Monday, August 28, 2006

Drunken Chicken, Jiu Ji

Drunken chicken, jiu ji in Mandarin, describes several distinctly different ways of preparing chicken using alcohol, typically Shao Xing wine. The average recipe calls for just-cooked chicken to be either macerated or steamed in a Shao Xing wine-rich liquid; the former is ideal should you like an upfront alcoholic bite. I don't, so I usually go with the latter method, which lets the gentle perfume of Shao Xing rather than its alcoholic content dominate the flavour.

I've recently come across another method which produces an even subtler effect - poaching the chicken (raw, not just-cooked) directly in Shao Xing wine, from Teage Ezard's Lotus: Asian Flavours - if you're familiar with and love his earlier title, Ezard: Contemporary Australian Food, you'll thoroughly enjoy this beautifully designed new book, a wonderful collection of traditional Chinese and Thai recipes given the signature Ezard twist.

I've adapted the recipe's cooking technique, using instead the poaching-in-residual-heat method that's key to the succulence so prized by Chinese cooks - a young meaty bird is plunged into a quantity of boiling liquid (stock, or in this case, Shao Xing wine), the liquid is brought back to a simmer, a lid clamped on, and the heat switched off. The chicken is left to poach gently in the residual heat as the liquid cools down. When the liquid reaches room temperature, the flesh should be just-cooked, but still remarkably juicy and delicate.

Drunken chicken, which is served well-chilled, needs to be prepared a day in advance. After cooling to room temperature, the chicken sits in its vinous bath overnight in the fridge to ensure it absorbs as much flavour and stays as plump as possible. Meanwhile, the delicious juices trapped under the skin set to a delicate jelly - definitely worth the wait. For the sake of not just presentation but taste, it's important to keep the skin intact as you're cooking and carving the chicken. The glistening slices, a gorgeous skin-jelly-flesh mosaic, are served slightly moistened with a splash of the poaching liquor and a dash of fragrant toasted sesame oil.

The soup chapter of the book was what really blew me away - I saw the homey comforts of dumpling soup (of which quite a few feature in the book), an everyday staple in most Chinese households, in a brand new light.

In particular, there was a recipe for chicken dumplings in broth that I was intrigued by - as far as I know, the inclusion of lup cheong (dried Chinese pork sausage) in the stuffing is not conventional. It's however a brilliant and inspired addition, playing the same role cured pork or bacon does in farce or forcemeat by adding fat, moisture and deeply savoury soul to meat mince. The generous addition of finely chopped garlic chives (I prefer Japanese nira) lends further nuance and flavour.

23 Comments:

Blogger ilva said...

I love the idea of steaming chicken with wine, I have to try that and give it an Italian twist! Thanks!

6:15 pm, August 28, 2006  
Blogger Le voyage de kalos said...

Your photos look so lovely and real that it is making me go hungry... how do you do it? Do you owned a professional digital camera or something? Or is there some trick out there that I do not know?

9:19 pm, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You write beautifully, and the pictures are breathtaking. I have visited many Asia food blogs, yours is consistently classy and original. the best. why not write a book on Asia cuisines, or approach Discovery / National Geographic producers for a series on food blogging / Asia cuisines etc? Asia needs its own Nigella Lawson; with your talent, you probably come closest to being that.

10:57 pm, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think anonymous is absolutely right - undoubtedly the best; someone out there in media is probbaly thinking the same thing. However i think Nigella Lawson may come close to being Joycelyn though..

12:49 am, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous bea at La Tartine Gourmande said...

What great information Jocelyn, as usual! I had never heard about thie technique before and should give it a try. Lovely pictures, that make me want to grab a piece, just right there!

1:13 am, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anita said...

J,
Your post has made me very nostalgic for some home cooking! I love the plate in the first photo, colors go gorgeously with the dish.

6:11 am, August 29, 2006  
Blogger ParisBreakfasts said...

Well...what can one say? I think I can almost smell a new post all the way in New York, yours are so delicious, so evocative, so...I'm at a loss. You make food magical J. Thank you for a gorgeous start to the week!

6:37 am, August 29, 2006  
Blogger Eggy said...

Love the pictures. Do you have crockery for every kind of cuisine? And where on earth do you hide them all?? Where did you buy the "young bird" from? Last time I tried to buy a baby chicken, all the poultry sellers at the market shook their heads like I'd asked them for a free meal...

9:41 am, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous L said...

J - What a beautifully written post! And, I love the photo of the dumpling soup... it looks so fresh and light! I think I might have to pick up that cookbook...

12:25 pm, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Your dumplings are things of great beauty!

3:51 pm, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous Ellie said...

This is a wonderful post, and I absolutely adore your food arrangement and photography! The clarity of the picture of the lup cheong is particularly amazing!

6:58 pm, August 29, 2006  
Blogger eatzycath said...

another wonderful post, and that method of slow-poaching the chicken sounds truly intriguing - must definitely try it one day!

11:51 pm, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous ST said...

Hi J, This is quite brilliant. How is the taste and texture compared to the conventional methods?

1:04 pm, August 30, 2006  
Blogger Julie said...

I really want to try this cooking method. I would think that you could use stock flavored with any aromatics you like; of course it isn't drunken chicken without the wine.

12:16 am, August 31, 2006  
Anonymous LPC said...

Thanks for the idea of Jiu Ji! The recipe/ ingredients are easy to get over here in Paris. Oh, how I long to have some down-to-earth, simple Chinese dishes! Lap cheong with some hot steaming rice with Jiu Ji - ah, the simple pleasures in life.

3:29 am, August 31, 2006  
Anonymous Scott said...

In a world of oriental inspired minimalism it is nice to see food which embodies this culture while still managing to style and define; taking the genre forward.
I am inspired.

7:52 am, August 31, 2006  
Blogger Steffles said...

Hi J, thanks for sharing this new way of poaching chicken, makes so much sense...i'm gonna try it some time soon. And your photos are just as appetizing again...

2:41 pm, August 31, 2006  
Anonymous celat said...

Je ne parle pas anglais mais vos magnifiques photos en disent long.Je suis conquise par votre talent culinaire...

2:14 am, September 01, 2006  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Dear J, I have never had this, but I've read about it so many times I almost feel like I have! Your photos and descriptions are luscious, and make me deeply lament the absence of good Chinese food here. In fact, many people I speak to simply don't believe me when I tell them how good it can be, a sad comment on the standards of quality at most restaurants here...

By the way, did you see this post has been picked by Food and Wine for their weekly 'best of blogs' list? Congratulations!

1:09 am, September 02, 2006  
Anonymous stephanie said...

Very fantastic idea, I love the desription of your precise method as I do similar variations. Your blog is gorgeous and I appreciate the book recommendation too. Thanks so much.

1:19 am, September 02, 2006  
Anonymous keiko said...

Hi Joycelyn - they look like dishes from a very posh Kaiseki restaurant :) absolutely beautiful. I actually prefer using Shao Xing wine to Sake, I think it has a more delicate flavour...? I really like the sound of the book Lotus, I'll keep it in my basket until it gets a little cheaper... Thank you for another beautiful, inspiring post.

6:44 pm, September 04, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi J,

It shld be jui ji instead of jiu ji for drunken chicken?

4:10 pm, October 26, 2006  
Blogger Adski said...

Another Ezard Fan, I see. I've cooked a few of his recipes, I've also got a Cooking Challenge going on at the moment to cook each recipe from his first book, you can check it out at www.theezardchallenge.blogspot.com you can also see my other Ezard dishes at www.totallyaddictedtotaste.blogspot.com love your site and the photos, especially!

6:47 pm, January 07, 2007  

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