A Good Appetite: For a savory aroma, try this Asian-themed version of chicken made in a pot. Recipe: Sesame Braised Chicken in a Pot with Shiitake, Daikon and Ginger
Chicken in a pot conjures images of rustic French or Italian country kitchens, with a fire blazing in the stone hearth, purple-tinged garlic braids on the wall and bunches of homegrown herbs drying in baskets.
Naturally, the bird itself would be flavored with those aromatics, along with white wine or bacon or leeks, or any of the many other seasonings inherent in Continental cuisine.
As wonderful as this dish is, it’s also something I’ve had before. And as I thought about braising that fine, fat fowl I had in the fridge, I knew I wanted something new, or at least newish, for dinner. I wanted a recipe that would, when I lifted the heavy lid off the cast-iron braising pot, emanate a savory, heady, yet unexpected aroma.
There were so many directions in which to take this need for a nontraditional braised chicken. I could sprinkle garam masala on the bird and add chickpeas for an Indian variation, or try sweet potatoes and coconut milk for a chicken that’s Caribbean-inspired.
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In the end, I decided to try dry sherry, soy sauce and sesame oil infused with star anise as the braising liquid, with chunks of daikon and slivers of shiitake mushrooms to round out the meal.
The daikon, I knew, would absorb the broth and soften, turning silken and supple. And the shiitake would add a deep earthiness that always goes well with mild-mannered chicken.
Hewing to an Asian theme, instead of sauteing leeks or onions to add sweetness to the pot, I chose scallions, saving the green tops for a sharp, fresh garnish.
Although many recipes for chicken in a pot don’t bother to brown the bird before stewing, I always do. It won’t result in a crisp skin; after being half-simmered, half-steamed in liquid, any bits that were once crackling inevitably wilt.
But the browning will add a rich, caramelized flavor to the broth, which I particularly like with the funky saltiness of soy sauce and the brawniness of the mushrooms. This said, if you can’t be bothered, you can skip it.
But either way, when you open the lid to the pot, prepare to inhale deeply.
It won’t be like any chicken in a pot you’ve ever made, in the best possible way.
SESAME BRAISED CHICKEN IN A POT WITH SHIITAKE, DAIKON AND GINGER
Time: 1 ½ hours
Yield: 4 servings
3 bunches scallions (about ¾ pound)
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 pound daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1 ½-inch chunks
½ cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 inches ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 whole chicken (3 ½ pounds)
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 whole star anise pods
1 ½ teaspoons rice wine vinegar, more to taste
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Trim the roots off the scallions. Separate the dark green tops from the bottoms.
2. In a 5- or 6-quart Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil and 1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallion bottoms, daikon, mushrooms and garlic cloves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 7 minutes. Add the ginger and cook 1 minute more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer vegetables to a platter.
3. Pat chicken dry; season inside and out with salt and pepper. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil and 1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil to the Dutch oven. Brown chicken, turning, until the skin is well browned. Turn chicken breast-side up. Scatter the vegetables around the chicken. In a small bowl, whisk together the stock, sherry and soy sauce. Pour over the chicken. Drop in the star anise pods. Tightly cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink, 50 to 60 minutes.
4. Remove to a cutting board. Skim fat from the surface of the cooking liquid. Chop the scallion tops and stir in, with the vinegar. Carve chicken and serve, topped with vegetables and pot juices.