My job as a food trend tracker keeps me on my toes. If I find references to something new in close proximity to one another, I draw myself up to attention and get researching. Such was the case last week with Chinese silkie chickens (also called black chickens). Sunday a chef proudly told me he now could get organic black chickens, then I heard someone talking about Chinese black chicken soup being healthful; on Thursday, one of my favourite online food destinations the Kitchn wrote about these curiously coloured birds. Was a trend taking flight?
The truth is that although I’m a schooled chef, I’d never cooked or eaten a black chicken before. So, I put out a call for info on Twitter and Facebook and I got an almost instant response from people who live both near and far offering suggestions about where to get my hands on these birds and how to prepare them.
I bought two silkies at T&T Supermarket and brought them home. Then I started reading about Chinese chicken soup and the ingredients just didn’t inspire my appetite. All of the recipes contained ginseng, one of my least favourite flavours.
So, I went to bed with no plan in my mind but to cook those birds the next day. As it turned out, I decided that to be able to judge the flavour fairly, I needed to treat one of the chickens like I would treat a regular bird from my local grocery store. In the end, I decided the best test for a true comparison was to make a traditional chicken broth.
For my second chicken, I decided to treat it like a duck since many of the references I checked said that black chickens have a gamy flavour. I concocted a recipe (it’s posted below but please be forewarned that I only made it once – it hasn’t been tested) for braising the second chicken in a lemongrass infused broth.
- Chicken broth: the silkie chicken made an incredibly nice chicken broth. In fact, from now on whenever see one in a Chinese market I’m going to pick it up expressly for that purpose. The broth in my freezer now is a lovely golden colour and has a true chicken scent and flavour. It’s excellent!
- Braised Lemongrass Silkie: the sauce, if I do say so myself, was excellent and the silkie chicken legs braised in this liquid were tender and quite tasty. The breast meat absorbed the flavour of the aromatics in a very desirable way but the meat was a bit tough and not something I’ll crave. In fact, I think I’ll make this braise again but I’ll use duck or goose legs instead.
As for the look of the meat, although it’s a bit startling at first, we got over that pretty fast while we were eating and I think it will be easier to cut up a black chicken next time I bring one home.
Looking for more info? Check out these links:
Lemongrass Braised Silkie (Black) Chicken
1 silkie chicken
¼ cup (50 mL) dark soy sauce
2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh ginger
2 shallots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup (125 mL) mirin (rice wine) or sherry
2 tbsp (30 mL) oyster sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) dark brown sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) hoisin sauce
2 whole star anise
2 whole cloves garlic
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
2 cups (500 mL) chicken broth (approx)
chopped fresh coriander
- Cut the chicken into leg, thigh and breast portions. Coat all over in the soy sauce and marinate for 30 minutes.
- Heat half the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Add the ginger, garlic, shallots and onion. Stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add the oyster sauce, brown sugar, hoisin, mirin, star anise, garlic and lemongrass. Cook, stirring often for 3 minutes. Add the marinated chicken and enough chicken broth to cover. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken and continue to cook for 30 to 40 minutes longer or until the meat is fork tender. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl and cover tightly. Bring the braising liquid to a boil and reduce for 5 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Strain the braising liquid into the bowl containing the chicken. Discard aromatic ingredients. Sprinkle with coriander and serve with steamed rice.