Monday, November 21, 2016

Recipe for a Thanksgiving Rebel: Kung Pao-Style Roast Chicken, Gravy and Fried Rice

Kung Pao-Style Roast Chicken, Gravy and Fried Rice

Turkey is the traditional centerpiece of Thanksgiving. And while many people--including me--love a good roast turkey, there are those folks who don't like turkey. For whatever reason, it's just not their thing. They may feel guilted into making turkey anyway, because of the holiday. To those folks I say: be a rebel. Make something else! What's important on Thanksgiving is that make a meal your guests will love. It doesn't have to be all the "traditional" dishes if that's not what you and your crowd is into. Shake things up!

Kung Pao-Style Roast Chicken

Along those lines, I came up with this Kung Pao-style roast chicken. Before any of you food purists out there get huffy with me, I realize this bears no resemblance to actual Kung Pao Chicken (a dish I adore, by the way). Rather, the flavors of the glaze and, to some extent, the accompanying gravy and fried rice are inspired by the spicy-sweet flavors of a good Kung Pao (those desiring recipes for actual Kung Pao Chicken can look here, here or here). However, the presentation has been modified to be something more akin to Thanksgiving: a whole roasted bird with gravy.

Fried Rice

Consider the side of fried rice sort of like the accompanying stuffing, and I hope you'll see how this could be a satisfying alternative to traditional turkey and stuffing. Alternatively, you could just make this anytime for a satisfying dinner. You can this really spicy if you want by amping up the cayenne pepper and red chili pepper flakes. I went for something that gives a gentle undercurrent of heat. Be sure to cook the rice in advance for the fried rice.

Kung Pao-Style Roast Chicken

Kung Pao-Style Roast Chicken and Fried Rice
Chicken roasting method adapted (liberally) from a recipe from Epicurious; fried rice adapted from a Serious Eats recipe

Note: Please note that this recipe calls for already cooked white rice--plan ahead! Szechuan peppercorns are available from spice stores and Chinese markets. They are not "hot" like a chili pepper but rather create a numbing sensation. Pick through the peppercorns and discard any black seeds that may be present, as well as unopened pods--you only want to use the hulls. The seeds are gritty and don't taste good.

4-5 lb. whole chicken
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. ground Szechuan peppercorns (see note)
2 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. fine garlic powder
Dash (less than 1/8 tsp.) cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)

2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
Pinch of red chili pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

Drippings from pan plus:
3 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. dry sherry (amontillado)
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp. cornstarch
Pinch of red chili pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

Fried rice:
2 cups cooked white rice (plan ahead: cooking the rice takes about 35 minutes)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 sweet or yellow onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Set a V-rack into a roasting pan. Place the chicken, breast-side up, on the rack. Brush the chicken with vegetable oil. Combine ground Szechuan peppercorns, seasoned salt, black pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water to the roasting pan and roast another 15 minutes.

2. Combine the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Brush the chicken with glaze and continue roasting the chicken for another 40 to 50 minutes, brushing with glaze every 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (an instant-read thermometer stuck into thick portion of the breast or thigh should read at least 165 F). Remove chicken from rack and set aside on a cutting board to cool for about 10 minutes before carving the chicken.

3. Transfer drippings (about 2 tbsp. worth) from chicken roasting pan to a 10-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the soy sauce, sherry, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, garlic cloves, chicken stock, cornstarch and red chili pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the gravy has thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Make the fried rice (you can do this while the chicken is roasting): Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the rice and 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and sauté until the rice is lightly golden and chewy, about 5 minutes. Remove the rice from the pan. Add the remaining vegetable oil and, when hot, add the onion and celery and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Return the fried rice to the pan and add the soy sauce, sesame oil and peanuts. Stir to combine, then push the ingredients to the sides leaving a 4-inch dry circle in the middle of the pan. Add the egg to the circle, and stir to scramble, then combine with other ingredients.

5. Serve the chicken carved with the fried rice an gravy on the side.

Thanksgiving Central

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