a single grain
in to bowls
My Chicken Rice
I specifically call this my chicken rice, because though it has roots in some traditional dishes, this is something that was completely improvised over and over again until it felt right. In other words, this is not Hainanese Chicken Rice. This did start with inspiration from two versions of that dish. The first was a memorable meal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn with some friends when we were on a mission to try every place we could in that neighborhood. We had a very traditional Chicken Rice: cold chicken, gelatinous and beautiful, rice, and broth on the side. I loved it, as it evoked memories of pulling left-over chicken out of the fridge to eat cold, but not all my companions felt the same way. Second was a riff at the early days of Mission Chinese SF, when a coworker and I ate their frequently and fell in love with their “Hainanese Chicken Rice”. It was nothing like the others I had eaten — here the focus was on the most flavorful and succulent rice, everything else was secondary. I ended up trying to figure out my own version with what I had available and landed somewhere in-between. Here you have delicious poached chicken, extremely rich chicken-fat laden rice, and because I actually am not the biggest fan of slippery skin — delicious and almost bacon-y crispy chicken skin.
There are a bunch of steps, but it actually comes together within an little more than an hour if you do things simultaneously. The steps are each relatively simple: Make crispy chicken skin; poach the chicken; use the chicken poaching liquid to cook the rice almost like a wok-cooked risotto.
This has become a serious staple of our winter kitchen with friends a family clamoring for it. It’s warming, rich, and fragrant. What more could you ask for?
- 1 Whole Chicken (~3 lbs)
- 1 Yellow Onion
- 1 2" Piece of Ginger, Divided
- 8 Scallions
- 4 Cloves Garlic, Peeled
- 1 Star Anise
- 1 tsp Sichuan Peppercorns (optional)
- 2 Cups Jasmine Rice (Rinsed)
- 1 cup Frozen Peas
- 1 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 2 tbsp Fish Sauce + More to taste
- Large Handful of Cilantro
- Large Handful of Peanuts
- 1 tsp Sesame Oil
- 1 Lime, quartered
- Kosher Salt
- Parchment Paper
- A sheet pan
- A large stock pot
- A wok with a cover
- A large ladle
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Line a small sheet pan with parchment paper. Carefully remove the skin from the entire chicken, trying to keep it in as large pieces as possible. The easiest thing to do is make a slit down the backbone and up each leg. Get your fingers under the skin and pull away slowly. Lay the skin flat on the parchment paper, trying to stretch it as far as possible. Salt liberally then transfer to the hot oven and roast for 30–35 minutes until crispy and all the fat is rendered. Depending on the size of the chicken this might take longer. Be careful when taking the pan out of the oven as it’s most likely filled with hot fat. When removing, pour off the collected fat into a heat proof container and reserve. This is the liquid gold that flavors the dish, so don’t you dare throw it out. You should have about 1/4 cup of fat. If there is less, make up the difference in neutral oil (Canola oil).
- While the skin is roasting, add the naked bird to a large stockpot that can fit it comfortably. Cover with cold water and add half the scallions (whole, but hit with a cleaver or the back of a knife), half the ginger (sliced into thick coins), 2 garlic cloves (whole), the onion (halved, peeled), 1 tbsp of salt, and the star anise. Bring to a very gentle simmer (ideally ~190F i.e. not boiling) and poach the chicken for 45 minutes. Skim any foam that floats to the surface. After 45 minutes, remove the chicken to a cutting board, and turn the pot to a hard boil, reducing it by at least 1/3 (this will take another 15 minutes). Strain the broth in a mesh sieve and return it to the pot.
- Mince the remaining garlic cloves and ginger. Slice the remaining scallions. Roughly chop the peanuts and the cilantro.
- In a large wok, heat the reserved chicken fat over low heat and add the garlic and ginger. Fry until very fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the dry rice and the peppercorns. Stir vigorously until some of the rice takes on some color, being careful not to burn it, about 1 minute.
- Using a large ladle, take a ladle of chicken cooking liquid and add to the wok. Turn the heat up to maximum and stir with great intensity, making sure to scrape anything that might be sticking to the side. Watch the rice quickly absorb the liquid and continue adding the liquid 1 ladle at a time until you’ve added about 4 ladles or 2 cups in about 10 minutes. Continue to stir the rice and turn the heat to the lowest possible. Add 1 more ladle and cover the wok, letting the rice steam for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, break down the cooked chicken. Remove the breasts completely and then remove the legs and thighs. Slice the breasts and move to the side. Pull and coarsely chop the dark meat from the thighs and legs.
- Remove the lid from the wok and inspect. The rice should be plump and fully cooked. If not, add a small ladle of stock, mix, and return the cover for another 2 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to medium. Add another ladle of stock along with the frozen peas, the soy sauce, the fish sauce, the sugar, the peanuts, and the dark meat from the chicken. Carefully mix this all together in a loving way, getting any stuck pieces of the walk and making sure the peas and meat are evenly distributed.
- Remove from the wok from heat and add the remaining chopped scallion and the cilantro. Scoop into a large bowl (or individual bowls) and top with sliced breast meat, crumble on the crispy chicken skin and drizzle with a small amount of sesame oil. Enjoy while piping hot with a squeeze of lime juice (though this is also amazing as leftovers). If there’s any cooking liquid remaining, you can either serve in small bowls alongside the rice or save (freezer or fridge) to use as stock for other stir-fries.