In another post that sounds much fancier than it really is…I give you: braising. Regardless of spices, or proteins, the basic process is the same: sear, then stew. Here, I decided to leave the pre-made 5-spice in the pantry, and try my hand with the raw ingredients. I had everything except Szechuan peppercorns, but I tried to compensate with black pepper, ginger, and citrus. Chicken is pretty standard faire at home, but this could work with most poultry, and even pork with a few adjustments.
My attempt at 5-spice wasn’t textbook “authentic” but it was both feasible and delicious. Now, the substitutions I made for the peppercorns technically made this a seven-spice blend, but let’s forget math until the end of the meal. Star anise, plus thai basil round out the deep licorice flavor that carries the blend’s flavor; cinnamon, cumin and clove add sweet and savory notes, and ginger, orange peel, and black pepper round out the “bright” heat you expect from fresh peppercorns. I considered adding brown sugar, or dark soy sauce, but felt this would taste too similar to the char siu that I just updated. This one wouldn’t need it in the end either. Instead, I threw in some pineapple sage, and forgot about it.
Since most of these spices burn easily, I primarily added them to a stock with a little duck fat, green onion, garlic, soy sauce, and yet more thai basil. This simmered for about 30 minutes, and it was ready to add to a large pot once the chicken was seared. I let it cook sealed in the oven for about thirty more minutes, and the chicken was perfectly tender. For bonus points, broil it uncovered afterward to re-char the meat at the end, like with these carnitas. Just take out the cinnamon and anise first– it will burn, and you won’t be able to get the flavor out.
Serve this over noodles, rice…or just your favorite greens. Verdict? I’m pretty happy with this attempt, and I bet it’d be even better with the right peppercorns. I guess that means I’ll be on Buford Highway pretty soon.
2 Chicken Breasts
2 Chicken Thighs
3 Sprigs Thai Basil, Pineapple Sage
1 Bell Pepper, sliced thinly
4 Green Onion, sliced thinly
3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Tsp Ginger, minced
1 Tsp Orange Peel
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Star Anise
1 Tbs Whole Cumin
1 Tbs Whole Black Pepper
1 Tbs Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Ginger Powder
3 Tbs Soy Sauce
1 Tbs Duck Fat
1/2 Tsp Sesame Oil
Salt to Taste
- Heat duck fat, garlic, green onion, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and cumin in a medium pot until fragrant, and stir regularly.
- Add black pepper, fresh ginger, orange peel, pineapple sage, and thai basil, then cover with water, and bring to a low boil. Cover the pot, and maintain the low boil for thirty minutes. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
- Season the chicken with salt, and garlic powder, then allow to reach room temperature before searing on med-high heat. Sear the chicken breasts first, then remove from the heat,and sear the thighs.
- Add all the chicken back to the pot, and stir in sliced bell pepper, and remaining garlic and green onion. Drizzle with soy sauce, then add the stock once the sauce reduces.
- Cover and simmer for another thirty minutes in the oven, or until fork tender.
- Remove the cinnamon and star anise, then broil uncovered for an additional ten minutes.
- Remove from the oven, and allow another fifteen minutes to cool.
- Plate and serve.