Some cooks, when they find a recipe that works, lock it in place as “the recipe.” I always have to see if I can make it even better. A couple of months ago I did a Szechuan Salt and Pepper Roast Chicken that what a really big hit, spicy, juicy and a crackling skin to die for. Can I do even better?
The Szechuan Salt & Pepper that Jan brought back from Sonoma is a bit too salty to use over an entire chicken. I decided to cut the salt by mixing it with some more Sichuan Pepper (花椒 ; huā jiāo). That way I could use as much pepper as I wanted, without over doing the salt.
Note: For a discussion of the spelling difference see this recipe. If you do not have Szechuan Salt & Pepper from Whole Spice, you can make you own by coarsely grinding one tablespoon of Sichuan pepper and mixing it with one tablespoon of a coarse grained Kosher or sea salt.
I had been very cautious last time with the là jiāo (辣椒 ; hot pepper). The bird had a little bit of a bite, but with the huā jiāo—which counters the capsaicin burn—I could have added a bit more. The ginger and garlic turned out to be good flavor additions.
As the first new addition to this dish I am thinking vinegar. I have been experimenting with meat tenderizers in the last few weeks. This week I used some black vinegar on my turkey meatballs. I want to add enough under the skin
Another addition will be sesame oil. As well as adding its distinctive flavor, it will help the oil soluble spice elements marinate into the meat. Used on the outside of the skin, it will help the pepper and salt stick to the outside of the bird.
I needed some side dishes to go with my roasted chicken. Jan wanted me to learn how to make dry fried green beans, like we get from the restaurants. I had tried this before without coming even close, but I found a blog that has the secret. I am also thinking something with oyster mushrooms and some steamed rice for the starch eaters.
Karl’s Szechuan Salt and Pepper Roast Chicken
1 roasting chicken (about 5-7 lbs.)
1 Tbs. Sichuan Pepper
1½ tsp. Chinese chili flakes
1+ Tbs. Szechuan Salt & Pepper
12 cloves garlic, separate uses
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, separate uses
2 Tbs. dark sesame oil, separate uses
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. shaoxing rice wine
1½ Tbs. Chinese black vinegar
1. Rinse and pat the bird dry. Separate the skin from the breast and thighs.
Tip: Lay the bird on its back with the neck facing away from you. Slide your fingers under the skin at the back of the breast bone and spread your fingers apart. Try not to rip the skin any wider near the breast bone. Push your hand in further and repeat the finger spreading. Slide your fingers over the outside of the thighs. You should now have much of the skin separated from the meat on both sides of the bird.
2. Coarsely grind the Sichuan pepper and Chinese chili flakes. Add one tablespoon of Szechuan Salt & Pepper. Mix the spices together.
3. Rub the spice blend under the skin on both sides of the bird and in the cavity.
Note: Do not use this blend on the outside of the skin. Actually if you chose you may mix all of the dry spices and rub it on both the inside and out, but that is not what I am planning to do. Some of my diners will discard the skin and heavily spicing it would be a waste.
4. Grate two cloves of garlic and half of the ginger into a small cup. Add one tablespoon each of sesame oil, soy sauce, shaoxing and one and a half tablespoons of vinegar. Mix well and splash this mixture under the skin and into the cavity of the bird.
5. Crack the garlic cloves open and put them in the cavity.
6. Slice the remaining ginger into coins and put them in the cavity.
7. Seal the cavity by sewing up the skin.
Tip: I usually pull the flaps of skin together and use 2-3 toothpicks to stitch them together.
8. Rub the skin with the remaining sesame oil and dust the skin lightly with Szechuan Salt & Pepper.
9. Truss the legs and fold the wing tips under the back.
Tip: Take a piece of string and tie it to one end of the leg. Wrap the string around the end of the other leg and draw them together. Tie the ends of the string together to hold the legs in place. For the wing, picture taking your right hand and placing it on the right side of your neck while keeping your elbow by your side.
10. Cover the bird in plastic and refrigerate the bird for at least one hour to marinate.
11. Roast the bird on a wire rack and uncovered in a 400° F oven, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165° F.
Note: Cooking time is entirely dependent on the size of your bird and the roasting technique you use (high or low heat methods). I could not improve on Just a Pinch’s discussion on the subject.
Tip: If the top of the breast is starting to burn cover it with a small piece of foil to protect it.
12. Remove the bird to a serving platter and tent it with foil for 10 minutes.
Tip: This allows the internal juices to evenly distribute throughout the meat and prevents it from just leaking out when you cut the bird.
13. De-fat the pan liquid and serve it on the side, au jus.