It’s been raining all day. The perfect dinner for a cold, wet and rainy Saturday night? Soft, silky Hainanese Chicken. Delicate, fragrant poached chicken. Served with onion rice, ginger relish and a generous drizzling of broth. Warming. Comforting. Delicious. Simple and satisfying. One of my very favourite wet weather meals. I like to think of it as medicine for the soul. There are hundreds of variations on this dish but the one I always come back to is Bill Granger’s rendition from one of his earliest cookbooks Sydney Food.
The secret to soft, moist and silky chicken? Allow the whole bird to simmer ever so gently in broth for just half an hour. Turn off the heat, keep the pot tightly covered and leave to steep in the pot for another half an hour or so. It really is as easy as that. The chicken will be perfectly cooked. I promise. When the chicken is cooked, use the broth to make the onion rice. All that’s left to do is prepare the fresh ginger relish and chop the poached chicken into chunks. Assemble all the components into a shallow bowl and finish with more of the fragrant stock. Dinner is served.
Bill Granger’s Warm Poached Chicken with Onion Rice and Fresh Ginger Relish
1 x 1.5 kg chicken, excess fat removed
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), including roots (reserve leaves for sauce)
3 spring (green) onions, chopped
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons salt
500g long-grain rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 onion, finely sliced
1 long red chilli, sliced on the diagonal
fresh ginger relish, recipe follows
PLACE chicken in a large saucepan and add coriander roots and stems, spring onions, peppercorns, salt and two litres of water. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a bare simmer, cover saucepan and continue to simmer for 25 minutes.
REMOVE from heat and leave the chicken in the pot for a further 40 minutes, without lifting the lid.
WASH rice until water runs clear. Drain.
HEAT the oils in a saucepan over low heat and add garlic, ginger and onion. Cook for 15 minutes. Add rice to the pan and stir-fry for three minutes.
INCREASE heat to medium-high, add a litre of chicken liquid to rice and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
REMOVE from heat and let stand for 10 minutes without lifting the lid.
SEASON with salt and pepper before serving.
REMOVE the chicken from the saucepan and cut chicken into serving-size pieces.
GARNISH with sprigs of coriander.
SERVE with onion rice, fresh ginger relish and fresh chillies.
Fresh Ginger Relish
2 tablespoons ginger, cut into match sticks
8 springs (green) onions, finely sliced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper
IN A mortar and pestle lightly bruise the ginger and spring onions.
HEAT the oil in a pan until smoking and pour over ginger mixture in a heat-proof bowl.
SEASON with salt and pepper. Allow to cool before serving.