Thursday, April 21, 2011

RECIPE: Star Anise Chicken

I invited my friend Pam over to catch up on life and throw back a few beers after a long exam week. It's also been a long time since I've really cooked a meal. Figured I'd default to one of my favorite homemade comfort foods- chicken braised in a sweet and garlicky star anise soy. It's really easy (my definition), I never make it the same way twice, and it's always delicious.

star anise pods

If you've never seen star anise before, it's a dried spice that translates a lot of anise flavor to any sauce it's cooked in. It's very strong, so you don't need much. When combined with soy, garlic, a little ginger and sugar, the resulting flavor is remarkably bright and floral. If cooked long enough, whole garlic cloves will literally melt in your mouth and impart an impossibly sweet and savory flavor.

star anise chicken, summer squash and carrots

The chicken is obviously the best part, and I've been tweaking the recipe each time to try and find ways to make it even better. Usually, I'll start cooking the chicken from the very beginning so that it absorbs as much flavor as possible from the braising liquid, but I found that by the time I finally found the sauce to be suitable, the chicken would be overcooked. This time, in order to fix this, after de-boning the chicken thighs, I used the bones first in the braising liquid. After letting that simmer away for about 45 minutes, I added the chunks of meat and let that go for another 30 or so minutes. The meat didn't absorb as much sauce as usual, but it tasted more like chicken... and with that sauce... omg heaven.

  • 2-3 lbs chicken thighs, with skin and bones
  • 10 cloves garlic, slightly smashed and peeled
  • 1 sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 inch piece ginger, smashed
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 tbsp mushroom soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup xiaoshing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Trim the fat from the chicken thighs, leaving some skin. De-bone, reserving the bones. Cut the remaining meat into six pieces.

In a medium pan on high heat, add some cooking oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the garlic and onions. When the onions begin to sweat, add all of the remaining ingredients except for the meat (yes the bones at this point). Top off with chicken stock or water to one inch above the bones. Let simmer low for 45 minutes.

Remove the star anise and ginger. Add the thigh meat and continue to simmer low for one half hour. Taste and adjust with sugar, salt or soy depending on your preferences. Serve over steamed rice with veggies sauteed with ginger and garlic. Top with a little hot sauce to contrast with the sweetness.

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