Friday, February 23, 2007

Chilled Drunken Chicken

Chilled drunken chicken is something that I’m fond of ordering at a restaurant. I love the squirt of the alcoholic juices in my mouth as my teeth clamp down on the cold chicken flesh. And in general, this might sound base but the drunker it is the better it is.

I’ve been toying with the idea of attempting this recipe, but the only one I had at hand was Jeremy Leung’s very modern and chic chilled drunken chicken topped with shaved shao xing wine ice that is beautifully embellished with ginkgo nuts, edamame, lily bubs and Chinese wolfberries. It was a little too fancy for what I was feeling at the moment, so I’ve tried to strip down the recipe to what I needed, which is really a basic chilled drunken chicken recipe, and its easy… make a portion, stick it in the refrigerator and you’ve got something to look forward to in 24 hours.

Basic chilled drunken chicken
Serves 6-8 as an appetiser

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500 ml water
3 spring onions cut into 5-cm lengths
3 slices of ginger, 0.2-cm thick
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 star anise
1 cinnamon sticks, 3-cm long
2 bay leaves
20 g salt
150 ml shao xing wine
1 teaspoons Chinese rice wine

1.5 litres water
5 spring onions cut into 5-cm lengths
5 slices of ginger, 0.2-cm thick
5 tablespoons shao xing wine
1 chicken, about 1.4 kg

To prepare marinade: Bring water to the boil all ingredients except shao xing wine and Chinese rice wine. Lower heat and simmer for 3 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool before stirring shao xing and rice wine in.

To prepare chicken: Bring water to the boil and add in spring onions, ginger and shao xing wine. Lower the heat and simmer chicken, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until cooked. Drain and plunge chicken immediately into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When cool enough to handle, debone chicken and place in marinade. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

My Dining Room

My Dining Room
81 Club Street
Tel: 6327-4990

There are some places that I think are slightly underrated in Singapore and it would take someone to say something good about it to someone for that someone to tell someone else for them to tell someone else that might get people to visit or to talk more about it. For My Dining Room, let me try to get the ball rolling. I recently attended a private dinner at My Dining Room and for that night the third floor of the building was our dining room. For our private function, we had the entire third floor that was comfortably furnished with a cushy couch that was great to lounge around for aperitifs and to slouch against for digestives.

Whilst the food was generally closely linked with chef Vincent Teng, he has left and is now the executive chef of Scarlet Hotel. Nonetheless, the food served that night still had its moments of greatness. There was nothing too extraordinary, but it delivered what it promised on the menu and it was cooked with accuracy with no surprises.

The Menu

Freshly shucked oysters three-ways: hollandaise sauce, shooter and ume jelly
Neptune cocktail: tiger prawn with tuna and squid served with avocado and homemade sauce Seared goose foie gras served on brioche with exotic fresh fruits and balsamico jelly
Blood orange sorbet
Fillet of chateaubriand with potato gratin, foie gras butter and veal jus
Cheese platter
Signature warm chocolate cake with callebaut chocolate & rum lava with hazelnut ice cream

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My favourite? The oysters, they were fresh and fun. Starting with the a plump oyster topped with a sweet Japanese plum jelly and then moving on to shoot back a bright yuzu marinated oyster and feeling the sensation of the oyster sliding down my throat and then finally biting into an oyster that is topped with a warm and rich but not overwhelming hollandaise.

My other dining companions favoured the seared foie gras, which was well cooked with a preserved creamy centre. Understandably so, my only greedy complain is that the piece was too small and I was craving for seconds.

My Dining Room is currently nestled along the row of shophouses at Club Street but will be moving when their lease is up at the end of March. It is undecided where they are relocating to, so indulge whilst it last … and we hope to see them again.

* See the whole set of photos here .

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

From the Kitchen: Bonne Saint-Valentin

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I been missing because I devoted the last two weeks of my time to working in the kitchen, where I’ve learnt how to break down a rabbit, successfully plate up 75% of a menu, a thing or two about pastry, cook pancakes really efficiently, make a near perfect potato gratin and among other things, how to move about naturally in a commercial kitchen.

This is actually the second time I’ve done a short stint in the kitchen, and on the first day of work I was wondering why I did this again. In short, I guess I subscribe to Nietzsche's thought of "What does not kill me, makes me stronger." I was standing on my feet for an average of 10 hours a day and in a hellishly hot kitchen in a chef jacket that was frustratingly seemed to be trapping heat. On the third day after service, I slumped against a chair and with a bottle of water and whinged to my chef de partie whom I worked under, ‘I’ve lost feeling my right big toe; I can’t feel it!’ She turned to me and answered indifferently, ‘oh, that’s normal, I can’t feel my big toe either, you’ve get the feeling back once you stop standing on your feet for so long.’ Eventually I lost feeling in both my big toes, and that’s just something you learn that that’s the norm, you just have to deal with it.

I experienced a spectrum of days of in the kitchen. Slow days good and bad; the energy level was generally lower but it gave you enough time to multi-task between finishing dishes and working on the never ending list of mise en place. It was days when we were slammed that I liked best because you run on adrenaline and a race against yourself and the clock to reach perfection.

My last day at work was valentines. It was supposed to be an easy service since after all there was only one menu for the night as compared to the full house that demanded a mixture of a la carte and dègustation orders on top of the party of 10 that was booked. Life would have been easy if we were really militant about organisation, but anything that can go wrong will go wrong. The first twenty minutes of the service ran smoothly, we quickly managed to group 4 tables into a flight of eight and that was manageable, but it quickly spun out of hand when there was a breakdown of communication and the service were double calling for starters. By 8pm, it still looked like manageable chaos, but by 8.30pm when the dining room was more or less full and the micros printer was spitting out chit after chit after chit, it was clear that we were definitely in the shit and it was going to be a long night. Tempers were rising and the tension between the floor and the kitchen was building, chef who was visibly growing more irritated who originally intended to do flights of 4-5 tables, looked at the meter long of micros paper, did his mental calculation and then called out, ‘ok guys, I need 18 foie gras!’ The job had to be done anyway, we have a full house of love birds that wouldn’t be too pleased if they don’t get their food so we chugged along and chorused ‘yes/oui chef!’ and went about trying to make the impossible possible. Bonne Saint-Valentin! That’s life in the kitchen. It’s hard, the hours are long and demands a lot from your mind and body and you will lose feeling in your big toes. After my two weeks, I have more respect for cooks and chefs, kudos to all staff who work to make holidays a time of feasting and celebration.