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2000s Recipes + Menus

Velvet Chicken

  • Active time:20 min
  • Start to finish:1 1/2 hr
May 2004
As a working mother with four daughters, my mom had very little spare time, yet she always managed to turn out meals reminiscent of her native Canton, China. This dish, one of her specialties, takes its name from the moist, velvety texture the chicken gets from being poached at a low temperature. My mother loved the short preparation time (the chicken finishes cooking through heat retained in a covered pot) and that the poaching liquid can be strained and then chilled or frozen to be used again.—Lillian Chou
  • 1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb) whole chicken
  • 2 (14-oz) cans low-sodium chicken broth (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup dark soy sauce* (see cooks’ note, below)
  • 1 cup Chinese rice wine* (preferably Shaoxing) or medium-dry Sherry
  • 1/4 cup coarsely crushed yellow rock sugar* (2 oz) or 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 6 (1/4-inch-thick) round slices fresh ginger
  • 4 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise (1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 (2 1/2-inch) dried red chile
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan or black peppercorns
  • Accompaniment:

    cooked rice or noodles
  • Garnish:

    fresh cilantro leaves
  • Rinse chicken inside and out and pat dry.
  • Combine remaining ingredients in a 4- to 6-quart heavy pot and bring to a boil.
  • Add chicken, breast side down, and reduce heat to a simmer. (Chicken may not be completely covered with liquid.) Cook, covered, 15 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and let chicken stand, covered, 30 minutes. Turn chicken over, then cover and let stand 15 minutes more. (Chicken will be cooked through.)
  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board, reserving cooking liquid. Cut off drumsticks and thighs, then cut off wings, transferring pieces to a serving platter. (Chicken will release juices.) Separate breast (with rib cage) from back, discarding back.
  • Using a cleaver or other sharp large heavy knife, cut breast against grain through bone into 1-inch-thick slices.
  • Spoon some of warm poaching liquid over chicken and serve chicken warm, chilled, or at room temperature. Pour remaining poaching liquid through a sieve set into a bowl and serve additional poaching liquid as a sauce if desired, then reserve remaining liquid to use again.
Cooks’ notes:
  • Dark soy sauce gives a deeper color to this dish. If it’s unavailable, additional regular soy sauce is an acceptable substitute.
  • Chicken keeps, covered and chilled, 2 days.
  • Leftover poaching liquid keeps, chilled, in an airtight container 1 week, or frozen 3 months. Thaw if necessary and bring to a boil before using.
* Available at Kam Man Food Products (212-571-0330).