Hainanese Chicken Rice

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I’ve gotta admit, it’s been a rough week over here but I dread the upcoming weeks even more.

I’ve been waking up as early as 5 a.m. with Mark on weekdays even though I have no reason to be up that early at all. I can’t seem to shake away ominous thoughts and I carry on through the day feeling constantly anxious and worried.

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But the weekend is finally here and it’s warm and sunny and I plan to savor every bit of it. Mark and I ran errands today because we’re grown up and married now and that’s what grown up people do. We chose to take his car so we could put the top down and bask in some warmth.

I’m finally at the point of my life where I have to file my taxes like an adult and of course I was clue-less. I wonder why they don’t teach you stuff like that in school. Like what steps to take so you can earn tax credits, or who qualifies as a dependent, or how to read your W-2s. What even is a W-2? I just know I needed it for tax purposes.

Regardless, we sought out a tax professional to help us with all the mumbo jumbo and I think I understood about 50 percent of the things he said to me? Mark seemed to know a great deal more so I left the Q&A session to him and just signed when instructed.

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Oh I also decided to cut off about 12 inches of my hair today! It was semi-impulsive, meaning I had been going back and forth with the idea for the past week or so and finally decided to walk right in to Great Clips and snipped it all away. I miss it already but I figured it was time for a change. As with every other aspect of our lives right now.

I just need to try and find the good in all this change. Change is always good, right?

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It was also warm, sunny and basically beau-tih-ful today so we opened all our blinds and allowed for lots of sunshine to drench and cover every corner of our home. Mark made this taco/quesadilla hybrid thing for lunch, which was pretty delicious, I have to say. It had an interesting concoction of pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese, better known as leftovers from within the fridge. He’s a breakfast master that’s evidently on his way to mastering lunch too. Soon I won’t have a kitchen to call my own anymore…

But we cracked open a beer each and peered outside our kitchen window to the neighbors and people that walked by and ate our lunch over the sink. It was simple yet sweet. I live for the little things in life.

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I’ve been intensely craving Malaysian food for — oh I don’t know, the past six months probably but have not gotten it anywhere except for that one wintry night I was in D.C. and indulged in a huge bowl of noodles. The cravings subsided for a while but everyone knows a bowl of noodles is hardly enough to satiate my longing and fondness for food from home.

So while it is impossible to get a taste of home where I live, I decided to take it upon me to recreate tastes that I grew up with but have been so far away from for so long. This chicken rice is one of the most popular Malaysian food there is. You can find simple satisfying versions of it in hot and small coffee shops in corners of towns to fancier varieties in upscale-y restaurants in the city.

Regardless of where you find yours, if you’ve ever had it, it almost always promises the rich, unmistakable taste of chicken infused with great aromatics. And if you haven’t tried, don’t be intimidated by the seemingly long list of ingredients. It’s honestly, incredibly simple and I pulled it off perfectly.

And that’s saying something because I used to be a college kid.

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Hainanese Chicken Rice

Ingredients:

For chicken & soup
1 pound bone-in, skin on chicken thighs or breast
1 tbsp goji berries (optional)
1 stalk green onion
1 medium sized carrot, chopped
1 thumb sized ginger, peeled and bruised
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tbsp black peppercorn
3 tbsp salt

For rice 
1 cup Jasmine rice
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 thumb sized ginger, peeled and bruised
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
A small piece of chicken fat, trimmed from chicken

For sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp chicken stock
3 tbsp garlic and shallots in oil

For ginger sauce
2 inches ginger, peeled and sliced
1 green onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 lime, juiced, or 2 tbsp lemon juice
5 tbsp chicken stock

Directions: 

To make the soup and chicken, bring chicken broth, water and carrots to a boil in a deep pot. Add green onion, goji berries and chicken to the pot and turn the heat down to let it simmer. Allow chicken to cook for about 30 to 45 minutes. Once it is cooked, take chicken out and submerge in a ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Set chicken aside.

