So continuing on with my experiences in the lovely, most amazing MasterChef Kitchen (I hope I had enough adjectives there), there was actually a challenge where we had to cook with chicken. This challenge, not to brag, would have been a cakewalk for me, because I practiced breaking down chickens regularly in college (mostly because buying the whole animal is a ton cheaper), and because I had the perfect dish to prepare in the event I had to cook: my modernized take on Hainan chicken. When asked hypothetically what I would do with chicken, this was the FIRST thing that came to my mind. A really elegant slice of chicken breast, crispy skin, a smoky, umami-packed reduction sauce, cucumbers, shallots, puffed rice, and I also went with mushrooms, mostly because I know how to caramelize those really well, and because chicken and mushrooms is a no-brainer in that they work really, really well together.
Since Hainan chicken is a street food, with heavy ties to Singapore, therefore hawker stalls, that’s sort of where the name came from. And the nature of the challenge was that only the losing team and people who sucked at butchering chickens would have to compete in the actual cookery of it. Therefore a phoenix rising from the ashes would fit the redemptive nature of participating in this cook(fun fact, like three people who had to cook in this challenge claimed that they made the best chicken dish, and I still have no clue who technically won). To further that theme, I went with black rice, to better resemble ashes. I also went with black silkie chicken for this rendition, as well as king oyster mushrooms, just to add a little luxury to the original concept! The key difference with silkie and normal chicken, besides the color, is that they are much smaller, so this recipe will be to cook a silkie chicken breast, not a standard, much bigger one. While it was a dish that never got to be made on the show, I can assure you, it tastes pretty good!
For the sauce:
4 oz of chicken bones
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 shallot, peeled and diced
king oyster mushroom scraps
1 clove of garlic
3 tablespoons roughly chopped ginger
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon honey
Sweat out shallot, garlic, ginger, bay leaf, mushroom scraps, and chicken bones in a pan until the shallot is translucent and the chicken bones are golden brown. Deglaze with stock, soy, and honey and reduce over medium-low heat until it forms a rich, dark sauce. Strain out the solids.
For the chicken skin:
Season the chicken skin on a parchment sheet and bake at 375 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes, or until puffed and crispy.
For the chicken breast:
2 silkie chicken breasts; boneless and skinless
Season the chicken breasts with the above spices. Heat up a pan then add in your oil. Sear the chicken breasts on both sides for about 1 minute per side, then transfer to a cooling rack lined sheet tray and roast in a 375 degree F oven for 5 minutes. Rest for 5 minutes before slicing in half lengthwise.
For the king oyster mushrooms:
King oyster mushroom stem; sliced into medallions and scored
Roast mushrooms in a 375 degree F oven for 10-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Place about 8 parts canola oil to 1 part sesame oil in a pan and sear the mushrooms on each side until golden.
For the blood orange-ginger braised shallots:
juice and peel from 3 blood oranges
2 tablespoons mirin
1 knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 shallot, peeled
Slice the shallot on the mandolin to form rings. Bring juice, peel, mirin, ginger, and salt to a boil. Add in the shallots and cook down until translucent; you are really just cooking them down to draw out that raw onion flavor. Strain and allow to cool.
For the lime infused cucumber ribbons:
2 Persian cucumbers
2 limes; juiced and zest
Roll cucumbers in salt and allow them to sit for 15 minutes. Lightly rinse and dry, then shave lengthwise into ribbons. Toss in the lime juice and zest and then roll up into little ribbons for presenting.
For the puffed black rice:
Bring oil to 330 degrees F. Flash fry the rice for 20 seconds, then strain. Drain on a paper towel to remove any excess, then season.
Start with a small circle(no more than 1 inch) of sauce. Place half of the breast down(cut side up) to the side of the circle, then garnish with the mushrooms and shallots along the top of the breast. Place on the sides the cucumber ribbons, then on the ends and middle, shards of the crispy skin. Finish with a small trail of the black rice, that fans out, on the side opposite to the sauce. You can repeat this with the other half of the breast on the same plate if you are intending to serve an entrée sized portion(but a Fred-sized portion would be just half a breast).