October 14, 2009
You know when something's big and/or significant when it's all over Facebook. We've been having torrential downpours in the Bay Area for the past couple of days -- and I swear, everyone's Facebook status from around here was about the rain. I even had a friend in Japan ask, "Is everything ok in California? From all the Facebook status updates, it sounds like the world is going to end over there!" Which did seemed true at the time given the ominous dark clouds and never-ending sheets of rain. But also keep in mind that we live in California, and any hint of rain sends people into a hissy :)
Anyway, I actually love the rain because it reminds me of my childhood in Berkeley. It wasn't until I moved away to Chicago that I learned that rain does not equal winter, and winter is not always "pleasantly" cold. We've totally become wussies since moving from Chicago back to the Bay Area -- we were shivering in our apartment the other day, and I exclaimed, "It's freezing outside! How cold do you think it is?" To which AC responded, "Yeah, must be in the 50's today...probably not that much colder than Chicago." We looked up the weather online, and it ended up being 61 degrees! Chicago was only 48 degrees; how embarrassing. This does not bode well for our upcoming trip to Chicago in a couple of weeks...
Regardless of what the actual thermometer read (I swear it was colder than 61 degrees!), it still felt chilly enough to get our "fall/winter" appetites out in full force. AC has this killer chili recipe which I will post about later. But for now, here is an equally delicious and comforting cold-night dinner dish: Chinese chicken claypot.
What I love most about this claypot is its bold and flavorful sauce. The spiciness comes from the ginger and star anise, the lingering heat comes from the generous dose of sriracha sauce, the subtle sweetness comes from the hoisin sauce, and the heartiness comes from all the leftover braising juices and chicken broth. Soaking up this rich and complex broth are juicy chunks of chicken, soft and pillowy shiitake mushrooms, tender napa cabbage, and spongy pieces of tofu. There is something so soothing and comforting about this, especially on a cold rainy night.
Slurp up, my friends -- and stay dry!
Spicy Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Star Anise
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, January 1999
1 tablespoon peanut oil
8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
12 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps quartered
2 cups chopped green onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 14 1/2-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
4 whole star anise
6 cups 3/4-inch-wide strips Napa cabbage (about 1 small head)
7 oz (half a container) tofu, cubed
1-2 tablespoon sriracha chili sauce, or to taste
Heat peanut oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté until brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to bowl. Add mushrooms, 1 1/2 cups green onions, garlic and ginger to pot. Sauté until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to pot. Add chicken broth, hoisin sauce and star anise. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 1+ hour.
Remove chicken from pot; cool slightly. Cut meat crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Meanwhile, boil mixture in pot until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 30 minutes. Stir in cabbage, tofu and chili sauce. Boil until cabbage is tender, about 4 minutes. Return chicken to pot; simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Discard star anise. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup green onions.