Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tea in the Kitchen: A Tale of Two Birds by Katie L. Chamberlain

Occasionally, tea bypasses the teapot and makes its way into the kitchen. In this case, two fine birds benefited from the smoky effects induced by dark teas, brightening otherwise dark winter nights. Tea smoking, an ancient Chinese cooking technique, infuses delicate, complex flavors with only a few simple ingredients. Namely, three ingredients form the foundation for this technique: loose-leaf black tea leaves for fragrance, brown sugar for coloring and slight sweetness, and uncooked rice as a fuel source.

Tea-Smoked-Chicken Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette and Scallion Broth
From David Tanis’ The Heart of the Artichoke

Tea Used: Black Tea, Wedding Tea

We made this recipe as part of a holiday cooking marathon, inspired by a lack of snow and four days of heavy rain. We left the kitchen briefly when the skies brightened on New Year’s Eve, luring us outside for a magical, snowy hike to Castle Rock. At the end of the week, this dish ranked among the best. The rich aromatics—black tea, star anise, fennel, and cloves—infuse into the smoked chicken legs beautifully and complement the tangy vinaigrette. Because the dish is covered, you must rely on your nose to gauge readiness. And it’s advised to release the smoke outdoors or near an open window to avoid smoking out your kitchen.  See pictures below.

Smoky Tea Duck

From Sunset Magazine (Eric Grower)

Tea Used: Lapsang Souchong

The more recent tea duck experiment won over a diner who’s never liked duck and equally delighted aficionados. Lapsang souchong tastes like a campfire in a cup or vegan BBQ ribs, according to J-Tea. Using this tea imparts a rich, smoky flavor without actually smoking the duck. In this rendition, rice, tea, and peppercorns are ground into a fine powder and massaged into the duck. Then, the duck breasts are pan-fried, fat side down, and finished in the oven. The duck literally sinks in the pan as the fat cooks away, leaving a thin, crispy membrane redolent of smoke.

The book
The smoking elements a cast iron dutch oven

The aftermath
Tea smoked chicken salad. Voila!

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