For the rice, cook garlic and shallots in chicken fat and some oil l until golden brown. Reserve 3 tablespoons of oil and garlic mixture for sauce. Stir in rice and ginger and cook for 1 minute, until small white specks can be seen on the grains of rice. Add chicken stock from pot and cook on low heat until all the liquid is absorbed. Let stand for 10 minutes before fluffing with fork.

To make sauce, add all ingredients and stir until well combined. For ginger sauce, add all ingredients into a food processor or blender and grind until fine.

To serve, place chicken back into pot and bring to a boil. Let cool for a while before slicing. Place chicken slices on a bed of thinly sliced cucumber and dress with sauce. Garnish with green onions if preferred. Serve with rice, soup and ginger sauce.

Note: This recipe can be adjusted to feed a larger crowd by using a whole chicken. Follow the same steps to make the chicken and soup, but insert green onions, ginger and goji berries into the chicken’s cavity instead. Cooking time may have to be a little longer to ensure that the chicken is cooked all the way. 

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Beef Stew with Red Wine // Homemade Crusty Bread

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My house is so silent during the day. Sometimes, like today, it is comforting seeing as it is cold and dreary outside once again, but other times, it can get pretty lonely.

In the past couple of months of change and adaptation, I think I’ve learned how to live with the silence and find things that will complement it instead. Like getting lost in the pages of a book or writing a posts like this to share on the Internet. When I really can’t stand it anymore, I turn on the television for a little background noise or the music player when I am motivated enough to clean and potter around a part of the house.

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Right now, Mark and I are playing the very challenging game of waiting. Each day seems slower than the one before and I grow so impatient, so quickly. They say everything is slower by the water and the living is easy, and I can’t disagree. It is to many extents. But now, I crave the intensity that life can bring. Some aches, soreness and true tiredness that people complain about so often. I must sound ungrateful but I suppose I miss having a purpose.

Somehow, I’ve managed to channel most of my energy to spending more time in the kitchen. From starting out as a novice college cook to finally accomplishing to baking my own bread, I’m not hesitant to give myself a small pat on the back for this tiny yet significant achievement.

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For Sunday supper last weekend, I wanted to fix a dish that would compliment my Sunday baking project, which was a homemade crusty loaf of bread. So I thought what better way to eat it with a rich hearty stew. Mark and I were more than content with the result. I lit candles all around the living room while the stew gently simmered away in the kitchen like a pot of liquid gold and the bread rising wonderfully in the oven.

I was ecstatic when everything came together so perfectly. We poured ourselves a glass of Merlot each, cozied up on the couch and watched episodes of House of Cards on Netflix while dipping bits and pieces of the bread into our bowls and savoring it’s deep flavors.

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Beef Stew with Red Wine
Recipe adapted from Food Network

1 pound beef, cut into cubes (I used some cuts of steak and it worked fine)
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 medium potatoes, cubed
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken or beef stock
1 cup red wine (I used Merlot, but recipe suggests dry red wine ie. Pinot Noir)
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian parsley for garnish (optional) 

Directions:

Melt 2 tbsp of butter in Dutch oven or deep pot. Brown cuts of beef until almost cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to bowl.

Add remaining butter to pot. Stir in onions and carrots and cook until onions are translucent. Add bell pepper and incorporate flour to the vegetables and mix well. Stir in beef and pour chicken stock, wine and rosemary to pot. Turn heat up until mixture comes to a boil and then lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about an hour partially covered. Stir occasionally.

Add potatoes to pot and cook covered for another 45 minutes until potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally. Garnish with parsley and serve warm.

Homemade Crusty Bread

I followed instructions from Simply So Good for this recipe and it’s the best. She does an excellent job at explaining everything to a tee and even giving solutions or alternatives. My bread turned out great despite using active dry yeast instead of the instant kind. Mark loved it, and so did I.