In this solo cooking adventure, Gary decided to dip into his childhood to come up with something that would be nostalgic and, more importantly, warming on a cold winter’s night.
Growing up in an Asian-American household with a heavier emphasis on the Asian half, our kitchen’s cabinets, counters, and even our oven stored a wide array of cooking vessels. On the counter, we had a rice cooker, a necessity in any Chinese home. In our oven, mom and dad kept their large blackened wok there simply because there was no other space large enough to put it.
[By the way, if your family also did this, let me know if they ever ruined something you were baking simply because they didn’t know and put the wok back into the oven without looking in. My parents once ruined a cheesecake I was baking by plopping the wok right on top of it. Awesome.]
In the cabinet next to the oven, was the clay pot – a light brown, fragile looking thing with metal wires around it. I know it’s fragile because I broke one as a child. If I had known then how inexpensive these things were, I might not have been so worried about upsetting my parents. Anyway, when we actually had a clay pot that wasn’t broken, the wonderful dishes that came out of it were tremendous – earthy (I might not have used that word when I was much younger), tasty, and browned despite the almost complete lack of oil/grease you would associate with foods browning. Something to do with the clay pot retaining a lot of heat basically turning it into an oven. The technical explanation doesn’t matter to me – all I need to know is that clay pot cooking rocks. With that in mind, I went to Chinatown to buy a clay pot ($8 in a restaurant supply store) and set out to replicate a favorite meal of mine – clay pot chicken with Chinese sausage.
Poking around the web, I found this recipe at Almost Bourdain and it provided me with the foundation of what I would end up making. The recipe called for the scallions to go in as a garnish at the end but I messed up and used it in the marinating process. It was a happy accident because I’m a big scallion fan and I think putting it in the marinade gave it a strong oniony flavor. The only other real difference was adding an extra sausage. In addition to the basic Chinese sausage, lap cheong, I also used one made of pork and duck liver. You’ll always be able to tell the two apart as the one with liver in it will be deep, dark brownish-red in color while the basic sausage will be a lighter red.
What I liked about this recipe, and basically any recipe calling for a clay pot, is its simplicity. All you do is prep a few meats and mushrooms and, with the exception of browning the chicken a bit (one minute or so) in a wok, all the cooking is done in the clay pot. Start to finish, this took just over an hour, thirty of those minutes spent rehydrating the dried mushrooms. When it’s done cooking, you have nicely browned chicken that have taken on some of the fat that melted out of the sausage and a nice textural contrast within the rice where top layer is fluffy and the crunchy bottom layer. Be sure you get all that rice stuck to the bottom of the pot – it’s a tasty treat.
Clay Pot Chicken Rice with Chinese Sausage Recipe
(Adapted from Almost Bourdain)
- 2 Chinese sausages (1 with duck liver, 1 without) – sliced on the bias
- 4 chicken thighs – cut to bite size pieces
- 6 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water until fully rehydrated (approximately 20-30 minutes)
- 2 cups rice
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 3 stalks of scallion, chopped finely for garnish
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 2 tbsp rice wine
- 1 inch ginger, julienned
- 1 tsp of salt
- ½ tsp of pepper (white, preferably)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 stalk of scallion, chopped finely
- Mix the chicken with all the marinating ingredient. Leave to marinate for at least half an hour.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok and stir-fry marinated chicken meat for 1 minute. Add mushroom slices, sliced Chinese sausage. Dish out and put aside.
- Put the rice and chicken stock in the cold claypot and place it over medium heat with the lid on. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to a low simmer, then leave the rice to steam for 15 minutes. The rice should be nearly cooked, with little holes in the flat surface.
- Spread the chicken mixture all over the top of the rice, and put the lid back on. Continue to steam over low heat for another 15 minutes, until the chicken is white and cooked through. Give it a few stirs and sprinkle the remaining scallions over the top and serve piping hot.