Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chicken dressed two ways

In her cookbook Land of Plenty, Fuchsia Dunlop describes five different ways of dressing cold chicken meat. These sauces are meant to be a simple yet dramatic introduction to Sichuanese cuisine. She suggests serving them as appetizers or cooking a whole bird and "surprising your guests" with a choice of three or four different sauces served in little bowls around a central dish of piled-up chicken meat. While you could certainly use leftover roast chicken meat, chickens in Sichuanese cooking are always poached in water. In keeping with the Chinese obsession with uniform cutting, cut the chicken in either chunks, slices or slivers — mixing different shapes in the same dish is seen as messy and unbalanced.

Here are two of these dressings for chicken. The first, chicken slices in sichuan pepper and sesame oil sauce, is dressed with a lovely, summery sauce that uses pureed scallions and resembles pesto in consistency. The second, fish-fragrant chicken slivers, uses the same delectable flavorings as in fish-fragrant aubergines.

Chicken slices in sichuan pepper and sesame oil sauce (jiao ma ji pian):

1. Soak 1 teaspoon of raw Sichuan peppercorns for a few minutes in very hot water. Slice 1 pound of cooked chicken meat.

2. Slice the green parts of 5 scallions, then whizz them into a green paste in the food processor with the Sichuan pepper and a dash of salt.

3. Mix the scallion paste with 3 T. chicken stock and 2 T. soy sauce in a small bowl. Stir in 1 1/2 T. sesame oil. Pour over the chicken and serve, optionally, on a bed of sliced cucumbers.

Fish-fragrant chicken slivers (yu xiang ji si):

1. Cut or shred 1 pound cooked chicken meat into fine slivers and lay them on a serving dish. Finely slice the green parts of 3 scallions. Very finely mince a few cloves of garlic and an equal amount of ginger.

2. Combine 3 T. soy sauce, 1 T. Chinkiang black vinegar, 1 T. sugar in a bowl. Whisk in 2 T. chilli oil and 2 tsp. sesame oil. Add the ginger, garlic, scallions and 1-2 T. Sichuanese chilli bean paste. Mix well, pour over the chicken, and serve.

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