Friday, March 04, 2011

Hunan-Style Tea-Smoked Chicken (Page 355)

RECIPE #1252

  • Date: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-
I put off making this recipe because I had heard from a couple other people that it resulted in a house full of smoke and a not-very-tasty chicken. The warnings about the smoke discouraged me from making this during the many years that I was living in an apartment. Now that we own a house, and excessive smoke and a sounding smoke alarm are inconveniences only for us and not for other people living in the same building, I decided to make this dish. I marinated the chicken in a mixture of rice wine, salt, Sichuan peppercorns, scallions, and ginger. Then I put the chicken on a steamer rack in a wok and steamed it over boiling water until it was cooked through. I dried out the wok and lined it with foil. I put black tea leaves and dark brown sugar at the bottom of the wok and set the chicken on a rack above the mixture. I covered the wok and heated it over high heat until smoke started to pour out. I continued to smoke the chicken for 6 minutes, flipped it, then smoked it for 6 minutes more. I took the wok off the heat and let the chicken stand, covered, for a bit longer. I had never smoked poultry before and it was pretty amazing. Yes, the kitchen filled with smoke. Yes, our eyes burned and it smelled for days. But the smoking process was amazingly effective. Perhaps a little too effective. The chicken was incredibly smoky. It was one of those dishes where the first bite was fantastic. The second bite was a little overpowering. By the third bite it was barely edible. It was just too much smoke. It's a shame because the meat was beautifully cooked. It came out moist and tender. Although it was hard to eat, I am glad I made the dish -- it was a fascinating experience. I never would have guessed that I had the equipment at home to infuse that much smoky flavor into anything. There was a lot of chicken leftover, since we could really only eat a few bites. The next day I mixed the meat with lots of rice and some soy sauce, which diluted and balanced out the intense smokiness a bit. It still wasn't a mildly flavored meal, but it was pretty tasty that way, and in the end we ate it all.

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I made the mistake of looking at my calendar today. As I flipped through the weeks I got more and more scared. I thought the last few months had been busy, but by the looks of it, it is only going to get worse! From now to the middle of June, between me and my special gentleman we are traveling to Boston, Princeton, Iowa, Banff, small-town Illinois, Las Vegas, Chicago, Switzerland, Germany, Switzerland (again), France, Italy, and California. Of those destinations, I myself am only going to 10 of them, but it still feels like a lot! Add to that 8+ more house guests spread out across the between-trips periods that we are home, and I think it is going to be hectic! That said, I am looking forward to seeing our visitors and I think all of the trips will be fun. In addition to containing work (in the form of giving talks, working with collaborators, and attending conferences) we will also see lots of good friends and visit some nice places during our travels.

First up: Boston. Today was the last day of classes before Spring Break and tomorrow morning we are hitting the road. My special gentleman and I are both giving talks at MIT on Monday, so we are headed first to Boston. We decided to drive and stop at Niagara Falls on the way, to make it feel a little more like a vacation. Later in the week we are headed down to Princeton where my special gentleman will give another talk. It won't be the warm weather Spring Break on the beach that I have always dreamed of, but it is sure to be fun! We have lots of great friends on the East Coast and I am excited to see some of them! We are leaving the cats at home, under the careful watch of some friends of ours. After the rat poison incident, I am a little nervous about leaving them. But they are in good hands!

I suppose it is about time for me to start packing for our trip!

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