Another day of snowbound togetherness. Another day TRAPPED IN THIS HOUSE TOGETHER. What do you do with a week of enforced intimacy? You try not to kill each other during the day and then cook a kick ass dinner, blow off your New Years resolution diet, drink a bottle of wine and then realize, “Hey, I’m not driving anywhere” and suck down another! Yeah, that was our Thursday.
Earlier this month, I received an email from a very nice woman at Tealeaves.com who had seen the feature in 425 Magazine in the fall, featuring local food bloggers/twitter loudmouths like me. She asked if I would try their teas and let them know what I thought. I was flattered, and surprised to get a huge assortment in the mail. With our stupid New Years diets, I’ve been drinking a lot of tea instead of wine (WTF, right?), and the assortment she sent has been delicious. I'm also a geek for cool packaging, and loved how these arrived. There is a sealed bag inside a sealed tea compartment inside a cool tea tin. It's like a Russian Doll of tealeaves. My favorite tea has always been (and remains) Jasmine, so I used that to smoke the chicken in this recipe.
This recipe is a goldmine. It has the perfect marriage of sweet and spicy, delicious textural combinations between the creamy eggplant and tomato sambal, the seared chicken, and the crunchy fried sambal on top. Like the other Ezard recipes I’ve blogged about, this was delicious and so completely the type of food I like to cook.
Don’t be put off by the steps—it sounds more involved than it really is. It didn’t take more than an hour to throw this all together. And besides, it’s a winter wonderland out there. What ELSE do you have to do today?
Notes on the recipe: I couldn’t find Green Ginger Wine anywhere, and ended up subbing in a lychee rice wine I picked up the Asian market. It was quite nice. Also, I smoked this with Applewood chips. The type called for in this recipe are unique (I think) to Australia. Finally,…baby chickens? While I love the horrific descriptor, this is not something easy to procure here, so we used chicken thighs. Other than this, I promise I didn’t dumb down this recipe. It’s too damned good to modify.
Smoked Baby Chicken with Tomato and Eggplant Sambal
Adapted from the cookbook Gingerboy, by Teage Ezard
SMOKED BABY CHICKEN
85 ml light soy sauce
15g (approximately 3cm) fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons green ginger wine
2 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine
2 x 500g baby chickens, butterflied (or 8 boneless chicken thighs, as we did)
100g woodchips (mankua is the best but any from your local barbecue store will work), soaked in water for 20 minutes, then drained
2 tablespoons jasmine tea leaves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
TOMATO AND EGGPLANT SAMBAL
2 eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthways into 12 wedges
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthways
250 ml(1 cup) pat chun (Chinese sweetened vinegar)
2 red shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 red bird’s eye (thai) chile, thinly sliced
2 tablespoopns shaoxing rice wine
2 tablespoons kecap manis
1 large handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
1 cup crispy fried sambal (recipe below)
CRISPY FRIED SAMBAL
1 tablespoon belacan shrimp paste, roasted
750ml (3 cups) vegetable oil
6 red shallots, thinly sliced
3 long red chiles, thinly sliced on the diagonal
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
30g (approximately 6cm) fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
Smoked baby chicken
- Combine the soy sauce, ginger, green ginger wine and shaoxing rice wine in a large container, add the chickens, skin side down, and rub the marinade into the flesh. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours to marinate. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and leave for 10 minutes to come to room temperature.
- Place a perforated stainless steel disc insert in a steamer basket, then add the chicken and cover with the lid. (Note from Marc: I just used a regular chinese bamboo steamer for this) Line the base of a wok with foil, sprinkle in half of the soaked woodchips and place over medium heat.
- Stir the woodchips around until they start to smoke, then place the steamer on top. Cover and smoke for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat and leave for 4 minutes. Remove the steamer from the wok, turn the heat back on, stir the woodchips around, replace the steamer and repeat the smoking process.
- Remove the steamer from the wok and then remove the foil and the woodchips. Replace with a fresh sheet of foil and the remaining woodchips and repeat the smoking process. The last time you move the woodchips around, place the wok over medium heat and, once the woodchips start to smoke, sprinkle on the tealeaves. Place the steamer on top, cover and leave to smoke for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes.
Tomato and Eggplant Sambal
- Preheat the oven to 380 F.
- Spread the eggplant in a single layer on a baking tray, drizzle on the oil and season with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Roast for 25 minutes until golden brown and soft. Set aside to cool.
- Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, in a single layer on a baking tray. Pour the pat chun over the top, season lightly with the remaining salt and cover with foil. Roast for 30 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked but still hold their shape. Leave the tomatoes to cool in the liquid. Once cool, the skin can be easily removed. Strain, reserving 80ml (1/3 cup) of the pat chun liquid.
- Heat a wok over medium heat, add the eggplant and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the shallots, garlic, chile and tomatoes and stir-fry for 1 minute. Pour in the shaoxing rice wine, cook for 20 seconds, then add the kecap manis and caramelize for a further 30 seconds. Stir in the reserved pat chun liquid, cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
Crispy Fried Sambal
- Using your fingers, crumble the shrimp paste into a bowl and set aside (Note from Marc: to roast the belacan, just wrap a piece in foil and cook in a 350-375 degree oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes)
- Heat the oil in a wok to 350 F (you can test if the oil is the right temperature by dropping in a cube of bread; if the bread browns in 50 seconds, the oil is ready). Fry the shallots until golden brown, remove with a slotte spoon and drain on paper towel. Repeat with the chile, garlic and ginger.
- Add all fried ingredients to the bowl and gently mix with the shrimp paste.
- This sambal is best made fresh on the day.
- Preheat the oven to 380 F (180 C.)
- Season the chicken lightly on the skin side. Place a non-stick frying pan over high heat, add the oil and chicken, skin side down, and cook for 1-2 minutes, then flip over, cover and cook for a further 4 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Cut each chicken into quarters.
- Spoon some sambal into the center of two serving plates, top with the chicken and garnish with the coriander and crispy fried sambal.