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Recipe: Cool down warm days with cold roast chicken

  • NEW YORK TIMES

    Boiled, then chilled, this sesame and soy glazed chicken is perfect for picnics.

Cold roast chicken is a craving that won’t go away. Not that I’d want it to. I’ve loved it ever since I was a small boy (I’m a certified big boy now). Yesterday’s chicken, snatched from its Tupperware hideout, straight from the refrigerator, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper, paper napkin on the side. It is a ritual I’ll never tire of.

There’s even something attractive about the wrinkly cold skin.

On the other hand, I love a boiled chicken. It can be wonderful served hot — in a hearty tortilla soup, perhaps, or simmered Southern-style with dumplings. But it can just as easily be eaten cold. A vast assortment of chicken salads comes to mind.

The Chinese approach to cold boiled chicken is worth mastering. For many dishes, the chicken is not really boiled; rather, it is cooked quite slowly at a bare simmer. Some recipes call for bringing the pot to a simmer, then turning off the heat and letting the chicken steep in the hot liquid until cooked. This traditional method produces meat that is guaranteed to stay moist and silky.

Some make it with a whole bird, but my recipe uses whole legs seasoned with five-spice powder. Into the pot go scallions, ginger, star anise and turmeric, which infuse the meat with flavor.

Instead of being sliced, the chicken is usually chopped with a sharp cleaver right through the bones into chunks. I like it best that way, but using meaty chicken wing “drumettes” — or, if preferred, boneless chicken thighs — is another option.

Painted with a savory soy-and-sesame glaze and showered with chopped peanuts, cilantro and chilies, this cold chicken is perfect for a picnic, light lunch or summer supper. In warm weather, cold sesame chicken is especially welcome.

COLD SESAME CHICKEN

By David Tanis, New York Times

  • 6 bone-in chicken legs, drumettes or boneless thighs (about 4 pounds)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon five-spice powder
  • 2 whole scallions
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, cut into 4 thick slices
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • >> Glaze:
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • >> Garnish:
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons crushed roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 1 or 2 thinly sliced serrano chilies (optional)
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • 3 or 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Tender mustard greens or lettuce leaves (optional)

Season chicken with salt and sprinkle with five-spice powder, rubbing seasoning into the flesh.

Transfer chicken to a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add water, just to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Add scallions, ginger slices, star anise and turmeric. Simmer very gently until tender, about 45 minutes.

Remove chicken to a baking sheet; reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Let chicken cool. (For faster cooling, submerge in ice water.)

To make glaze: Combine ingredients and reserved cooking liquid in a shallow saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer rapidly until thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Chop bone-in chicken into 1-inch chunks with a sharp cleaver or large chef’s knife. (Remove bones before chopping, if preferred.) If using drumettes or boneless thighs, leave whole. Arrange chicken on a serving platter.

Brush glaze onto meat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, peanuts, chilies (if using), cilantro and scallions. Surround with mustard greens or lettuce leaves, if using. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Serves 6-8.

Nutritional information unavailable.

AND TO DRINK

For this Chinese-style chicken dish, served cool in a relaxed, informal setting, I would look for a similarly light, easygoing wine, ideally with racy acidity to parry the mild, piquant spicing.

I’m thinking of fresh rieslings, moderately sweet, like a kabinett riesling from Germany.

An off-dry Vouvray would be ideal — what’s often called a sec tendre in the Loire, or even a slightly sweeter demi-sec. Gruner veltliners from Austria would be good, and if you are eating this midday, how about a silvaner?

If you want a red, I would pick something from the Loire: A gamay would be just right.

— Eric Asimov, New York Times

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