Hearty Fall Cookery
Szechuan pepper, meaning “flower pepper” in Chinese, is not a true pepper. Unlike a black pepper, Szechuan pepper has an intoxicating aromatic aroma, a lighter flavor with overtones of citrus and zesty tingle on the palate rather than the intense heat that we associate with true black pepper. A tantalizing choice for a Chinese inspired roasted chicken that I was craving. I wanted a deeply flavored glazed roast, almost sticky and decidedly charred to accompany steamed brown jasmine and black rice with seaweed and a salad of Chinese cabbage (won pok), leafy greens, and bitter radicchio tossed with an Asian dressing with a hint of sesame and ginger.
The recipe that follows is what I came up with! It in no way purports to be Chinese, and I would probably be taken to task by a Chinese cook for even trying, but it does deliver a resoundingly fragrant and flavorful roast chicken that I was chasing after.
Szechuan Roasted Chicken: serves 4
- 1 whole free range chicken
- 1 ½ tablespoons cold pressed peanut oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 cup black Chinese (Chinkiang) vinegar; or rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 ½ tablespoons Szechuan pepper corns, lightly toasted and coarsely ground
- 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 generous pinch of cayenne (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon of anise seeds
- 1/2 cup chicken stock(or water)
- 1/4 cup Shao Xing Chinese cooking wine (or dry sherry)
Halve the chicken, removing the back bone, and separating the leg/thigh from the breast on both halves of the chicken, making four portions.
Combine the peanut oil, sesame oil, Chinese black vinegar, honey, coarsely ground Szechuan pepper, soy sauce, grated ginger, minced onion, seas salt, cayenne (optional), and anise seeds in a non-reactive bowl and mix together until well combined.
Place the chicken in a deep baking tray just large enough to hold the chicken without crowding and pour the marinade over the chicken. Massage the marinade into the chicken and turn the chicken flesh down into the marinade and press firmly into the marinade. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours. Compress the chicken several times while marinating. No need to remove the cling film when compressing as it will create a vacuum that will encourage penetration of the marinade into the chicken.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least an hour before you intend to roast it.
Preheat the oven to 450F/ 230 C
Remove the cling film from the chicken and turn the chicken flesh side up for roasting. Spoon the pepper corns over the top of the chicken and press into the flesh. Add ¼ cup chicken stock or water to the baking tray and place in the oven and roast about 45 minutes, generously basting at 15 minute intervals and turning the pan for even roasting. Add additional stock if needed while roasting to keep the chicken moist.
To test the chicken, slip a knife blade into the thickest part of the breast and if the juice runs clear the chicken is done. Remove from the oven, and pour the pan juices into a sauce pan. Loosely cover the chicken with foil, top with a kitchen towel, and set aside to rest.
Skim fat off the pan juices in the sauce pan and discard, or save for another use. Add the Shao Xing cooking wine (or dry sherry) and turn the heat up to medium and reduce until the reduction begins to thicken into a glaze. Taste and add additional soy sauce if needed. Set aside.
Serving: Place chicken pieces on individual serving plates and spoon the glaze evenly over the top of the chicken and serve.