Velvet Chicken & Pho Ga

No, I haven’t disappeared.  I wanted to take a short break in January – from blogging and from cooking labor-intensive dishes.  I spent the first two weeks of the year detoxing with JP, and there really wasn’t much excitement to report on with a diet free of meat, wheat, dairy, sugar, and so on…

Then I wanted to go through ALL of my 50+ cookbooks and create a big long list of all the dishes I want to cook, without the restriction of it being totally new (that was so 2010), before I started blogging again.  Turns out, it takes a reallllly long time to go through 50+ cookbooks.

So here it is, late-February, and I haven’t posted anything in weeks!  Well, that changes now.  This blog may not be about all new-to-me things, but it will be about new-to-me recipes.  I occasionally felt limited last year by my own resolution to cook only entirely new things, so this year, I’m focusing on working within my cookbooks and utilizing them to the best of my ability, and trying as many of the recipes as I can.  This is especially poignant since last year’s goal caused a huge increase in the number of cookbooks I own, so now I’m getting down to the business of using them.

So, it’s time to get back on the blog-wagon so to speak.  Helping me with my quest this year is my new favorite website Eat Your Books.  I gave myself an annual subscription for Christmas and I couldn’t be happier.  I use it to search all of my many cookbooks for recipes, by ingredient, dish type, ethnicity, and so on.  It’s truly genius for anyone who loves to cook.  And, it’s really helping me go through all of my cookbooks.  I’m “bookmarking” recipes as I go through for things I want to cook at some point.  I’ve only gotten through half, but already, I have found over 150 recipes that I need to try because they are entirely new to me. Between these recipes, a new subscription to Bon Appetit, and the wonderful Gourmet Live app for iPad, I will have plenty to work with for the blog in 2011.

It was through the Gourmet Live app that I found the recipe I decided to cook this week for the blog: Velvet Chicken.  After a wonderful dinner out on Valentine’s eve, I decided to cook this dish for our quiet Valentine’s dinner at home.  This dish couldn’t be more simple.

I started with a whole chicken (from Open Meadow Farm in Lunenburg, MA, purchased through the Mass Local Food Cooperative).

After rinsing and drying the chicken, I brought the following to a boil:

  • 2 (14-oz) cans low-sodium chicken broth (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup dark soy sauce
  • 1 cup Shaoxing Chinese rice wine
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 6 (1/4-inch-thick) round slices fresh ginger
  • 4 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 dried red chile
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan or black peppercorns

Once the pot was simmering, I added the chicken, breast side down.  I let the chicken simmer for about 20 minutes (it was bigger than what the recipe called for), then turned off the heat and let it sit in the poaching liquid for about an hour total, flipping it once.

Once it was done (minus a wing tip which fell off):

We carved the chicken and served it, topped with some poaching liquid, with Chinese broccoli, braised mushrooms, and brown rice.

One of the best parts about this recipe was the leftover poaching liquid.  It had incredible flavor and gelled like a great stock.  We re-used it later in the week to make Pho Ga.

I heated the broth, which was like Chicken-Soy Jell-O, and mixed it with water (a lot of soy in there after all).

Meanwhile, I soaked some rice noodles, sliced the leftover chicken and prepped the remaining ingredients: onion, cilantro, scallion, red jalapeno, bean sprouts, and lime.

To assemble the Pho, I submerged the soaked noodles in boiling water for about 30 seconds.

After adding the noodles to the bowl, I topped them with chicken, sliced onion, cilantro and scallion, before adding the broth.


I added sprouts, lime juice, jalapeno and more cilantro and scallion to my liking, plus sriracha, of course.

This was a fantastic use of the leftovers, and I still have enough broth left to make more pho, so it’s hanging out in the freezer until the next craving attacks.

It’s good to be back.

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