I rarely cook Chinese food, but when I do, this is one item that regularly makes an appearance at my table. What is it, you ask? It’s bái qie ji, better known as Chinese white cut chicken.
Imagine chicken that’s been seasoned with sea salt, then gently poached in a broth suffused with ginger and garlic, then rubbed with sesame oil. The result is a moist, juicy and flavorful bird; when paired with rice that’s been cooked with chicken liver, chicken fat, onions or shallots and Chinese chicken stock, it becomes “sex on a plate”.
You’ve heard of the Japanese word for ‘delicious’ called ‘oishii‘, right? Well, this is ‘oishiiiiiiiiiiii’ to the tenth power.
Clockwise from top right: white cut chicken, stir-fried turnip tops with garlic, rice with chicken liver and shallots
I’ve made white cut chicken with regular 5-lb. roasters, Cornish game hens, and with giant honking packages of regular chicken parts that you can get from a supermarket. However you choose to make it, it’ll be delicious.
Chinese White Cut Chicken (Bái Qie Ji)
Adapted from Sunday Nite Dinner.
4-5 pound broiler-fryer chicken
5 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 ounce fresh ginger, sliced
4 cloves garlic
3-4 quarts ice water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons green scallions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons ginger, finely shredded
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Remove any excess fat from the chicken. Rub chicken with 2 teaspoons of salt, then rinse under cold water and place onto a rack to drain. If the chicken has any livers and/or gizzards, place in a small bowl and set aside.
In a large stock pot, bring about 3 quarts water, ginger, garlic and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil over high heat. Slowly add the chicken, breast-side up. Add more boiling water if necessary to cover the chicken completely. Return water to a boil and boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes, removing any scum on the surface. Cover pot, turn off heat and let the chicken sit for 20 minutes.
Uncover the pot and return to a boil for 3-4 minutes. Carefully remove from pot and place the chicken in a colander in the sink. Insert meat thermometer into thickest part of thigh. Thermometer should read 170 F. (Return to pot and simmer for a few more minutes if internal temperature is under 170 F.)
Slowly pour ice water over the chicken in the colander. Transfer chicken to cutting board and rub it with sesame oil. Allow chicken to cool before chopping the chicken with a meat cleaver. Reserve chicken broth for future use.
Place scallions, ginger and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a small heatproof bowl. In a small skillet or saucepan, heat vegetable oil over high heat until very hot, but not smoking. Carefully, pour the oil over scallion mixture. The oil will make a crackling sound and may splatter when it hits the scallion mixture. Serve the chicken warm or room temperature with scallion-ginger sauce.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Chicken Liver Rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large shallot, peeled, trimmed and thinly sliced OR 1 small onion prepared the same way
reserved chicken livers from the recipe above*
1 cup rice
2 cups Chinese chicken stock**
Chop the chicken livers coarsely, then place in a small bowl and set aside.
Warm oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until the shallots have become translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring frequently, or until the livers have begun to brown, about 4-5 minutes.
Add the rice to the pot. Stir to coat the grains with the shallots and the chicken liver. Pour in the Chinese chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to low and cook, partially covered. Rice is done when all the liquid has been absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.
Fluff rice with a fork. Serve at once.
*If you’re making this recipe separately, a good guideline is about 1/4 lb. chicken liver.
**This is just chicken broth produced by the recipe for the white cut chicken. Substitute regular chicken broth if you’re following this recipe independently.
Time: About 90 minutes total, including prep for both dishes.