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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Inspired by Hainan Chicken...

...or more specifically Mark Bittman's Hainan chicken.

One of the first jobs I ever had was in the kitchen at Hunan Gourmet on Long Island. The job lasted a few long hours and after my shift was through so was I. I was a dishwasher. I got yelled at repeatedly, but so did the guys who were not as slow as molasses like me. "Fuck you fuck clean dish fucking fuck...aaaAAAAAAAAASSSSSSHHHHOOOLLLEEE...you fuuuUUUUUCCKKKK..." and so it went. For 13 hours from the time I arrived until the time I left. I knew from that day that the kitchen of a restaurant was not for me.

I did, however land a couple of more jobs in kitchens both busing and waiting tables. I've always been awful, but the real stress for me was always in the kitchen. The real insanity. The dark, desperate feeling of never being fast enough (describes most jobs I've had of any physical or menial nature as well) or alert enough. Even a recent bartending stint has proven to be overwhelming at times. There's a point somewhere between lax, fun and lost.

In the case of the bar there's the delay of thought that has to go into every movement combined with slurred speech of a sometimes difficult dialect of a language I should be much more proficient in. But now I've strayed so far from the focus of this post that I don't even know if I'll make it back to Hainan. Or perhaps I'm avoiding the topic because I know a secret. Shhh. I have no idea what I'm doing. I never even heard of Hainan before today, but the dish intrigued me so much that I had to allow myself to become curious and inspired. Plus the fact that I've done something like this before to an extent, which excites me.

I will not call this Hainanese chicken. I will merely call it chicken and rice inspired by the above mentioned dish. Mine used dark meat chicken parts, boiled and set aside. The rice (jasmine) proceeded to an oiled pan and came to a crackle. Then the fatty water from the chicken went over the rice to cook. Here's the fun part and the main variation i made do with - the sauce!

I had to substitute and add a bit to make it my own and to compensate for what I lacked. I was missing fresh ginger and peanut/sesame oil. I chopped garlic, red onion and Chinese chili peppers and placed them in a bowl. Squeezed fresh lime juice and orange juice, salt and sugar over that stuff. I crushed peanuts and pumpkin seeds in the old granite M&P (OK it's not that old) and put the pulverized, seedy seeds and legumes into the bowl as well. Then I poured sizzling hot sunflower oil over the stuff in the bowl. Holy spicy dipping sauces!!!! Amazing!

I think the fresh citrus, especially the juice from the orange really helped to cut into the oily nature of the dish. For that purpose I also threw in some slightly wilted kale for a clean balance. Yes Laura...I found curly kale here in Ribe. A new 'mom and pop' opened in town and they sell flowers and amazing produce. Check this out...

Anyway I appreciate the fact that it's just me in the kitchen and nobody is yelling at me, rushing me or threatening me with cleavers. And you know what? I've gotten really fast! I guess it's in my nature to be laid back. With cooking, creating, living, etc. I guess now I just need to figure out how to make a living going at my own pace. Maybe I'll ask Mr. Kale or Mr. Seed.


~melissa said...

This looks really good. You worked at Hunan Gourmet? hahahaha....I liked that place. But not as much as the one on the south side of Lincoln Boulevard which was a Long John Silvers. Oh man. Hometown memories.

the chicken dish.. yeah - sorry that was my original train of thought. Looks yummy. :)


jdbauer said...

Oh god - Long John Silver! HA! That place was so many different things. Like the Chinese Place that was the Glass Harmonica and a million other things. Merrick is weird. Not that it's weird that a place shifts like that so much - just Merrick. Freaky place.

Lauren said...

this looks great. I'm always looking for new kale ideas.

jdbauer said...

Thanks Lauren! I used some more Kale in lasagna last night. I have to use the rest as it's sadly wilting on the counter. Perhaps I can sew a scarf with the remaining Kale:)

Cynthia said...

Hey Jonathan, I too saw that Mark Bittman post. I have seen and heard about the dish from a few bloggers but am yet to try it. I like the variations you made with yours. Look moist and delicious.

jdbauer said...

Thanks Cynthia. I made it again on Saturday and this time I used the fresh ginger, but I still ground some peanuts (broke a coffee grinder in the process) and added the other same stuff. And for the rice I added coconut milk along with the chicken broth. it really turned out nicely.

lbstadler said...

congratulations on your kale find. i envy your kale.

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