Monday, January 21, 2008

Super Natural Samgyetang (삼계탕)

A souped up Korean ginseng chicken soup dressed with the finest organic ingredients


Here is the Super Natural twist on an old Korean dish – Samgyetang, ginseng chicken soup. This bright coffee-colored consommé stands in stark contrast to the oatmeal opaque of standard ginseng chicken broths. Generous portions of jujubes, goji berries, and ginseng saturate this soup with the deep reddish gold and brown hues you see.

I encountered my first bowl of samgyetang a few years ago. Although Los Angeles is home to many different samgyetangs, each one fell short of the first one I dreamt of, as I waited, sick and eager, fingers tightly gripping my spoon. I imagined samgyetang fusing the crock pot of aromatics in my childhood memories to chicken matza ball soup—deliciously potent Korean penicillin. But, where ingredients were right, quantities and proportions were wrong, and vice versa, a milky broth bursting with rich flavor would only be spoiled by a bite into a bitter, gritty date. One restaurant boiled their tiny bird under such a fast, furious fire that I would have swore they served me the wrong order, Chicken with Water, were it not for my spoon stirring up a sliver of ginseng from the cast iron bottom. Leaving my bowl of Chicken with Water untouched, I vowed to create a Super Natural Samgyetang, a souped-up samgyetang dressed with the finest organic ingredients.

After several different attempts and learning through trial-by-fire, two of which included a crunchy rice filling, the following recipe is a richer, healthier, and more flavorful version of the traditional Korean chicken ginseng soup. The cooking method for this samgyetang differs dramatically from others in that a crock pot is used. The crockpot allows the herbs to soak and cook at a lower temperature, which preserves the goodness of the ginseng, gingko, and jujubes, rather than a quick, furious boil, which destroys the nutrients and scarcely provides time for the herbs to permeate the broth. The crockpot also allows for long cooking time without long watching time, hence it is often dubbed the Prep-It-and-Forget-It (PIFI) cooking method.

Super Natural Samgyetang Recipe

~ Serves 3-4 people

Starting Herbal Broth
Worry not if you exceed the cooking time on this herbal broth, or if the herbal broth simply sits around for a few hours longer because this will allow the herbs to thoroughly saturate the soup.

3 quarts of water
3 cups/15 large jujube dates
½ cup goji berries 3 large fresh ginseng roots/2 dried ginseng roots>5 years
1. Place all the ingredients in a 6-quart Rival crock pot and cook on low for ten hours.
2. Strain the herbal broth through a sieve.
3. Pour the herbal broth back into the crock pot and discard the scraps.
Sweet Rice Stuffing
When picking your chicken or hen, make sure the poultry's skin is pale, spot-free and resilient. What you stuff inside your bird may vary. Some recipes stuff ginseng directly into the chicken. If you are using fresh ginseng, you may add a bit of fresh ginseng in the stuffing mix; however, I believe the ginseng is most efficacious steeping in the broth. If you are using two birds, divide the stuffing materials accordingly.

1 organic young chicken (3-4 lbs), or 2 organic cornish hens
6 medium garlic cloves
3/4 cup organic sweet brown rice
¼ cup goji berries
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp cracked black pepper
½ tsp rock sea salt
1. Soak the sweet brown rice for 1-2 hours, drain, and set aside.
2. Wash and clean the inside of the chicken.
3. Sew-up the neck end of the chicken.
4. Stuff a clove of garlic into the neck end from the tail end.
5. Lightly salt the inside of chicken, reserving a tiny pinch of salt for the rice stuffing mix.
6. Line the rest of the garlic cloves against the ribs of the chicken.
7. Mix the sweet brown rice with goji berries, toasted sesame seeds, cracked black pepper, and pinch of salt. Stuff the rice mixture into the chicken.
8. Sew-up the chicken.
Ginseng Chicken Soup
Be very careful when peeling the chestnuts. I use a tool specially designed for peeling chestnuts, which can be found in the kitchen tool section of your local Korean grocery store.

Herbal Broth, prepared
1 organic chicken, stuffed
2 cups/10 raw chestnuts
2/3 cup gingko nuts
2 cups of jujube dates
2 tsp of rock sea salt
1. Peel the chestnuts.
2. Shell the gingko nuts.
3. Place the stuffed organic chicken, chestnuts, gingko nuts, dates, and salt into the prepared herbal broth.
4. Set the crock pot to cook on high for six hours. Your Supernatural Samgyetang is cooked and ready to serve!

Equipment for Super Natural Samgyetang

Cooking is always easier and more fun when you have the right tools.
Starting from clockwise:

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