“Boiled Chicken! You must be joking.” I hear you muse. But, this is no joke. Not only is this Chinese style boiled chicken delicious but it has a real bonus in store for you. But more of that later. This recipe uses a cooking method favoured by Chinese peasants. It is known as cooking on reducing heat. In a country where firewood was in really short supply, this method had a lot to commend it.
Let’s talk a bit about the chicken. If you buy a bargain basement chook, costing less than a cup of sweetened coffee, you will get what you pay for. If you want to enjoy this chicken and also enjoy the benefit of the bonus, use decent chicken. I highly recommend a real free range bird. It will not appear to be cheap. But, you aren’t a cheapskate, are you?
- 1 chicken (reread the piece above)
- 6 or so spring onions
- 1 red chilli
- 3 star anise
- 5cm/2″ piece of ginger
- 4 cloves of garlic
Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Slice the ginger. Peel and bash the garlic (to release flavour) Slice the spring onions (including the greens and run the blade over the chilli to open it up (again to release flavour). Drop all the ingredients, except the chicken, into the saucepan.
(I actually dropped these into an empty saucepan to get the shot. It took me four goes to get it right. This has nothing to do with the recipe.)
Bring the pot back to the boil with the aromatics in. Lower in the chicken. Bring the pot back to a boil and boil uncovered for ten minutes. Turn the heat down and simmer the chicken for a further twenty minutes. Turn the heat off. Place a lid on the saucepan and leave it overnight to cool completely.
Now comes the bit that turns most people off this process. There is a certain satisfaction to getting stuck into this. Once you have done it a couple of times, it becomes akin to meditation. Stripping the meat from the bones is what I am talking about.
Get stuck in. Lift the chicken from the saucepan gently. Let it drain into the pot. You will not need any utensils. Keep the pot in which you boiled the chicken near at hand. Pull the legs off the bird in a folding motion.
Run your hands under the skin. Remove the skin and jelly and return them to the pot. Do likewise with all the bones, shredding the meat as you go. When you are finished, you will have a big plate of nicely flavoured, succulent chicken meat.
The bonus is you will have the basis of a fantastic soup in the pot. Simply add another onion and some black peppercorns to the pot and simmer it to make a delicious jellied stock. I usually get a litre (2 pints) of great stock from this dish.
Serve it with some shredded chilli, ginger and spring onion. Try it with a sprinkle of chilli oil. A generous splash of soy sauce is great too. I often use the stock as the basis of a chicken risotto. It also makes for a lovely soup.