Thursday, June 21, 2012
Red-cooked chicken over noodles
The term "red cooked" refers to a Chinese method of slow braising in a mixture of soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, palm sugar, and various spices- cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom are common, as is five-spince powder. Often the braising liquid contains stock as well. Red cooking a whole chicken or duck requires a lot of liquid, but after cooking the braising liquid can be strained, brought to a boil, refrigerated, and then reused over and over, picking up more flavor each time.
This dish, which I made last week, was sort of a short cut version of a more traditional dish, using boneless chicken thighs from my freezer. I put the thigh fillets in my slow cooker, along with a good slug of sweetened soy sauce (ketjap)- say a quarter cup- an equal amount of Shaoxing wine (Sherry would do in a pinch), a stick of cinnamon, a piece of star anise, a few crushed garlic cloves, and a handful of green onions cut into two inch lengths. The slow cooker was set on high, and then I pretty much left it alone for several hours, checking once in a while to maker sure it had enough liquid in it. The frozen chicken released a lot of water, so I never had to add any.
By dinnertime it had been cooking for 4-5 hours and the liquid had reduced to a thick consistency. I removed the chicken from the cooker and strained the liquid to remove the spices. The cooking liquid had turned into a very tasty sauce, so I decided to serve the chicken with the liquid over cooked Chinese egg noodles. Not quite authentic regional Chinese cooking, but probably a lot more authentic than anything you'll find in the typical American-Cantonese takeout.