By now my opinions are well documented regarding the ornery nature of chicken. I have posted comments previously vis-à-vis its reluctance either to add flavor to a dish or, having failed to provide that level of commitment, to accept flavor from any of the other delicious ingredients it encounters on its way to the table. If you missed my previous diatribe on the matter, you can find it here.
So it is once again with great pleasure that I present two more exceptions to that rule.
Portuguese Chicken offers the best of all worlds. It’s the perfect mid-week dinner, on all fronts. It calls for only a few key ingredients, takes about 5 minutes to prepare from start to finish, and requires no browning of the meat before baking. Yet it produces intoxicating aromas while in the oven, and robust flavor on the plate. What more could you ask of a dish with such a pesky protagonist at its center? Serve it with potatoes or a crusty loaf of bread, and a crisp, light salad dressed with one of my favorite dressings.
Yield: 4 Servings
¼ pound Prosciutto, cut into ¼” cubes (I bought the pre-packaged slices, 4-ounce packages, with 8 slices, and diced them)
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 pounds chicken pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, crushed
24 pearl onions, peeled (frozen are fine, if available)
4 T very cold butter, diced
1/2 cup port or Madeira wine
2 T cognac
1 cup dry white wine
2 T mustard
Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Chill 1 hour.
Soak ham in cold water to remove some of the salt. Drain.
Preheat oven to 375º F.
Place chicken in a baking dish with a lid. Add the ham, tomatoes, garlic and onions. Spread chilled pieces of butter on top of the chicken. Pour in the wine and the cognac.
Add the mustard. Cover and bake for about 50 minutes, until cooked. Remove lid and bake another 30 minutes to brown. Serve with potatoes.
This recipe for Chinese Chicken with Scallions is extremely simple to make; deceivingly so. But don’t let the simplicity fool you. Simple, yeah, simply fabulous!
The chicken itself is cooked with the kind of classic perfection the Chinese have such a way with. I watched The Frugal Gourmet cook chicken this way once, and have been using this poaching method ever since. A small whole chicken is dunked into a giant pot of boiling water for just a few seconds, then removed. As I recall, he said that this seals in the juices. You then bring the pot to a boil again, add the chicken, cover the pot, remove it from the heat and just let it sit there and cook in that hot water for an hour or so. When you shred the chicken it is unbelievably juicy and succulent, the ideal start for any dish you want to make that calls for cooked chicken. I have other methods I employ when time is short, but whenever I have that hour, this is my preferred way.
Kids love the final presentation, a mountain of shredded chicken with a “caldera’ at the top, filled with sliced scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil. You give it its final toss with piping hot peanut oil just before serving over steaming hot rice. This is one of my very favorite chicken dishes.
CHINESE CHICKEN WITH SCALLIONS
The Frugal Gourmet
One 3 ½ to 4 pound chicken, the best you can find
Bring a very large pot, preferably a stock pot-size, of water to a boil. Take the cleaned chicken and stick a long cooking fork or wooden spoon in its cavity. Dunk it in the water and hold it there for 30 seconds. Lift it out, holding it aloft on the end of your spoon, over the pot, and let the water come to a boil again. Lower the chicken carefully back into the water and let it resume its boil again. This should happen almost right away. Cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let it sit for an hour. When the chicken is cool enough, remove chicken from the bones, pull it into small pieces, and turn it into a “mountain” on a large plate or platter.
1 ½ bunches scallions, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into 1“ pieces.
2 ½ T light soy sauce
1 T toasted sesame oil.
¼ to ½ cup peanut oil
Make a crater in the top of the “mountain”, resembling the caldera of a volcano. Fill it with the sliced scallions. Mix the soy sauce and sesame oil together and pour the mixture over the scallions. Heat the peanut oil until very hot, and pour over chicken. Toss well. Serve with rice.
Note: You can use the leftover chicken water and chicken carcass to make a simple but flavorful stock. Just throw the carcass in the pot of water and simmer it for a few hours to reduce the broth and intensify the flavors. You can add aromatics as well, if you wish