Sunday, May 18, 2008

How to fake the rice part of Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese chicken rice has to be one of my absolute favorite dishes in the world. Prepared properly, the chicken is tender and fragrant, with a refreshing layer of translucent chicken skin (to some this might sound gross but it is totally delightful). But my favorite part of Hainanese chicken rice is actually the rice -- made with chicken stock and chicken fat from cooking the chicken.

Since I just don't have the time or motivation to cook a whole chicken, I set out to fake just the rice part of the dish last night. And it turned out pretty good! This rice would make a good accompaniment to grilled pork, sautee greens, or ... chicken, of course.

Hainanese Rice Pilaf

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon ginger, finely minced

2 cups of short grain Japanese rice
3 cups organic chicken stock (I use Pacific Brand from Whole Foods)
1/2 of a pork boullion cube

In a medium stock pot over medium heat, melt butter with vegetable oil. Add the garlic and ginger, stir until fragrant but not burnt. Add the rice to the mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until some of the rice is a little brown and toasted.

Add 3 cups of warm chicken stock to the pot and the half of pork boullion cube. Cover tightly and turn the heat down to a bare simmer. Cook undisturbed (don't peek!) for 25 minutes.

Fluff it up with a fork and serve.

Mom's pork chops - two ways to serve

My mom's pork chops are one of my favorite dishes. We ate it a lot as kids -- she'd marinate the chops in soy sauce, garlic, and sugar. Right before searing it in the pan she'd ask me to sprinkle some cornstarch on the chops while she turned them over. They always come out crispy on the outside and very moist and tender on the inside.

My interest in these pork chops was renewed when I saw an article on how to make the perfect pork chops in the new Cook's Illustrated magazine. The test kitchen at Cook's Illustrated had made these scientific conclusions:

1. Center cut chops or rib chops are best. Always buy bone in, about 3/4 inch thickness.
2. Start with a cold pan - these chops are not thick enough to withstand high heat searing and retain their juices. A cold -- or lukewarm -- pan cooks the chops instead of drying it out, while still creating a crust.
3. Cover the chops partway through cooking.

So I called mom to verify this information. She gave me a few more tips: don't trim the fat off the chops, and pound them a bit before marinating.

I made two attempts at this pork chop recipe -- it wasn't exactly like my mom's but in a pinch, it will do. I served it first Chinese style with stir fry cabbage with garlic, and stir fry baby bokchoy with ginger and baby shitake mushrooms.

My second attempt was a little more ambitious -- I serve the chops on a bed of spring mix with sliced green apples and tomato. On top of the chops were some sauteed mushroom caps in garlic and butter. The pan juices made a nice dressing but I whisked some semi homemade ranch for this salad (hidden valley ranch dry mix).

Mom's Pork Chops

Serves 2

2 large bone-in center cut or rib cut pork chops, about 3/4 inch thick
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Pound the chops with a meat mallet a couple of times until tender (or until it relieves your daily stress, whichever comes first). On a plate, sprinkle the soy sauce, sugar, and garlic evenly on both sides of the chops. Marinate for about 20-30 minutes.

In a pan over medium heat, pour enough olive oil to lightly coat the pan. Drain the chops of the marinade and lightly coat with cornstarch. Cook the chops for about 5-6 minutes on each side. Cover midway through. The chops should be lightly sizzling as you cook.

To serve:
2 cups sliced mushrooms - i used baby shitake and baby portabellos. The more variety, the better. (clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth before you slice. Do not wash.)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons butter
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 handfuls of salad spring mix
1/2 green apple, thinly sliced
1 tomato, sliced

1/2 cup ranch dressing (You can use bottled but I like the semi home made kind -- hidden valley ranch dry mix, whisked with whole milk and mayonnaise).

In a pan over medium heat, add butter, olive oil, and garlic and stir fry until fragrant. Remove the garlic if you don't want a strong garlic taste (that's me). Add mushroom slices and evenly coat them with the oil. Don't move the mushroom slices around too much in the pan, make sure they are cooked and a little brown. Set aside.

On two plates, divide evenly the salad mix. Fan out the apple slices and tomato slices as you like.

Put the porkchops over the greens and pour the pan juices - if not too greasy - over the chops. Top with mushroom mixture. Drizzle ranch dressing over tomato slices and serve dressing on the side.