I don’t drink. Well rarely. Most of my wine collection/liqueur cabinet is given over to culinary pursuits – vodka for vanilla and rose essence; rum because I went to Barbados, ginger wine…just because, Pernod for use in fennel recipes, which by the way leads me to ask….when last did you see a fennel recipe on this blog?
I used to get laughed at by office folk when we went out for drinks ‘You’re only having a coke? Or water’. Then would follow the scoff, smile or snicker……which eventually (I think) gave way to respect when all the bullying didn’t wear me down. My response every time was ‘I prefer to eat my alcohol, not drink it’. And I have. Wine poached fruit and now drunken chicken. When Gary, a judge on the 2nd season (2010) of Masterchef Australia proclaimed contestant Alvin’s drunken chicken as the best thing he’d had in the competition, I wrote it down. Bookmarked it and considered it done.
A couple of weeks ago, I emptied the contents of my 2 year old bottle of Shaoxing rice wine, using more in 10 minutes than I had in 24 months. But it wasn’t enough for a whole chicken, which I didn’t have at home anyhow and so I used up a kilo of leftover mussels. I enjoyed it more than I’d enjoyed any mussel dish in a while and it set me up for what was to follow.
The purchase of 2 bottles of Shaoxing rice wine (so running out wouldn’t be an option), the acquisition of a young tasty bird and the hunting of all my Chinese cookbooks for variations of the theme. Because though drunken mussels were great, the recipe I saw….the one that spoke to me had chicken in it.
What a breeze: make a poaching liquid. Gently lower your whole chicken (no knives muddied, no fingers chopped…nothing) in and leave to simmer. Then go watch TV, Sound of Music, Toy story 3 or Fame and wait excitedly. Once ready, chop and serve. With some rice or salad on the side…….or just on its own.
Again, my family surprised me – my husband thought it was ‘different’, I liked the tenderness of the chicken but wasn’t hot on the flavours – the Shaoxing flavours overpowered it and I had to have a healthy touch of soy sauce to balance the peculiar flavours. Both daughters could not stop eating it though. They had piece, after piece, after piece. And the son? Didn’t touch it, in a manner common to almost 4-year old boys who eat by sight.
What I did get out of it was the wonderful results the ‘poaching’ technique can produce. And so I tried another experiment: chicken legs gently simmered in a mixture of coconut milk and water, cubes of frozen Thai green curry paste, lemon grass stalks, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, sugar and a touch of my fine Bajan rum. Wow. The end result – a steaming, light , fragrant and incredibly tasty sauce, ladled over Thai Hom Mali – soft jasmine scented rice, which also met with approval from everyone almost everyone.
Poaching ladies and gents, is the new ‘easy cook’. Guaranteed to succeed.
Onto the recipes
Drunken Chicken, adapted from Alvin’s on Masterchef Australia
Ingredients1 litre Shaoxing rice wine
500ml mirin or more to taste
1-2 litres water, or enough to cover chicken
80g gula melaka (Malaysian palm sugar), or more to taste
1 whole chicken Salt, to taste 1 star anise Spring onions (cleaning out the fridge) Pickled sushi ginger (leftover) 4-6cm fresh ginger, thickly sliced
Place the shaoxing, mirin, water and palm sugar in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the chicken, star anise, spring onions and ginger, then cover and simmer gently for 45-60 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the chicken to cool in the poaching liquid. Reserve the poaching liquid. freeze and re-use if you like.
Ingredients3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbs roasted peanuts
1 tbs dried shrimp, soaked, drained
2 bird’s eye chillies
2 lime cheeks
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
6 snake beans, cut into 4cm lengths
2 Lebanese cucumbers, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 tsp sesame oil
Salad dressing2 tbs very finely chopped gula melaka (Malaysian palm sugar)
Juice of 2 limes
2-3 tbs fish sauce
Place the garlic, peanuts and dried shrimp in a mortar and pestle and pound to a coarse paste. Add the chillies and bruise gently – the amount of heat you want from this salad depends on how hard you bruise the chillies. Add the lime cheeks and bruise to release some juice.
Add the cherry tomatoes, beans and cucumber and mix through gently with a spoon.
For the dressing, place the palm sugar and lime juice in a bowl and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Add fish sauce to taste and whisk to combine.
To serve, add enough dressing to coat the salad and then taste – it should be a good balance of sweet, salty and sour. Add sesame oil and mix to combine. Pile the salad onto a plate and drizzle with sesame oil.
Remove the chicken from the broth and place on a chopping board.
To serve chicken and salad
Cut off the legs (thigh and drumstick), then chop off the end of the drumstick and trim the end so it is free of skin. Cut the legs into 2 pieces through the joint. Slice the breasts off the carcass and cut each one cut into 5 thick slices. Place the pieces of chicken in a shallow bowl, pour over a little broth and serve with the bruised salad.
Drunken chicken by others
Pig Pig’s Corner ingeniously uses Marylands– drumsticks with thighs attached. So you don’t have to worry about having a whole bird.
Frills in the Hills made a slow cooker meal of it, with rice
JeffHa makes a point of keeping the stock and reusing if for future Drunken episodes. I concur as my stock is freezing away while I think of how to adjust the flavours and get them right – the way I like!