Ira’s Favorite Chicken
I call this dish Ira’s Favorite Chicken. I don’t know what else to call it. It has its roots in the Epicure Market on South Beach, where I cooked for several years.
This is NOT the Epicure’s recipe–that actual recipe is, to date, unrepeatable. I made it in food-grade 39-gallon plastic tubs, and it took four tubs to make a batch. Also it was forty years ago, and the nuances of the recipe escape me now. But I’ve come pretty close to getting it right.
I call it Ira’s Favorite Chicken, because one of my favorite cousins–the erstwhile Ira, a physician and magnificent human being in the Philly suburbs–has been bugging me for years to come up with this recipe, and to pass it on to him. I’ve actually been trying to duplicate it for others since I moved away from Florida, and I think I’ve finally gotten close. It’s sweet, salty, peppery, pungent, and most of all, tastes like home.
WARNING: this recipe is complicated, but it’s waaaaay worth the effort.
So Ira, this one’s for you. It’s not the original, but it’s pretty damn close. Let me know what you think. (Wendy, this is a challenge!)
IRA’S FAVORITE CHICKEN
1 3½ to 4-pound chicken
5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely minced
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame-seed oil
1 teaspoon red chili oil
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon pickling spice
3 hefty shakes fine-ground white pepper (NOT black pepper)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely minced
2 pieces scallion (green onion), green parts only, chopped into small pieces
The day before:
- Remove the backbone, and cut the chicken into 12 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 pieces wings, breasts cut in half across the breast (discard the backs and wing tips, or freeze and save for a stock).
- In a medium bowl, mix the well the garlic and ginger; place the chicken pieces in the bowl and toss well to coat with the garlic and ginger. Place the chicken by hand into a 1-gallon zipper-close bag–leaving the remaining garlic and ginger in the bowl–and refrigerate for 1 hour. In the same bowl, mix the remaining ingredients; cover and refrigerate. An hour later, pour the marinade into the bag with the chicken.
- Preheat a convection oven to 375ºF. (If you don’t have a convection oven, read the note at the end).
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the chicken, skin side up on the sheet, leaving some space between the pieces. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil, and rest for 15 minutes.
If you want to be really authentic to the Epicure recipe, while the chicken is baking, make a glaze of ½ cup apricot jam, 2 tablespoons orange marmalade, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce and ½ teaspoon fish sauce; simmer for 30 minutes, and baste the finished chicken with the glaze just before serving. Garnish with minced cilantro and chopped scallion.
Serve with fried rice. You can buy pork fried rice at your favorite Chinese restaurant, buy a fried-rice product in the grocery store (I do like P.F. Chang’s fried rice), or you can make your own, using a fabulous recipe called “Classic Pork Fried Rice” on my Pinterest page (Jeff Thal, on the board called “Chinese New Year.”).
NOTE: If you don’t have a convection oven, turn the broiler on high for the last five minutes and watch the chicken closely so that it doesn’t burn. It should blacken just a tiny little bit. Remove from the oven and cover loosely with aluminum foil for 15 minutes.