Double-Boiled Chicken Soup
DOUBLE-BOILED CHICKEN SOUP
MAKES ABOUT 1 QUART, SERVES 4
This soup is so intense, in terms of both its healing properties and its flavor, that I consider it more of a tonic than a broth. Because of the double-boiling method, the chicken is not submerged in water but rather slowly steams in its own juices. This technique is especially popular in Cantonese cuisine, and beautiful cauldrons that are fitted with a steaming bowl are made specifically for this dish.
This is a very luxurious soup since a whole chicken is used to produce just a few concentrated bowls. Be sure to use the best possible ingredients. I prefer black Silkie chickens, which are found in most Asian groceries for the same price as an organic chicken. These highly prized birds have silky white plumage and stark black skin (and even black bones), and produce a particularly fragrant broth.
1 3-pound chicken (black Silkie if available, or free-range), cut into 8 pieces
1 cup Shaoxing rice wine
10 thick slices fresh ginger, cut in half and smashed
10 scallions (green and white parts), halved and smashed
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
Bring a very large stockpot of water to a boil. Add the chicken and blanch it for about 3 minutes to cleanse it. Remove and rinse the chicken; then set it aside in a large heatproof bowl that will fit into the stockpot. Discard the water from the stockpot, add 6 cups of fresh water, and bring it to a boil.
Add the rice wine, ginger, and scallions to the bowl holding the chicken, and place the bowl in the stockpot. (The water should come up around the sides of the bowl, but not spill into it or out of the pot. If you don’t have a large enough stockpot, substitute a wide cooking vessel, such as a wok with a lid.) Cover the bowl with a plate, then cover the stockpot, and let the chicken steam in its own juices over high heat for about 3 hours. Replenish the water in the stockpot as needed, so it surrounds the bowl at all times.
Remove the bowl from the stockpot, and lift out the chicken. Skim any residual impurities or fat off the surface of the broth, and season the broth with the sea salt. Divide the broth among 4 soup bowls. The chicken flavor (and nutrition) is mostly transferred to the soup after so many hours of cooking, but if you like, you can add some of the meat (bone-in) to the soup for texture. The soup is best consumed right away.