Dinner Tonight: Barbara Kafka's Chinese Chicken in the Pot
"In a pot" recipes are about two things: clean and simple flavors, and a highly aromatic and delicious broth. It's one of the best things you can do with a whole chicken—much quicker than roasting it whole, and, especially in spring, much more versatile for how it can make use of various vegetables. I found this gluten-free version in Barbara Kafka's The Intolerant Gourmet: Glorious Food without Gluten and Lactose, and was surprised at how good it tasted for something that came together in less than 30 minutes.
Why I Picked This Recipe: Barbara Kafka is a cookbook writer I deeply respect, and though I don't personally avoid gluten and dairy (and often shy away from books that advertise themselves as such), I'll try pretty much anything with her name on it. I was also intrigued by her Chinese variation on what I perceive as a classic French dish.
What Worked: Rather than relying on caramelization of the chicken to build flavor, the secret is in the alchemical way the both ingredients combine. And the broth itself was absolutely marvelous: a subtle blend of chicken stock, (gluten-free) soy, garlic, ginger, and the soaking liquid from dried shitake mushrooms. It was the absolute highlight of this dish. I also liked the tenderness of the chicken, which was skinless and simply simmered in the pot (don't let it boil to avoid the chicken getting stringy). And since all the fat is trimmed from the chicken before cooking, this was a remarkably low-fat dish.
What Didn't: My only small complaint was that whites of the scallions went in too late, and I prefer them to be soft rather than crunchy. So I rewrote the recipe to add them at the beginning.
Suggested Tweaks: A whole chicken is the economical way to do this, but it can be a hassle to cut up the serving pieces and skin them all. A mix of boneless, skinless thighs and breasts would cut down on prep time. Also, snow peas are only one option: spring peas, snap peas, even asparagus would all work in this dish.