Several years ago a good friend took me out to Full Kee restaurant at Baileys Crossroads in Alexandria, VA. We had an amazing meal there, part of which was a dish called scallion oil chicken. It was a chicken perfectly poached in a lightly aromatic broth, then served with some finely minced ginger macerated in some oil. The chicken was cut into bite-sized pieces which you nabbed with chopsticks and dabbed into the oil. It was just amazing stuff: wonderful, subtle flavors, and an incredible texture brought about by cooking the chicken to exactly the right point.
I’ve thought about the dish occasionally, but never gave a shot at reproducing it — until Tuesday night. This isn’t exactly what I had at Full Kee, but I hope it’s in the spirit of the recipe. My family sure loved it. I call my variant “Ginger Oil Chicken” simply because I could never figure out exactly where Full Kee used scallion oil in their recipe.
This recipe’s all about simplicity and subtlety. Find as fresh a chicken as possible, preferrably free-range or organic. Don’t get carried away with the aromatics in the poaching liquid. Don’t gussy things up with soy sauce, hoisin, or any number of other things which are wonderful in other contexts. Keep it simple and reap the benefits!
Ginger Oil Chicken
1 fresh chicken, 3 – 4 lbs. (Use free range or organic if you can find it.)
2 carrots, scrubbed and split
2 stalks celery, cleaned
1 medium onion, skinned and cut in quarters
3 star anise
1 stick cinnamon, broken
4 – 6 cloves
2 coins ginger
2 Tbs finely minced ginger, including the skin (See Notes)
pinch kosher or sea salt
1/3 c. canola oil
- At least one hour before serving, prepare the dipping oil. Finely mince the ginger and scrape into a small bowl. Mix in the salt and let sit for ten minutes. Pour in the canola oil, stir well. Set aside to steep as you cook the chicken.
- Cut the skin between the thigh and body of the chicken. Season the body cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper, then put in a few pieces of carrot, onion, and celery. Place the chicken in a large pot. Add the remaining vegetables, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Cover with 1” of water and place on the stove over high heat. Bring to a simmer.
- Cover the pot, lower the heat and keep at a bare simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes. (A bare simmer here is critical to keep the chicken from getting too rubbery as it cooks.) Turn off the heat and let sit for another 15 minutes. Cut into the thigh and breast to check for doneness. If the chicken’s cooked through, remove it from the pot and drain. If not, bring back to a simmer and simmer another 15 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the pot and drain well. Remove the vegetables from the body cavity. Using shears, a heavy chef’s knife, or better yet cleaver (I ain’t got one. Boo hoo.), cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place on a serving platter.
- Serve the chicken with the oil. Folks should lightly dip their pieces in the oil, getting a bit of ginger in addition to the oil.
I actually used five-spice powder in place of the cinnamon, cloves, and ginger; however, that powder stuck to the skin of the chicken, rendering it rather ugly. Five-spice is based on star anise, fennel, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon and I’m pretty confident of my recommendation.
Make sure to include the skin when you’re mincing up the ginger. Yes, yes, normally it’s shaved off, but it lends an interesting complexity in this context. Do please scrub off the ginger first, though!
Now Playing: Jason Mraz, Mr. A-Z. This isn’t anywhere near as good as his Curbside Prophet albumn which I absolutely love. As a matter of fact, I’d say this albumn sucks, or I would say that if I hadn’t paid $12 on iTunes for it. Bummer.