“When I was young our house was always full of people,” remembers Mrs.
Anise Chicken improves with age. It should be made far enough in advance so it can be served lukewarm. Room temperature brings out the luscious flavor of the dish in a much more interesting way than either chilling or heating does. We serve Anise Chicken at most of our dinner parties, too. It is delicious, it can be made a day or more ahead of time, and it is one of the few recipes of Mrs.
(cut-up scallions) (tree ears) Peel the ginger and cut it into 4 slices. When the tree ears are soft and slightly gelatinous, rinse them thoroughly and pick them over carefully to remove any impurities, such as tiny pieces of wood, that may still be embedded in them.
Rinse the mushrooms off thoroughly, then put them in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Soak the mushrooms for about 20 minutes, or until they are soft, then cut off the hard stems and cut the larger mushrooms in half. Do not discard the water in which they soaked; you will use it later for cooking.
Put the tree ears in a small bowl. Pour the boiling water over them and let soak for at least 10 minutes.
Cut 2 of the scallions, both green part and white, into 2-inch lengths. Tie the remaining scallions, whole, into a bunch.
Pull the skin off the chicken, but leave the bones in. Chop the chicken, bones and all, into 2-inch cubes, roughly the size of a walnut. (Mrs.
Peel the ginger and cut it into 4 slices.
When the tree ears are soft and slightly gelatinous, rinse them thoroughly and pick them over carefully to remove any impurities, such as tiny pieces of wood, that may still be embedded in them.
(ginger) (whole, tied scallions) (chicken mixture) (mushrooms and their soaking water)
Heat your wok or pan for about 15 seconds over a moderate flame, then pour in the oil. The oil will be hot enough to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.
When the oil is ready, quickly throw in the ginger, red peppers, sugar, whole scallions, and chicken mixture, making sure you stir the ingredients well while you add them. Continue to stir-fry for about 30 seconds, using your cooking shovel or spoon to scoop the ingredients from the sides of the pan and then stir them around in the middle, so every piece of chicken is exposed to the hot oil.
Add the star anise, then reduce the heat slightly, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 more minutes, until the chicken stiffens and turns white.
Add the wine and the soy sauce, bring to a boil, and continue to cook, over a moderate flame, for 3 minutes more.
Now add the mushrooms and the water in which they were soaked, and pour in enough additional water to barely cover the chicken; you will probably need about a cupful. Wait until the liquid boils, then lower the heat, cover the pan, and let the chicken simmer slowly for 1 hour.
After this period, the chicken should be very soft and the sauce should be reduced to almost half its original amount. At this point add the soaked tree ears and let them cook with the chicken for about 5 minutes more.
Finally, add the sesame oil and stir thoroughly.
(whole, tied scallions)
(mushrooms and their soaking water)
Because the soy sauce has become so concentrated during the cooking process, the chicken may not require any additional salt. Make sure that you taste the sauce before you add any.
© 1976 Ellen Schrecker. All rights reserved.