Dining out in Hong Kong on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is nothing short of a nightmare, and all those restaurant specials seem more designed to rob you blind than anything else. Since cooking is fun and we like entertaining at home with some friends and family, our team decided to try out some recipes last night to prevent any last minute mishaps. We had a few dishes in mind, so first we headed down to Kowloon City to grab some ingredients at the local meat stalls and wet markets there, intending to get some fresh grouper at our favourite fish monger. Sadly he was closed at 1:15pm, but we'll be sure to get there a bit earlier next time if we want to come on Sunday again.
We wonder how early he must have opened to close shop by noon!
No matter though, because despite all the gentrification happening around Kowloon City, there are still a number of traditional, old school food stalls.
Ever since I bought some dried morel mushrooms on my last trip to Barcelona they had been on my mind. We got a free-range chicken for only 80HKD from one of the last wholesalers in the area, and decided to make roast chicken with a morel and white wine sauce, which is pretty classic and easy. But since most people in the city don't have an oven, we decided to try steaming our chicken in a big pot.
To use dried morels, soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes. Afterwards, strain the mushrooms and keep them aside. We'll use the mushroom water as stock.
Our first step was taking the chicken and stuffing it with a few cloves of garlic. We seasoned it with some salt, pepper, and dried herbs like basil and thyme, although of course the fresh ones are better. To replicate the same "roasted" look you would get in an oven, we browned it on high heat for around 5-8 minutes. Then we poured in chopped up celery and shallots on the bottom of the pan and half a cup of white wine or dry vermouth, which steamed the chicken.
Make sure you cover and lower the heat once the wine starts to boil. You want to simmer it slowly for 45 minutes if the chicken is medium sized, and for 1 hour if it is large.
When pairing wine with poultry, there are a surprising number of factors. Firstly, since we are in Hong Kong, the question should be: Are you using soy sauce and ginger, or are you seasoning the chicken with herbs? Are you using a red wine sauce like for coq au vin, or are you using a white wine sauce?
If you are preparing chicken the Chinese way, use a white wine with high acidity and maybe even a touch of sweetness. Chablis, which is 100% Chardonnay, works and I'll always prefer an off-dry Chenin Blanc from Vouvray or a good Spätlese or Auslese Riesling from Germany to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for Asian food, as most dishes tend to have a combination of sugar, salt, and other spices. If it's a red wine sauce, Pinot Noir and Grenache are immediate options, although I'd like to add Gamay, Barbera, and Zweigelt (a fantastic red wine from Austria) to the option table.
Since we were cooking with a cream based sauce, we chose our first wine offer: Domaine Pattes Loup – Chablis '1er Cru Montmains' 2010 to pair. This link on Chablis pairing is pretty informative. It is written by Fiona Beckett, a wine columnist for The Guardian and a low-intervention wine lover. Her blog is at: http://winemadenaturally.blogspot.hk/.
After frying the shallots in butter, add in the diced morel mushrooms from the stock, and chicken juice from the pot. Boil to reduce and add cream after.
Our Chablis has a wax top. But don't be scared, just treat it normally and go right through.
For oaked white wines we like to use Burgundy bowls, which really bring out the tropical and mineral aromas of this Chablis.
We served it with some biodynamic wild rice from the Philippines. Yes "biodynamic" rice does exist and no it isn't expensive! It costs around 50-60 dollars for a bag I think. It has a distinct cocoa smell and is absolutely delicious. I got it from farmfresh 330 in Tai Wai MTR station.
Domaine des Roches Neuves - Saumur Champigny - La Marginale 2008
Lastly we had half a bottle remaining of La Marginale 2008 from the talented winemaker Thierry Germain in Saumur-Champigny in the Loire Valley. It is 100% Cabernet Franc, and I have to admit that when I first tried it upon opening 3 nights prior I wasn't that impressed. It was heavily marked by oak and was a very modern style of Cabernet Franc with lots of dense dark fruit. I much preferred the Domaine's basic bottling, which is simply called 'Saumur Champigny'.
Interestingly though when we tried it yesterday, the distinctive green pepper trait of Loire Valley Cabernet Franc finally emerged, showing some promise. The wine very clearly needs at least 4-6 more years of aging, and it is an interesting flagship wine from this young biodynamic producer. Still, I wonder if its flaws are something time can fix.