August 20, 2017

Hainanese Chicken Rice


One of the quintessential dishes of Singaporean cuisine, Hainanese Chicken Rice is a bone-deep satisfying meal dished up everywhere from Hawker’s Markets to fancy restaurants. It is an excellent example of how ingredient repetition need not render a meal boring or feel repetitive - the ginger, sesame oil, and garlic are powerful flavours, but come across differently in each item on the finished plate.

This recipe serves 2-4 people (or more, if you double the rice), but in our house it is the start of a multi-meal whose leftovers evolve into two more dishes over the following days (see Multi-meal, at the bottom of this post).

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Chicken
1 whole chicken (about 1.5 kg)
Fresh cool water to cover the chicken
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus extra for exfoliation (as described below)
5 cm chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 stalks green onions, cut into two-inch lengths
Basin of ice water
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (for after the chicken is cooked)

Rice
15 mL (1 tablespoon) chicken fat or canola oil
1 large clove garlic, minced or crushed
15 mL (1 tablespoon) minced fresh ginger
200 grams (1 cup) raw basmati rice, washed until the water runs clear
310 mL (1 1/4 cups) reserved chicken poaching broth
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 pinch kosher salt

Chile Sauce
15 mL (1 tablespoon) fresh lime juice
30 mL (2 tablespoons) reserved chicken poaching broth
10 mL (2 teaspoons) sugar
60 mL (4 tablespoons) Sriracha sauce
4 cloves garlic
30 mL (2 tablespoons) minced fresh ginger
a pinch of salt, to taste

To serve
Dark soy sauce (in a dish, or just the bottle)
Green onion, finely sliced on the bias
Cucumber, thinly sliced

First, you must exfoliate the chicken. Rinse the chicken inside and out and place on a clean plate. Use a small handful of kosher or pickling salt to gently massage the chicken all over, being careful not to tear the skin if possible. Rinse the salt away and stuff the chicken with the ginger slices and green onion pieces. Place the chicken in a large stockpot and add fresh cold water to cover (it’s okay if it doesn’t quite cover - the breast will still cook if it sticks up above the water level). Add salt. Cover and bring the pot just barely to a boil over high heat, then immediately turn the heat to low to keep a bare simmer, checking from time to time. Simmer for about 40 minutes (less for smaller chickens).

While the chicken simmers, get your mise en place in order for the chile sauce and the rice. That means, mince the ginger for both the rice and the sauce, peel the garlic and set aside, and wash, wash, wash the rice in cool water until it runs clear. Set the rice aside in a strainer to drain. You can put the sauce ingredients all (except for the broth) into a blender cup now, if you like.

Once the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. Carefully lift the chicken from the broth (I lift it by inserting a wooden spoon into the centre and tilting it up so that the juices run out of the cavity) and into a basin of ice water to cool. You will need the broth for the rice, sauce, and side bowl of soup. I like to have my basin in the sink, so that I can and add more fresh cold water over the chicken to help the skin achieve the firm, springy texture associated with this dish, and I like to change the cold water once as it rests. Let the chicken rest in the cold water while you start cooking the rice. Remove any aromatics (ginger, green onion) from the broth, and return the pot of broth to the stove to stay warm over low heat.

Rice: You rice should by now have been rinsed and drained and is resting nearby in a sieve. Heat the chicken fat or canola oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the ginger and the garlic and pinch of salt, and stir fry until fragrant but not coloured. Add the sesame oil and then drained rice and stir to coat each grain with the fat and seasonings.

If you’re cooking the rice on the stovetop, add the 310 mL of hot poaching broth to the rice and stir it through. Turn the heat to the lowest setting, and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. Set the timer for 15 minutes, and when it rings remove the rice pot from the hot burner and, without lifting the lid, set it aside to rest somewhere for another 15 minutes. Fluff, and it's ready to serve.

If you’re cooking the rice in a rice cooker, use a spatula to scrape the rice/fat/seasoning mixture into the rice cooker, add the poaching broth, and then turn it on according to your rice cooker’s instructions.

