One of our favourite family meals is Bill Granger’s Silky Hainanese Chicken. Soft, delicate, fragrant poached chicken. Served with onion rice, ginger relish and a generous drizzle of broth. Warming and comforting. Simple and satisfying. For a long time I have been curious as to whether this dish would successfully convert into a 5-2 fast day meal. It certainly ticks a lot of the boxes. A healthy, delicious and vibrant plate of food that’s very easy to prepare. The potential stumbling block? The associated calorie count of using a whole chicken, crucial to achieving it’s signature deeply flavoured broth.
To be honest, I use poached chicken in many of my 5-2 fast day recipes but generally only lean skinless and boneless breast fillet which I know is low in calories and perfectly adaptable to many fast day meals. To be honest, I have consciously shied away from using a whole bird. My reluctance most definitely stemming from a gap in my understanding of exactly how many calories there are in a whole bird and its component parts. And so it was last week I bit the bullet, put on my sleuth hat and delved into the world wide web. With the assistance of google and the enormously enlightening site National Chicken Council. Org, I managed to compile this very useful table.
Looking at the numbers, there’s definitely a lot of food for thought. As expected skinless, boneless white breast meat has the lowest energy count of just 114 calories per 100 grams. By merely leaving skin on and bone in, the energy count of that same piece of chicken increases a whopping 50% to 172 calories. Skinless dark thigh meat with its higher fat content accounts for a marginally higher 119 calories per each 100g, but leaving the skin on that particular cut increases the count by an even greater 77% to 211 calories. Our grandmothers were right. Chicken skin is incredibly high in fat and calories. No wonder it tastes so good.
Here’s a little more perspective; 100 grams of pure chicken skin accounts for 454 calories. That’s equivalent to consuming 4 portions of lean skinless breast meat. Moreover, when you consider the calorie count of an average bird, leaving the skin on accounts for about 45% of the calorie count of a whole chicken on a gram for gram basis. Fortunately, simply removing the skin will eliminate all those unnecessary calories, particularly important on a fast day. In case you were curious, the most calorific portion part of any chicken? The humble wing. An uncooked wing carries 222 calories per 100g and apparently just 126 calories if you were to strip away the skin. Try as hard as I might I can never recall ever having come across a wing stripped bare. Coincidentally, with this information on board, delicious as they are, I think I will never again look at a buffalo wing in quite the same light.
For me the most useful information gleaned from this exercise is the relative calorie count of a whole bird by each 100g. This allows me to calculate the energy value of any sized chicken. If a whole chicken carries an average 215 calories per 100g, by simple multiplication there’s 2,580 calories in a small 1.2 kg bird. Eliminate the skin, the average value per 100g drops 45% to 119 calories per 100g or or 1,428 per chicken.
This brings me back full circle to my recent fast day modification of Bill Granger’s deliciously silky Hainanese chicken recipe. In the end I used a smaller bird, removing all the skin before plating. Sadly the stringent calorie restrictions meant the ginger relish had to be replaced with broccolini and the onion rice fell by the wayside in favour of a simple steamed rice, albeit made with fragrant poaching stock. The poached Hainanese Chicken and Broccolini alone came in at 380 calories per serve, with an extra 118 calories for each half cup serve of steamed rice. A total of 498 calories for the meal which just scrapes in under my 500 calorie daily limit. A very welcome reward at the end of an extremely tedious fast day where I subsisted on little more than bottles of sparkling water and cups of strong black unsweetened tea.
Whole Poached Hainanese Chicken With Broccolini And Steamed Rice
(498 calories per serve; 380 calories for poached chicken and broccolini plus 118 calories per each 1/2 cup serve steamed chicken rice)
For The Poached Chicken
1 x 1.2 kg chicken, skin removed and not eaten once cooked (1428 calories)
1/2 small bunch coriander (cilantro), including roots (12 calories)
2 long green spring onions (scallions), chopped (10 calories)
8 whole black peppercorns (2 calories)
a generous pinch sea salt
1 bunch broccolini, trimmed (68 calories)
For The Steamed Rice (2 cups cooked)
2/3 cup long-grain rice (456 calories)
1 1/3 cups chicken cooking stock (16 calories) sea salt
To Prepare The Chicken And Broccolini
PLACE chicken into a 3 litre capacity saucepan and add coriander roots and stems, spring onions, peppercorns, salt and enough water to cover the chicken.
BRING to the boil. Reduce heat to a bare simmer, cover saucepan and continue to simmer for 25 minutes.
REMOVE saucepan from heat. Add broccolini to the saucepan in an even layer over the chicken and leave to steep for a further 40 minutes, without lifting the lid.
To Prepare Steamed Rice
WASH rice until water runs clear. Drain.
ADD rice and 2 cups of chicken cooking stock to a medium saucepan. Leave uncovered and bring to the boil.
REDUCE heat to a simmer, cover with saucepan with lid and cook for a further 12 minutes.
REMOVE from heat and let stand for 10 minutes without lifting lid.
SEASON to taste with sea salt before serving.
REMOVE chicken and broccolini from the saucepan. Discard skin and chop chicken into serving-size pieces.
STRAIN chicken broth from the saucepan into a large jug or bowl.
ARRANGE chicken on a platter, garnish with broccolini and serve with rice and a little extra chicken broth on the side.