Why It Works
- Slices of poached chicken soak in a chicken broth and Shaoxing rice wine marinade.
- The resulting chicken is cold and juicy - perfect to have on a hot summer's day.
This is one of my favorite chicken dishes to have on a hot summer's day. This chicken is cold, it is juicy, and drenched in wine.
Or rather, soaked in wine, up until the moment you remove the chicken from its bath and set it on the plate to eat. It is not an exaggeration to say this, because the marinating liquid for this chicken is 50% chicken broth and 50% rice wine.
Now, this probably goes without saying, but I want to say it anyway. If you don't like rice wine, you are not going to like this chicken. You are probably not going like the way the chicken flesh is just dripping and juicy with what is basically a chicken cocktail, and the way the meat tastes so alcoholic that if you eat a half chicken's worth of this, as I have done on some occasion, you may feel a little buzzed. (Then again, I suffer from the high chicken/low alcohol tolerance problem.)
In Chinese meals, this aptly-named drunken chicken is served as a cold dish before the warm stir-fried dishes are brought to the table. Yet I see no reason for drunken chicken to be relegated to the appetizer portion of the meal. It is very good as a main course, with maybe a light salad on the side.
Drunken chicken is so easy to make, too: You poach it, you cut it up, you dunk it in the broth in which it cooked, plus the equivalent amount of wine. You can use a whole chicken, or only white meat or only dark, and once you've made it, it can sit in the marinade for many days, and only become slightly more alcoholic-tasting as the days wear on (which, in my book, is not a bad thing).
Sometimes I really want to futz about with the marinade, and add some sugar and white peppercorns, and maybe some star anise or cloves. But then I think, no, no, I just want my chicken to taste like wine. You are, of course, welcome to make the recipes more involved by adding more spices and seasonings, though I'm a purist when it comes to drunken chicken.
- 2 whole chicken parts (two breasts, two leg/thighs, or a mix), totaling about 2 pounds
- One 1-inch piece of ginger
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 cup chicken broth, reserved from simmering
Place chicken and ginger in a medium saucepan. Add enough cold water to barely cover chicken. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat then reduce to lowest heat. Liquid should be barely quivering. Cook until chicken is cooked through (breasts should register 155°F on an instant read thermometer and legs should register at least 165°F). Remove each piece as they cook through to a bowl. When all chicken is cooked, pour broth over chicken in bowl.
Let the chicken and the broth cool. Chop the chicken into 1-inch to 1/2 inch pieces, depending on the cut of the chicken (breasts should be cut into 1/2-inch pieces against the grain, legs can be cut into 1-inch pieces).
Find a nonreactive container that snugly fits all the chicken pieces. Place all the chicken in the container, taking care not to cram the pieces. Season with salt. Combine chicken broth and wine, and pour over chicken until completely covered. Marinate for at least 24 hours, and up to 5 days. Serve cold, taking out as many pieces of chicken as you need while keeping the rest in the marinade.
3-quart sauté pan
To learn more about Shaoxing rice wine, check out how to stock a Chinese pantry.