While the rice is cooking, remove the chicken from its ice bath and pat dry with paper towels. Using your impeccably clean fingers, rub the outside of the chicken with the sesame oil, and let it stand until needed. Just before the rice is finished resting, carve the chicken for serving and arrange on plates, and then add the rice once it's ready. For a nice tidy dome of rice, pack it lightly into a measuring cup and overturn onto the plate. I find a 3/4-cup measure works perfectly, yielding 4 portions of rice from 200 grams (1 cup) of raw rice.

Chile Sauce: combine all chile sauce ingredients in a blender cup and process until smooth. Stick blenders work very well for this. The first time I made this, I didn’t have access to any mechanical means to puree it, so I simply finely chopped everything by hand. That also worked very nicely, but it was of course not a smooth sauce.

Soup: You should have several cups of the chicken-poaching broth available. Ladle into small bowls and garnish with some finely sliced green onion.

Serve the chicken and rice with cucumber slices, and a bowl of the soup on the side. Place the chile sauce and some dark soy sauce on the table for individuals to use at will.



Multi-meal

I mentioned at the start of this post that this is a multi-meal dish for our household of two (your mileage may vary, depending on your family size - for bigger families, you would want to have doubled the rice recipe above). This is what I do:

Finally, after you’ve eaten and had a little rest, strip the remaining chicken meat from the bones, and put in a container in the fridge. As for the bones, you can either discard them, or add them back into the soup pot and simmer them for another hour or so for a much stronger broth. Cool and strain the broth, and transfer to fridge/freezer friendly containers. Cool and refrigerate any leftover rice.

The next day, leftover rice and about half of the leftover chicken meat are converted into fried rice (this is an especially good use for any leftover skin!) with the addition of a little extra onion, ginger, garlic, beaten egg, low-sodium soy sauce, any any other vegetables you’ve got kicking around. (For fried rice technique, please see my post on fried rice, and adapt as necessary.) Serve with leftover chile sauce, if you have any.

The following day, the leftover broth (or some of it) is used to make congee, by adding some water, washed raw rice, and the remaining chicken meat (added at the very end). Serve with leftover chile sauce, if you have any.

Alternatively, you could stash all of the broth in the freezer and use that instead of water for the next time you want to make Hainanese Chicken Rice. Because, there will be a next time. If you have lots of broth, you can split the difference.

Three delicious meals from one master-meal.

August 12, 2017

Cherry Clafoutis


Clafoutis defies a truly comprehensive description. It's part custardy flan, part pancake, part coffee cake, and a distant relation to the soufflé -- while not really being any of these things. What it actually is, is an iteration of the amazingly versatile eggs/milk/flour matrix that comprise the batter for crêpes, Yorkshire puddings, and Dutch babies (and more), neatly proportioned to create a simple French country dessert.

Just like the eternal cakey vs fudgy brownies debate, there are different styles for clafoutis. This one is decidedly more like a set custard than a cake, with a glossy interior revealed when sliced up to serve. A bit more flour would make it cakier, but might therefore also benefit from a bit of leavening agent.

The quality of the cherries counts, here. If your cherries are bland, the clafoutis will not be as good.

Clafoutis aux Cerises

Adapted from Everyday French Chef

400 grams fresh, sweet cherries
70 grams (1/3 cup) flour
80 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
175 mL (3/4 cup) whole milk
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar

Butter, for greasing the casserole dish.

Preheat the oven to gas 180°C (350°F), with a rack in the middle.

Wash and gently dry the cherries, remove any stems, and remove the pits (I use an olive pitter).

Lightly butter a small (1 litre / 4 cup) casserole or baking dish. Add as many of the cherries as you need to form a single layer (not too tightly packed - there needs to be a little room for the batter).

In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly until they are perfectly integrated and foamy.

Add the dry ingredients to the eggs and stir through. Next, add the milk, cream, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly over the cherries. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the clafoutis is golden and still a little wobbly in the middle. Sift the icing sugar over the clafoutis and return it to the oven until it is firm in the middle, about 5 minutes more. Check for doneness with a toothpick or sharp, clean knife in the middle. If it comes out clean, the clafoutis is ready. If not, bake it for a few minutes more.

Serve warm. If you are preparing the clafoutis in advance, reheat it gently before serving. Serves 4.

