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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tea-Braised Chicken

In my effort to eat healthily and lose weight this year, I've started logging my daily caloric intake using the CalorieKing Nutrition and Exercise Manager. It's worked okay so far, I think the best part is the fact that the program forces me to get at least thirty minutes of exercise every day or else I DON'T GET TWO CHECKS, and failure is not an option for me. Sure, I'm not REALLY losing weight, but I'm tracking my weight and calories daily and every little bit helps. That and the weekly cardio-kickboxing PLUS mat pilates twice a week WITH strength training and elliptical machine time invested, I don't need any thinspiration crushing my weight-loss spirit these days.

ANYWAY. Chicken!
This recipe came from three very delicious, very different inspiratory meals. Braising, as you may know, involves meat cooking in liquid until it's all soft and shreddy, much like what you get from a slow cooker. I love that kind of thing, as Delicious Inspiratory Meal #1 reminded me the other day: Hawaiian pork lau lau, slow cooked in ti and and soft, fragrant taro leaves until absolutely buttery. If it weren't covered in chunks of pork fat, I'd eat it every day with Best Foods macaroni salad and Japanese rice.

Delicious Inspiratory Meal #2 was a batch of tea eggs I made a few weeks ago, saving almost all of the delectably pungent star anise cooking liquid to reuse someday soon. Every summer during my last two years of high school, I always went to the same Chinese teahouse--Lucy's--with my mother at least once a week to have lunch, drink "Oriental Beauty" tea, and do the daily newspaper crossword puzzle. The service was terrible, they always got our orders wrong, there were little pink ceramic pigs all over the place for no good reason, and it smelled overwhelmingly of sugar and flowers, but it was our girl time together and we always finished the paper AND the crossword puzzle. Victory, of course, was the best part, but Lucy's daily lunch special was pretty great. Garlicky, salty mustard greens, hot white rice, curried tofu or chicken, and TEA EGGS. I have craved them ever since Lucy's tragically closed when I was in college, oh yum.

Delicious Inspiratory Meal #3 comes from the above cookbook on cooking with tea that I picked up in Japan this summer. In it, the author uses various Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and British teas to flavor an impressive variety of dishes from salads to soups to stir-fries. Burmese fermented tea leaf salad, corn chai potage, oolong tea and almond-crusted fish and chips are all recipes on my list to try very soon, considering the bulk of loose leaf teas and tea bags I need to use up before I move apartments in late December.

Thus was born my tea-braised chicken. Take the following ingredients and place them in a deep-ish frying pan or a medium saucepan, so the liquid covers at least ninety percent of the chicken:

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, flattened or sliced in half lengthwise
liquid leftover from 1 recipe for tea eggs
1 star anise
1/2 cup white wine
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/4 tsp black pepper or Japanese sansho pepper
1 tbsp ground or fresh ginger

1. Bring all of the ingredients to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for at least twenty minutes until the chicken is done and can be shredded with a fork.
2. Serve over salad with Asian dressing, in fried rice, in a Vietnamese-style sandwich on French bread.

Enjoy! I wish I had photos, but my sad wee single chicken breast looks rather inconsequential in a leftover plastic container. Ah, well. Leave a comment if you try it!

image from allabout.co.jp.

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