Dinner Tonight: Velvet Chicken

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

The "velvet" in the title alludes to the chicken's texture after it emerges from the pot. While some poached chicken recipes can come out stringy and tough, this one is cooked in a liquid that's barely simmering for 15 minutes. After that things get interesting. Instead of removing the chicken from the pot, it gets left in the liquid with the heat off for 45 minutes. The result is perfectly cooked chicken that's beautifully tender and aromatic thanks to a particularly flavorful cooking liquid.

The cooking liquid can do no wrong. It's made from soy sauce, ginger, scallion, clove, star anise, red chile, and Sichuan peppercorns, just to name a few of the ingredients. It's rich, aromatic, and lovingly seeps into every pore of the chicken over the course of its long bath.

But it's also good enough for all kinds of other uses. I tossed some cheap ramen in it for a side dish and used it to boil rice for lunch the next day. Think of this as a relative of Hainanese Chicken Rice. It's a chicken dish that keeps on giving.

Dinner Tonight: Velvet Chicken

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About This Recipe

Yield:4

Ingredients

  • 1 3-pound chicken, rinsed and dried
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1 cup Chinese rice wine (preferably Shaoxing), can substitute medium-dry Sherry
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 bunch scallion, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 inches ginger, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 4 strips of orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 dried red chile
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • Chopped cilantro

Procedures

  1. 1

    Add everything except the chicken and the cilantro to a large pot. Bring to a boil.

  2. 2

    Carefully lower the chicken in breast side down. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes.

  3. 3

    Turn off the heat and don't touch the pot for 30 minutes. Then flip the bird over, cover, and let sit for another 15 minutes.

  4. 4

    Remove the chicken. Slice off the legs, thighs, and wings and set on a platter. Remove breasts from the rib cage. Slice the breasts into 1-inch slices against the grain. Add those to the platter.

  5. 5

    Pour some of the poaching liquid on top of the chicken and garnish with cilantro. Save the rest of the poaching liquid for some other use.

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