August 06, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


Buffalo wings have run deliciously amok. What started out as a simple bar snack, has since become everything from pasta to dip to casserole to pizza, and gone through some interesting ingredient iterations: some folks swap out the blue cheese dressing for ranch, and some even switch the chicken with cauliflower. The configurations seem endless, and that's good news for those of us who love our hot sauce oriented food.

This particular pizza is a pretty stripped down version of the classic combination of Frank's Red Hot sauce, chicken, and blue cheese dressing. Because it's pizza, I've added a final layer of shredded mozzarella, just to tie it all together. I've dispensed with the traditional carrot and celery sticks, although you could either serve them alongside (which would be appropriate) or dice them finely and use them as a topping - but I think they would be a bit of a distraction there. So.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

1 Standard pizza

! batch pizza crust dough (see below)
125 mL (1/2 cup) creamy blue cheese dressing (or more to taste)
350 grams cooked, shredded chicken
60 mL (1/4 cup) Frank's Red Hot sauce (original)
1 tablespoon butter
200 grams shredded mozzarella

Dough

3/4 cup warm water (not hot)
1-2 teaspoons active dry yeast (use 1 tablespoon if you have the time to let it rise)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Approximately 2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Test the water by sticking your impeccably clean finger in it. If it's pleasantly warm, but not hot, you're good to go. If not, adjust as needed. Pour warm water into a medium sized mixing bowl. Sprinkle sugar and yeast over the water and let stand for about five minutes. The yeast will soften, and gradually start to foam up to the top of the water. This usually only takes a few minutes, but if your water is quite cool it might take a little longer. Once the yeast has gotten foamy, stir in the olive oil (or canola, if you don't have olive oil) and 1/2 cup of the flour.

Stir until combined into a sort of paste, and then beat vigorously for 100 strokes all in the same direction. It sounds silly, but this is the basis for a very smooth dough, and it doesn't actually take very long at all. A wooden spoon is ideal for the job. Once your mixture is smooth and silky-looking, add the salt and 1 cup of flour. Stir until the flour is mostly incorporated - it gets very stiff very quickly - and then turn out onto a clean counter to knead. Add more flour as you need it, if the dough seems sticky or wet.

Knead the dough briskly for about five minutes, or until it comes together in a satiny ball and is no longer sticky. Let the dough rest on the counter while you wash out the bowl that you started it in. Wash and dry the bowl, and spritz with a little oil. Place your dough into the bowl (turn it over once so that a little oil gets on the top) and cover with a towel while you prepare your toppings. The dough doesn't need to rise double in size (although it's fine if it does) but it should show some signs of life when you get back to it - be softer and a little risen.

Turn the oven on to preheat to 220°C / 450°F, with the rack placed in the middle. Prepare a pizza pan by sprinkling a generous amount of cornmeal in a thin layer over it, or lightly oiling.

Toppings

In a small skillet, heat the butter and hot sauce together and stir well to integrate (a whisk might help). Add the shredded chicken and toss/stir to thoroughly coat.

Press the dough out evenly on your pan. If the dough is still a bit tense, it might take a little longer, but this amount of dough will fit a full sized pizza pan. Just be patient and keep pressing it out, even if it tries to spring back, or let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Once the dough is stretched to the full size of the pan, spread the blue cheese (or ranch, if you must) dressing evenly over it, leaving a little uncovered around the edge. Use a big spoon or your fingers to distribute the sauced up chicken over the dressing, and then add your mozzarella.



Slide the pan into your preheated oven and bake for at least 12 - 15 minutes (depending on your oven, maybe a little more), or until the crust is golden and delicious.

Slide pizza onto cutting board and pretend you're going to share. Put the rest of the bottle of Frank's Red Hot on the table...and try not to burn your mouth from devouring everything too quickly.

Note about foil: If you have cleverly put down a layer of foil in the bottom of your oven to protect it from drips, know that this is going to have a negative impact on the cooking time and browning of your pizza - especially the bottoms thereof. Put a baking sheet down there if you must, but foil really screws with the heat flow in an oven, and things take much longer to cook (and don't brown evenly). It might not affect other recipes, but it's terrible for pizza and pie crusts.



I added an extra perimeter of cheese and popped mine back in the oven for a couple of minutes, because it seemed like a good idea. It was. If you have some nice, mild, crumbly Danish blue cheese, that would go perfectly here.