Bai qie ji (which translates to white cut chicken in Mandarin) originated in southern China and is made year-round as an easy and healthy dish. In Cantonese families, this classic poached chicken is typically made for Chinese New Year reunion dinner because it is simple to cook, results in succulent chicken and pairs well with the other dishes in the holiday dinner.
The chicken is briefly lifted out of the water after the initial boil to ensure that the temperature of the water around the chicken is equal, both inside and out, resulting in an evenly cooked chicken with juicy and tender meat.
This recipe features a traditional carving method--we leave the breast and rib bones with the breast meat and cut the leg quarters through the bone into 3/4-inch pieces. A meat cleaver helps chop through the bones, but a long and heavy chef's knife can also do the trick.
Bai qie ji is usually paired with a soy sauce dipping sauce when made at home, but we've paired ours with a scallion-ginger sauce, a typical accompaniment in restaurants.
Bring 4 quarts of cold water to a boil in a 7-quart Dutch oven. Add the salt, ginger and scallion. Slowly lower the chicken into the boiling water with the breast side up. Bring the water back up to a gentle boil. Carefully lift the chicken out using the handles of 2 wooden spoons or 2 pairs of chopsticks positioned under the wings, being careful not to tear the skin, so that all the water drains from the cavity; do not use tongs to lift the chicken as they can easily tear the skin. This step allows for any cold water still in the cavity to drain and ensures even cooking, inside and out. Lower the chicken back into the water. Bring the water back up to a boil and reduce the heat to low for a gentle simmer. Cook, covered, until the juices run clear when cut in between the leg and thigh, 33 to 35 minutes. Right before the chicken is done, prepare a large bowl of ice water.
Transfer the chicken to the bowl of ice water breast-side down and let cool, flipping halfway through, for about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken, letting the excess water drip off. (Submerging the chicken in an ice bath, not only stops the cooking so that it doesn't overcook, but also helps to firm the meat and gives the skin a crispness that couldn't be achieved otherwise.)
Carve the chicken using a meat cleaver or large heavy chef's knife: start by detaching both leg quarters (leg and thigh together) from the body. Chop the leg quarters into roughly 3/4-inch pieces. Place the leg pieces in the lower half of the plate. Cut off the wings and drumettes and place right above the leg pieces. Cut the breastbone in half and remove the spine. Chop the breast into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces starting at the tapered end; transfer the breast pieces to the plate on top of the leg pieces.
Serve with a small bowl of Scallion-Ginger Sauce for dipping or plain soy sauce.
Stir together the ginger, scallions and 1 teaspoon salt in a heatproof medium bowl.
Heat the oil over high heat in a small pot until it just starts to smoke or registers 375 degrees F on a digital thermometer, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully pour the hot oil over the scallion-ginger mixture and stir to combine. Mix in the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper.
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