Velvet Chicken

You'll never think the same way about chicken again.

Chris and I are on our annual pre-vacation soup cleanse this week, but I wanted to share a technique for cooking a whole chicken with you: "Velvet Chicken." I tried it the week before Thanksgiving and have become a huge fan. It is amazing. And, if Chris and I can't enjoy it right now, at least you can.

I found the recipe for "Velvet Chicken" in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal, but from the minimal amount of research I did, it seems that this has been a staple of Chinese cooking for eons. It leaves the meat juicy and velvety, all without turning on your oven, and with minimal output from your stove.

Just to be clear, this isn't a recipe to replace a lovely roasted chicken, all crispy and browned, right out of the oven.  Nothing can really replace that. However, this is a great recipe to use instead of buying canned chicken and rotisserie chickens from the grocery store (I usually use those to make quick salads, pot pies, etc.). The effort is minimal and you can do whatever you want for the three hours that the chicken is resting -- watch a movie, read a book, go shopping, clean out your closets, etc., and still end up with dinner.

You can find the WSJ recipe here. And, you can send me a thank you note for sharing this with you via the comments below. I'm serious. It is awesome.

Here's all you need to do:
  • Take a 3-4 lb. whole chicken (innards discarded, feet tied) and place it in a large pot (about 8 quarts) on the stove and cover with water (about 5 quarts -- water should cover chicken by 1 inch or so), toss in about 2 TBS of kosher salt and put on the pot's lid.
  • Turn the burner on high and heat the water to boiling, about 25 mins. DO NOT LIFT THE LID. You should hear it starting to boil rapidly -- when you hear a violent boil, turn off the stove and remove the pot from the heat. Let it sit, covered for 3 hours. DO NOT PEEK.
  • After 3 hours, remove the chicken from the pot and break it down, reserving the meat, including the drumsticks and wings. Discard the skin and bones. You'll note that the meat will have a uniform, pale color and a smooth texture. You can use all that lovely soft meat for chicken salad, chicken pot pie, stir-frys, burritos, etc. Or, you can serve with the lovely Asian-inspired Ginger-Soy Vinaigrette included in the WSJ recipe.
I made the warm ginger-vinaigrette and tossed with the chicken and some sautéed baby bok choy. I served over brown rice and some grated fresh ginger. Luscious.

Don't forget to use the broth for soups and stews. It may need a bit of tweaking to the seasoning, but it definitely serves as an excellent stock. If you let it cool, you can easily remove any fat that rises to the top. You can also toss in aromatics with the chicken before you boil -- some garlic, ginger, orange peel, herbs, etc. to make the meat/broth even more flavorful. Just be sure not to remove the cover -- that's the secret to the chicken cooking through and to its texture.

It's so easy and tasty, that I might never buy a rotisserie chicken again...

Fun and yum.