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Saturday, January 15, 2011

And Vegetables Too.

Most people bring bottles of red wine when we have gatherings in our home. Generally, we are chardonnay drinkers. As a happy result,  we now have several bottles of red wine scattered around our kitchen countertops.

Yesterday, I pulled half of a small organic chicken out of the freezer to thaw.  I buy whole chickens, cut them up, and freeze what I don't use. Last night, as I cut the chicken into small appropriate serving portions, the surrounding red wine bottles stared me down, screaming for a coq au vin.  Although I adore the long slow aromatic braise of coq au vin, cock stewed in red wine surrendered to the squawking of my pantry and produce bin.  I had things that needed to be used.  Daikon radish, navel oranges, red bell pepper, snow peas, oyster mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, onions, garlic, and ginger morphed the dreamy coq au vin into an asian inspired honey, orange, and soy glazed chicken with strir fried vegetables.

Coq au vin could wait.  Let the sticky begin.

Because  I love slicing, dicing, and chopping things, it was very straightforward and simple. Although I was in mise en place heaven, it was a bit time consuming.  Thankfully, Michael kept my wine glass full throughout the process.

After seasoning the chicken with salt, pepper, and chinese five spice powder ( a sensual ground blend of cinnamon, star anise, fennel, cloves, and ginger), I dredged the pieces through egg wash and cornstarch before carefully placing them in sizzling peanut oil to brown.  Midway through, before the chicken was deeply browned, I tossed carrots, onions, fresh ginger, and garlic into the pot to caramelize with the chicken.

I deglazed the pot with 1 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice to pick up the crunchy flavor fond stuck to the bottom and let it reduce by half.  After the orange juice reduced, coating the chicken, I added 1/2 cup orange blossom honey, 1/2 cup dark soy sauce, and 2 cups of chicken stock. No salt needed.  I clamped the lid on the heavy dutch oven and slid the bubbling concoction into a 350 degree oven to braise for an hour.

While the chicken simmered away, I thinly sliced red bell peppers, carrots, snow peas, daikon radish, asparagus, onion, garlic, and ginger, setting them aside. Before adding it to the vegetables, I gently pulled the soft lacy oyster mushroom  apart into feathery pieces.

The slow braising aroma of honey, orange, soy sauce, and chicken was intoxicating.

After an hour slipped by, along with a gorgeous bottle of organically grown Releaf shiraz, I pulled the hot pot from the oven, carefully removed the chicken,, slid the pieces back into the oven to crisp from the braise, and reduced the braising liquid into a heavenly sticky glaze. 

While the chicken crisped and the glaze glazed, I cranked a skillet until smoking hot with 1 tablespoon of peanut oil and tossed in the vegetables to flash stir fry. It went fast.

I bunched fresh watercress onto our plates and topped it with buttered rice.

I dropped the chicken back into the reduced sticky glaze, turning them over several times to thoroughly drape before tumbling the pieces over the rice and watercress.  I scattered the vegetables around the chicken with  drizzles of toasted sesame oil and a showering of untoasted sesame seeds.

There seemed to be an enormous amount of vegetables.  Apparently, I got carried away with the dicing and slicing, resulting in a beautiful plate of sauteed vegetables complelety enveloping small sticky chicken bites.

There were so many balanced layers of flavor. The bright  vegetables were snappingly crisp against the moist tender chicken, melding  nutty sesame inflused flavor with sweet honey, salty soy, and bitter orange. Watercress exploded with spicy  mouth-cleansing bitter wetness. With such big flavors bouncing around, the buttered rice calmed the circus with soothing softness.

The chicken was fantastic.  Small bites of gutteral gluttony.  That being said, it was dwarfed by the onslaught
 of perfectly cooked sauteed vegetables.

Go figure.

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