December 24, 2007

Mom's sake-poached chicken

I have distinct memories from my childhood of waking up late on a Sunday morning to the sweet, floral aroma of warm sake wafting throughout the house. Those were the Sundays when my mom was making "sake chicken," a simple dish of chicken poached in sake and ginger. My dad loved this dish and would drink up the resulting broth like soup... perfect for a cold winter day. I even remember the feeling I had the first time I got to taste the broth: my youthful curiosity was quenched and my palate intrigued by the rich, invigorating flavor of the sake, which permeated deep into the chicken... with just a small hint of bitterness from the residual alcohol. I knew from an early age that I'd like sake.

Here's my version of the dish, with a few vegetables added and a bit of chicken broth to round out the poaching liquid. Mom tried it and, while it is different than hers, she gave it a thumbs up. That's all the endorsement I need.

As an added bonus, this is an incredibly inexpensive dish to make. The following preparation should cost about $12 and is enough for 6 people when served with rice. One liter of sake might sound like a lot, but sake only has about the same amount of alcohol as wine (14-15%), most of which will evaporate away. You should be able to find 1.5 liter bottles of junmaishu-type sake for $7 or less at your local Asian market. We got a bottle yesterday for $4.99 at 99 Ranch Market. DO NOT use premium sake unless you've got money to burn.

Sake-Poached Chicken

10 chicken legs
1 medium daikon radish, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 medium yellow onions, chopped into large chunks
3 large carrots, chopped into 1-inch segments
1 2-inch section of ginger, sliced
1 liter sake (a simple junmaishu, like Ozeki Dry or Sho Chiku Bai)
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Using a cleaver, chop off the ends of the drumsticks and discard. Chop the remaining portion of the drumstick into 2 pieces, cutting through the bone and exposing the marrow. If you prefer boneless pieces of chicken, use boneless chicken thigh instead. Season the chicken with kosher salt and pepper.

Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on all sides, about 6 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and saute onions until they begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium high and add daikon and carrots. Cook for 1 minute. Return the chicken and any juices to the pot. Add 1 liter of sake and bring barely to a low boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low or low and keep at a gentle simmer, uncovered, until most of the alcohol has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Add 1 cup of chicken broth and cover, simmering for another 20 minutes. Taste broth for seasoning. Turn off heat and add sesame oil.

Serve with hot rice, or ladle into a bowl and enjoy as a soup.

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  1. yum. i'm gonna try this one! as soon as the oxtail soup runs out.

  2. Anonymous10:15 PM

    This is a great recipe that brings out the body of the sake. My boyfriend, who doesn't even like the sake in with clams, really liked this recipe. Although his face said differently when I poured the whole bottle into the stockpot..