Tag Archives: La Playa

Obsession: Three Cup Chicken

5 May

As I mentioned in my early piece on Natt Spil, their Three Cup Chicken (or San bei ji) is one of those dishes that worms its way into your head and demands being sated several times a year.  There’s nothing shy about this traditional South China/Taiwanese dish – obscene amounts of minced garlic and ginger, sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce with a heavy-handed dose of fresh basil, paired with a spicy-sour salad of sliced cucumber and tomato.  Too much of a good thing means nothing in my book, so this dish is right in my wheelhouse.  And should be in yours.

Three Cup Chicken (San bei ji)

Ingredient Rundown:

Chicken:

  • Chicken thighs, de-boned and roughly chopped (3 healthy-sized thighs yielded 2 healthy-sized servings)
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce (I use reduced sodium)
  • 1/3 cup rice wine (I’ve used Dry White Sherry to fine results)
  • 1 large thumb-sized lobe of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Fresh basil chiffonade, to taste
  • 1 heaping tsp corn starch
  • 1 cup dry Jasmine rice

Pickled Cucumber/Tomato Salad

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into sticks
  • 2 roma tomatoes, sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • basil chiffonade, to taste
  • dash of garlic powder, powdered ginger
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • juice of 1 lime (or several small key limes in my case)
  • squirt of Sriracha
  • splash of soy sauce
  • pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

How I do it:

  1. Prepare pickled salad by marinating sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in rice vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce, Sriracha, soy sauce, basil, and spices.  Gets better with time, but give it at least an hour or two.
  2. Add sesame oil to large skillet or cast iron frying pan and saute minced garlic and ginger over medium heat for 5-8 minutes
  3. Add chopped chicken thighs, seasoned with kosher salt and saute with garlic and ginger for about 10 minutes until lightly browned
  4. Prepare 1 cup of jasmine rice, as directed on package (in general the rice should take 20-25 minutes to cook, so now would be a good time to start it so it finishes with the chicken)
  5. Add rice wine, soy sauce, most of the basil and corn starch (I made a slurry by mixing corn starch with an equal amount of soy sauce – this prevents lumps and allows it to incorporate better to thicken sauce) and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by 80-90% and a thick sauce remains.
  6. Serve with jasmine rice and pickled salad.  Garnish liberally with more fresh basil.  Bask in its effervescence.  Life is good.

I enjoyed this batch of three cup chicken with some delicious La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2009 that I just picked up at Barriques Wine and Spirits. I really enjoyed the previous vintage this fall and the fresh stuff really went well with this dish.  Heavily acidic with the first glass I sampled the night before, the wine really opened up with a night under its belt and the fresh notes of lime and ginger shined through, highlighting those aspects of the food nicely.  A pretty nice way to spend an 70 degree evening in early May, I must say.

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Wine is fine: La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2009

10 Dec

I thought drinking a wine called “The Beach” might make me forget that it is currently 6 degrees outside and there is a foot and a half of snow on the ground.  I was wrong.  Mostly.  I won’t let my cabin fever sully my enjoyment of a damn fine wine, however.  This is one of our best sellers both in the bottle and by-the-glass at Barriques, and for good reason – its crisp fruitiness transports you to the beaches of Chile.  Not really.  Not even close, actually.  What I’m trying to say is this is good stuff.  And less than 10 bucks.

Wine: La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Vitals: Composition: 100% Sauvignon Blanc; Colchagua Valley, Chile; 13% abv; Age of Vines: 17 yrs; Total acidity: 6.83 g/l; Residual sugar: 4.2 g/l, (love the thorough stats on their website – there’s lots more that I have no idea how to interpret)

Company line: “A consistent favorite with the critics, this pale yellowgreen wine has a bright and floral nose, with aromas of blossoms, lime and honeydew. On the palate, it is fresh, well-structured and shows a lively acidity, with crisp lemon-lime zest, citrus candies and a note of fresh grass. –laplayawine.com

My take: pale yellow(green, I guess) in the glass, a vibrant lemongrass, crisp green bell pepper and tropical citrus nose belies bright acidity, lime zest and aromatic flowers on the palate.  Fruitiness masks its dry mouthfeel which is amplified by a hearty alcoholic presence.  This wine was made for summer and barbeques, but is a refreshing treat any time of the year.  Even when you want to trick yourself into thinking it’s July when it’s really December.

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