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The next dish was about to be served, and yet the diners were still busy arguing to each other which one was tastier. As the emcee reminded them to vote accordingly, they had no choice but to cast their votes one by one.
It was la Reverie who served their next dish to the diners. After their successful Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, they presented Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil.
“Hmm, so they have Bruschetta this time. I’m really tempted to eat what they have there.” Huang Shenghao’s stomach rumbled.
“You want to eat again. Didn’t you just have breakfast before we started?” Lu Xinyi laughed.
“Hey, you should know what I feel, Sister Lu! Aren’t you curious to know what those dishes they have tasted like?” he retorted. Someone with a black hole stomach like him should understand.
Lu Xinyi tapped her chin and thought about it. Since she started attending Silver Leaf, she barely paid attention to her opponents’ dishes and only cared for its execution.
“I haven’t really given it a thought before,” she admitted then realized this might be one of the reasons why Huang Shenghao’s skills were better than hers. Huang Shenghao studied his opponents’ dishes for future references, paying attention to the details and methods used on it.
“Don’t mind him, Xinxin. Shenghao probably knows how they made their Bruschetta right now and just thinking to eat for free again.” Tian Lingyu reiterated what his sister pointed out earlier.
Making Bruschetta wasn’t complicated to do anyway. One could think of it as summer on toast. It’s just a mixture of chopped tomatoes, balsamic, basil, and garlic spooned over olive-oil brushed slices of toasted baguette or rustic bread… something that Huang Shenghao himself could do without breaking a sweat.
“Good choice for them. It is a great appetizer for the season. With it being summer and grilling season, they fire-roasted the tomatoes instead of blanching and toasted the bread while they were at the grill.” Tian Lingyu added before returning to his station to start plating for their entrees.
The Bruschettas served were gone in under five minutes leaving the diners satisfied for what they’ve eaten. After cleaning their plates, they wondered what Oriental Bliss would serve next.
“Thank you for waiting! Our next dish is called Drunken Chicken. I hope all of you will enjoy and get intoxicated from the wonderful deliciousness this dish has,” Huang Shenghao said before pa.s.sing the plates to be served to the waiters.
Each plate had sat bite-sized pieces of chicken with a s.h.i.+ny, bouncy skin, surrounded by wine-spiked aspic.
As Lu Xinyi placed her buns to the steamer to cook, she took an excess plate and tasted the drunken chicken Huang Shenghao created. Summer was coming to an end in a few weeks, but for areas of the country still experiencing lingering heat, this cool and refres.h.i.+ng dish was really appropriate at this time of the year.
Drunken Chicken was also on her father’s recipe book and the difference with Oriental Bliss’ version wasn’t too far. The drunken chicken was traditionally made with a whole chicken, but no matter how delicately she cooked the chicken, the breast meat was never as tasty as the dark meat.
The first time she made this, she used a whole chicken. The second time, Lu Xinyi used just the leg quarters and was much happier with the results. There were two techniques: one could use to cook the chicken.
The more traditional way was to poach a whole chicken gently in a pot of barely simmering water. The plus side was that the huge pot of water would transform into the most delicious chicken broth that’s great for soups. Or one could just steam the chicken.
The dark meat was way more forgiving of the higher heat in the steamer. No one liked dried out, cardboard chicken breast no matter how much booze one soaked that sucker in. After steaming, the chicken legs released about a cup of gelatin-packed chicken stock concentrate. After it’s mixed with Shao Hsing rice wine, it solidified into delicate aspic.
The jello, gelatin, aspic… whatever one wants to call it was the best part!
It’s nothing like the strangely-colored, rubbery concoction ubiquitous. This chicken and wine-flavored aspic hugged each piece of chicken and melted instantly in one’s mouth, serving as a built-in self-basting system for the chicken.
Regardless of which method the chef choose to cook the chicken, the drunken chicken was best served cold. It could be served alone as an appetizer or with a bowl of noodles in hot chicken broth or fluffy white rice for a juxtaposition of temperatures.
There’s one catch—the Chinese cleaver. After cooking, it’s traditional to use the Chinese cleaver to chop the chicken into bite-size pieces that could be easily picked up with chopsticks.
One decisive ‘twack’ was designed to cut through skin, meat, and bone. This wouldn’t work using a regular chef’s knife. A Chinese cleaver was heavy-duty because the weight of the knife should most of the work.
The trick was to aim well and make one strong decisive movement. Even a split-second of hesitation would translate a botched cut job where the cleaver couldn’t make it all the way through the bone or bone shards.
Among all the family recipes of the Ji family, Lu Xinyi thought that their Drunken Chicken was one of the best. Huang Shenghao didn’t need to change that much, and it came out succulent, tender, juicy, and full of aroma from the wine and chicken stock.
“How is it?” Huang Shenghao asked with a grin. He was confident in his remastered version of the Ji family’s Drunken Chicken. He only made sure to steep the chicken the night before.
“You know it’s lip-smackingly good.” She gave him a thumbs-up. “It was excellent. Tender, juicy, and bursting with flavor. The flavor and moistness of the chicken are incredible. The key is using a good wine because the chicken will taste like the wine you use—bad wine means a bad taste.”
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