Sunday, 6 June 2010

Best way to have your tasty chicken

Today I am stepping into the kitchen and moving away from doing reviews, after a long break. Yes, I do cook too, but it largely depends on the mood. I had some 'sunshine' chickens in the freezer, thought I'd take it out and give it go. Actually, this was done a couple of months ago, but I finally got down to blogging it.

What you need is a Good Tasty Free Range Chicken - this is important! The normal chickens (white bird) that you find in hypermarkets/markets is not cut out for this - there is too much fat and the meat is tasteless. Find a nice 'kampung chicken', I recommend the big meaty one. Anything between 1.6kg to 2.5kg nett weight. I used a big one, about 2.3kg.

According to my friend's mother, this aunty in her 70's - the most important thing in preparing chicken is the cleaning up of the chicken - the internals, then the skin/feathers/etc. Inside the chicken, it is recommended you use rough (rock) salt and rub it like a sandpaper to clean off the inside. Old aunties are never wrong, just do it!

On the outside, all remaining feathers are to be pulled out and washed thoroughly. Leave the chicken's skin on. The best feature of a kampung/free range chicken is its skin - that yellow rubbery skin, that makes eating chicken tasty and enjoyable. No! there are no chunks of fat under the skin, just a thin layer, which is needed for the cooking. However, at the rear end, there are two chunks of fat that should be carved out and we are good to go. Wash the chicken properly, I normally layer some normal salt inside the chicken 15 mins. before cooking.

What you need is illustrated on this photo: A chicken of course! Nice fresh spring onion leafs - mine came from the garden outside the kitchen. Celery - a few stalks chopped, Young Ginger, 1-2 inches, cleaned and thinly sliced. Rock salt for cleaning inside and salt for taste.

You will need a big pot, enough to fit in the chicken and ingredients plus water enough to cover the entire chicken when boiling. Boil the water, bring to to boil (as you can see, I use an induction cooker - so much easier).

Once boiling, place all the ingredients into the pot, bring all to a boil then, lower the flame/temperature and place the chicken into the pot. Make sure there is enough water to fully cover the chicken. If it is not enough, add more water. I normally keep the temperature low as hurried boiling causes damage to the chicken's skin. You want it to look good, when you take it out of the pot.

How long to boil? This depends on the chicken size. Generally, for a small chicken, about 25 mins to 45 mins for a larger chicken. Some 'chefs' I've met, say that the chicken taste best, when its slightly 'undercooked' and bloody, this is why they remove the bones from the chicken when served (so that customers don't see the bloody bones). The other school of though insist that chickens must be fully cooked, otherwise you risk of Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria found in chicken. You decide which is best for you.

Did I mention the soup that was going to go with the boiled chicken? I normally keep aside the broth derived from the boiled chicken (from the last session, frozen and stored away) that can be used as natural chicken stock in cooking and in soups. I had one such from my last boiled chicken which was going to be the base to my 'pork ball soup' today.

While the chicken was boiling, I prepare the ingredients - very simple - old chicken stock, defrosted and ready to boil. Pork balls (the one made from a mix of minced pork and squid - very tasty). Spring onion (from the garden), chopped. Sliced ginger - not too much. Black pepper and salt to taste. Set aside - just boil all these later.

Once the chicken is cooked, switch off the stove, let it sit for a few minutes, then bring the chicken out and lace the skin with some fine salt - use good quality and to taste. For a nice shine and fragrance, you can also use some sesame seed oil on the skin. It also makes the chicken look moist and more inviting.You normally see this being used in chicken rice shops.

Again, two schools of thoughts - chop the chicken with bones or de bone it and serve the meat only. Either way, that nice chewy yellow skin goes along with the chicken. Yum!

What I like to do is garnish the served chicken pieces with some shallots fried in sesame oil, then sprinkled over the serving. It adds additional fragrance and taste to the boiled chicken.

I personally de bone the chicken, then use the bones to get additional flavouring from the bones into my chicken stock. The bones are then placed back in the earlier broth and boiled for another hour or so, in low flame. What you get is a tasty chicken stock for cooking/soup. I then sieve it and put aside the 'broth' in the freezer for future use.

This is one such future use; The side dish of pork ball soup to compliment my boiled chicken. Served with cooked or steamed rice, this makes a simple tasty meal, be it lunch or dinner.

BTW. The simplest way to cook tasty chicken is to 'just boil it'. The ingredients I added in here is just to enhance the fragrance and flavor of the chicken and its stock. You may tweak it to your personal preference. Happy cooking!

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