Tea and Cassia Bark Smoked Chicken

Course : Chinese
Serves: 4
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4 pounds chicken -- fresh killed
2 1/2 tablespoons salt -- kosher
2 tablespoons peppercorns -- Szechuan
1/2 teaspoon ginger -- minced
2 teaspoons zest -- orange, minced
2 medium scallions -- 3 inch lengths
4 slices ginger -- 1/8 inch thick
1/4 cup leaves -- tea, black, lichee
1/3 cup sugar -- brown, packed
1/3 cup rice -- raw
3 pieces star anise -- whole
1/8 cup bark -- cassia
7 slices peel -- orange **
1 1/2 teaspoons oil -- sesame
1/2 pound onion -- red, firm
6 1/2 tablespoons vinegar -- rice, unseasoned
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon chili -- red, flakes, dry
1/8 teaspoon peppercorns -- Szechuan
3 cloves garlic -- minced
1 package ma-la cucumber fans ---

Preparation / Directions:

** Remove the peel from fresh oranges, slice into finger lengths, and allow to dry on a counter until curled. *** See recipe for Ma-La Cucumber Fans. Remove the kidneys nestled to either side of the chicken tail bone, then flush the chicken with cold water inside and out - then pat dry. Heat the salt and peppercorns in a dry skillet over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until salt turns off white and peppercorns are very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Grind the hot mixture to a powder in a food processor or mortar, then sieve to remove peppercorn husks. Rub pepper-salt, ginger, and orange peel over the outside and inside of the chicken. Put the chicken, breast-side up in a heat-proof pie plate, and cover with plastic film. Set aside for 24 hours at room temperature or up to 48 hours in the refrigerator. Drain the marinating juices. Smash the scallion lengths and ginger coins to release the juices, then array on top of the chicken and in the cavity. Steam for 30 minutes over medium-high heat. Let the chicken rest in the steamer an additional 5 minutes before removing the lid. Drain the steaming juices. (These can be strained, chilled, and used to make sauces and season soups and stir-frys.) Remove the scallion and ginger. Line an old wok and lid with super heavy-duty tin foil. Combine the tea, sugar, rice, peppercorns, anise, cassia bark and dried orange peel, and scatter in the bottom of the lined wok. Place the chicken breast side up on the oiled smoking rack in the wok set above spices. Turn heat to high, wait until smoke sends up several thick plumes, then cover wok and crimp foil shut to contain the smoke. Smoke the chicken over medium-high heat, for 12 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the chicken rest in the sealed wok for 7 minutes. Remove the bird, brush with sesame oil, then chop into pieces with a thick-bladed cleaver designed to cut through bones. Garnish the smoked chicken with Hunan Red Onion Pickles. Use Ma-La Cucumber Fans as a side dish. Garnish: Remove the tips and the peels of your onions. Cut evenly into rings 3/8-inch thick. Separate the rings, removing any loose inner membranes. Combine the vinegar, 3 tablespoons of sugar, chili, peppercorns, and garlic in a heavy, non-aluminum saucepan. Stir over moderate heat to dissolve sugar, then simmer for three minutes. Taste and adjust if needed with remaining sugar to balance sweet, tart, and spicy flavors. Add onion rings, then toss with chopsticks until onion wilts and liquid regains simmer, three to four minutes. Scrape mixture into a shallow bowl and refrigerate. Before serving, remove any loose onion membranes and most of the peppercorns. Source: Great Chefs of San Francisco, Avon Books, 1984 Chef: Barbara Tropp, China Moon, San Francisco, CA

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