Minggu, 18 Juni 2017

White cut chicken - Recipe

 White cut chicken with ginger scallion sauce

White cut chicken is a traditional Cantonese dish. It is eaten at Chinese New Year and yet is everyday fare. It is so simple a dish. It is just a poached chicken but, my, what a poached chicken! The chicken is barely cooked and the flesh is smooth and juicy. Melt in your mouth flavour is how a friend describes it.

It hardly seems worth the trouble to make because a store bought one often costs less than the price of a chicken. But cooks like to make it at home. Home made is always better, if you can pull it off.

It only takes three things - a whole chicken about 3 1/2 lbs (traditionally, with head and feet attached), some ginger and a large pot of boiling water. However, a perfectly-done white cut chicken is quite an achievement and requires a fair amount of skill. Quite a few cooks botch it and have to return the undercooked thighs to the pot for further cooking.

The skin should not be ruptured. In the movie "The Scent of Green Papaya", a white cut chicken was served at a family gathering and one of the sisters proudly points out the perfect skin in her chicken.

There are countless ways of making white cut chicken. The traditional way is as follows:
  1. Have a large stockpot of boiling water ready and put a whole chicken, breast side down into the boiling water. Throw in a large piece of ginger. The water should cover the chicken by about an inch.
  2. Bring the water back to the boil. Use a ladle to fill the cavity with the boiling water.
  3. Turn the fire off and cover the pot. Leave the chicken to soak in the hot water for about twenty minutes. Do not uncover the pot to check. Keep the lid on. The chicken is cooked by the retained heat of the boiling water.
  4. Take the chicken out of the pot and refresh it under cold, running water, ie take the chicken to the kitchen sink, put it on a plate or in a colander and turn on the tap. Some cooks plunge the chicken into a pan of ice cubes. Throw out the water used for poaching.
  5. Dry the cooled chicken with paper towels and rub sesame oil over the skin.
  6. It is now ready for cutting and serving.
Sounds simple but very often the breast and wings are overcooked and the thighs are still raw. I used this method for many years and it was a chancy business. Then a chef told me another method which works very well:

  1. These two poaching methods are not suitable for cooking an old stewing hen.
  2. The chicken should be prepared a few hours ahead of serving. Let it cool down before cutting it up.

  1. Place the chicken in a pot of boiling water, breast side down and bring the water back to the boil. Throw in a large piece of ginger.
  2. The water should cover the chicken by about an inch. Use a ladle to fill the cavity with the boiling water. Skim off the scum and turn the heat down to the lowest setting for a very gentle boil. The pot is uncovered.
  3. Let the chicken poach for forty-five minutes. You are now free to meditate, watch a soap opera or just chill. Or prepare the ginger-scallion sauce.
  4. Take the chicken out of the pot and refresh it under cold, running water, ie take the chicken to the kitchen sink, put it on a plate or in a colander and turn on the tap. Throw out the water used for poaching.
  5. Wipe the chicken dry with paper towels and rub the skin with sesame oil.
  6. Set aside the chicken until you are ready to chop it up. Some cooks chill the chicken but I leave the chicken on the counter and serve the chicken at room temperature. The chicken is cut in small pieces with a cleaver and reassembled on a platter. Many people consider that the meat is tastier with the bone on. I don't do this as chopping through bone is a messy and dangerous business. I serve boneless chicken.
 One of the pleasures of the table - white cut chicken

Note: I made the chicken just before dinner so I had to cut up a hot chicken. The chicken had been refreshed with cold water - the skin was cool but the meat was still hot. Not easy on the fingers and messy too because the juices are still running. My mother-in-law usually takes over cutting the chicken. She disjoints the chicken, slices the meat and reassembles the chicken. She does a beautiful job. Unlike Kits Chow. But the chicken was delicious though the presentation lacked appeal. I cropped the picture below as that section looked better.
 Serve at room temperature with ginger scallion sauce.

Here is the traditional method for making ginger scallion sauce:
Grate the ginger and chop the scallions. The amounts should be equal. 1/2 a cup of each is sufficient but you may use more or less . More is more efficient since making the sauce entails the same amount of work. Put the ingredients in a bowl and add some coarse salt. Put the bowl in the sink.

Heat about a cup of oil and put in a piece of garlic. Let the garlic brown. I like to heat the oil till the garlic turns black but I was cooking in my mother-in-law's kitchen and she would be startled when the fire alarm goes off so I just browned it. 

 Pour the hot oil over the ginger scallion mix.

The oil will cook the herbs and there will be a wonderful aroma. Mix the herbs in the oil.

The smokier the oil, the better the sizzle.

Ginger scallion sauce

There are a couple of other methods for making white-cut chicken - by microwave and by pressure cooker but that will be for another post.

White cut chicken is excellent for salads and sandwiches. It is also South Beach Diet friendly, if you eat the breast without the skin. The sauce is also OK, if you have just a bit.

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