oil should be hot enough that it shimmers or you can test by carefully putting one scallion piece in the oil to see if it sizzles. If the oil sizzles the scallion, then carefully pour the two tablespoons of oil over the scallions in the bowl and allow the scallions to be cooked by the oil. Add soy sauce and mix. Set aside.

Once the 60 minutes or 75 minutes of chicken cooking in water is up, uncover pot, and remove chicken from water and place in a bowl (in order to catch residual liquid). Allow chicken to cool enough so that you can handle it without screaming OUCH!

Once chicken has cooled sufficiently (30 minutes or so), begin cutting chicken as you wish. I don’t like skin so I removed skin, cut of drumsticks, wings, and removed the meat from bones and roughly cut it into bite-sized, dippable pieces.

Serve chicken warm, room temp, or cold from fridge, with dipping sauces. Allow diners to dip however they please. Perfect with hot rice.

Printable recipe

Something for everyone


Anonymous said...

one of my favorite chinese dishes! my lil chicken is resting in the water so i hope it turns out as good as yours. i have to say, i had the hardest time pulling the chicken out to drain the lukewarm water - guess i need to work out more?! luckily, i boiled the chicken in one of those pasta drainer insert thingys, otherwise, i'm not sure i could've gotten it out...

YoshiBlade said...

This seems like a great dish for when your stomach just isn't 100%. Thanks for the simple, but elegant dish.

Lori said...

have you tried to do more than one chicken in a pot? any adjustments?


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