Thirty-five minutes. That's all the time you need to create a favorite dish of Henan in east-central China. That's the amount of time it takes to walk two miles. That's the amount of time it takes to watch the ten o'clock news. That's the amount of time it takes to play three games of Team Deathmatch in Call of Duty.
Chef Danny Bowien owns Mission Chinese Food in both San Francisco and New York. His passion in life is creating slow food fast. In this dish, he has created flavors that taste like they've been melding for days when in fact it's only thirty-five minutes from start to finish.
This is a hearty stew for a cold, wintry day. And did I mention it's made with beer? Have you ever had anything bad that was made with beer? Just like bacon, everything is better with beer. So call up and invite five companions over (for my non-Mensa friends, this means the recipe will serve six). Tomorrow would be a good choice because we are going to have a big snowstorm. Then set aside just thirty-five minutes to take them all on a glorious, one-way trip to Henan, China.
1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds, broken down and cut into 10 pieces
1½ tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons fish sauce, plus extra for seasoning
¼ cup grapeseed oil
½ cup dried red chilies
2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns or whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons fennel seed
2 tablespoons cumin
2 pieces star anise
4 pods green cardamom
2 tablespoons Chinese chili bean paste or Sriracha
2 cups chicken stock or water
16 ounces lager-style beer, such as Budweiser or Tsingtao
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup sugar
2 russet potatoes or 4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, washed and cut into 1-inch dice
Black vinegar or Sherry vinegar, to taste
1 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
- Season chicken with salt and 2 tablespoons fish sauce and let sit 5 minutes. Meanwhile, set a heavy, deep pot over medium-high heat and add oil. Once oil is hot, work in batches to brown both sides of chicken pieces, about 6 minutes per batch, transferring chicken to a bowl as you go.
- Return chicken to pot, increase heat to high and add all remaining ingredients except vinegar and cilantro. Bring pot up to a rolling boil, cover and cook until chicken and potatoes are tender and sauce is reduced, about 20 minutes.
- Season stew with vinegar and extra fish sauce to taste. Distribute stew among four plates and top with cilantro.
Pairing: When in China, do as the Chinese do. Wash down your Chinese stew with Tsingtao Chinese beer.