The best Chinese chicken I’ve ever had came tucked in a baguette from a sandwich shop just round the corner from the furniture shop I used to work at as a teenager. Every Saturday without fail I’d take all the staffs orders, nip down to the bakery and grab our huge order, and my order would always be Chinese chicken baguette. It was so tasty and the baguettes were always the perfect combination of crunchy crust and soft, doughy interior. Teenage lunch heaven. So you can imagine my grief and heartbreak when they took the Chinese chicken off the menu one sorry, sorry day in the early noughties. Distraught I was! I had to downgrade to a chicken tikka filling which while still being tasty, was not a patch on the Chinese. What does this have to do with today’s blog? Well, nothing really to be honest, except that today’s dinner reminded me of this early experience of grief and betrayal, and I got to use a pun in today’s title from one of my favourite movies ever, Ratatouille (the plot of which can be easily summed up with ‘there’s a rat in me kitchen, what am I gonna do?’. Get it to cook you a Michelin starred meal, that’s what).
Tonight I went with Gordon Ramsays’ newest book Ultimate Cookery Course and made Sichuan chicken. As the title suggests, it’s Chinese and its really easy, all you need to do is marinate the chicken then cook it in the marinade with chilli, garlic and ginger until the chicken is cooked and is covered in the reduced, sticky marinade. The marinade contains one of my favourite ingredients to say, which is Shaoxing rice wine, and really tickles me every time I say it. Don’t ask why because I don’t know, I just like the way it sounds. Try it then maybe you’ll understand. This is definitely a recipe which is better when used with chicken thighs, they don’t dry out in the same way breasts do and have a lot more flavour. Plus, if you’re on a budget they are so much cheaper, although I’d go with them over breasts even if they were more expensive. It can take time to reduce a sauce so you don’t want the meat to dry out and become barely inedible, so if you’ve not done so before, give thighs a go in a curry or casserole to see the difference. I served the chicken with some straight to wok noodles in Singapore flavour (I know what you’re thinking, how mental am I serving Sichaun and Singapore cuisine on the same plate? It’s risk taking like that that’ll get you noticed in culinary circles) which I had to hand and meant less washing up for the other half. The result? The glaze wasn’t as sticky and thick as I’d have liked it, but it had a nice spicy ping to it and coated the chicken really well. It did taste a bit too strongly of sesame oil which Gordon advised me to drizzle over the finished dish so perhaps I was a but heavy handed in the oil department but the flavour of the marinade and chillies fought there way through it. But enough about my opinion, I know you all really want to know what The Boyfriend thought about it, my toughest critic. I think it’s safe to say food critics A.A Gill, Jay Rayner and Kate Spicer can rest easy tonight, as when asked for his review his thoughts on dinner were, word for word, “I liked it, 3 out of 5. A perfectly acceptable midweek meal”. If he were to be paid by the word he’d soon find himself bankrupt, sleeping on the street and offering sexual favours for a sandwich. But I’ll say this, at least he’s concise, no waffly preamble about something completely unrelated to dinner before spending all of 3 sentences on the entire point of the article. Something to comfort him while he’s on the park bench and Gill is in his trendy London home.
So we had a successful dinner tonight, nothing groundbreaking but tasty, filling and involving very little effort and minimal washing up. Plus it was a lot healthier than a takeaway, although nowhere near as satisfying after a long day. You’ll notice that once again my presentation is less than impressive, Monica Galletti would tear me apart were I to present her with such a plate, but I’d rather a hot dinner that looked a little shabby than a good looking dinner that was lukewarm after all the faffing. Saying all that, I do love how she can destroy a chef with just a grimace and a stare on Masterchef, more uncomfortable to watch than a Bush Tucker Trial.