Friday, March 20, 2009

Szechuan Chicken with Forbidden Rice

I get into major food ruts during the week. My schedule doesn't provide me with a lot of time for home cooking, so a lot of times my dinners during the week consist of a little of this, a little of that... pretty often just cheese and crackers. It's pretty pathetic. We did buy over 2 pounds of hummus at Costco the other day (which is really fabulously smooth hummus... it reminds me of what Holy Land hummus was before it was so mass marketed it's available at gas stations) so that's been keeping me somewhat sated.

Anyway, I was desperate for a real meal that didn't come from a restaurant. The rice and now spices from Marx foods have been sitting on the kitchen counter, staring up at me, taunting me.

"Be creative! Try something new! Find the perfect recipe!"

We settled on Szechuan chicken which I figured would be easily accompanied by the Chinese black rice prepared according to the instructions on the bag.

I dug out my micro lens (which I use so rarely) to get some cool pictures of the goodies Marxfoods sent us

Forbidden Rice

Chinese black rice

We found a recipe on chowhound that sounded tasty and easy, and got to work making and putting on the rub right when I got home with the chicken

Szechuan peppers are mild and fragrant, not terribly spicy, and aren't actually related to peppercorns (though look fairly similar).

Szechuan Peppers

We heated up equal parts of peppers and salt in a saute pan until the salt turned golden. Then into the mortar and pestle for a good whirl.

szechuan peppers and salt rub

Using only about half of the rub we made, we marinated the chicken for only about an hour. It would have been longer if we weren't both so insanely hungry.

Apply rub

Then into the steamer with cilantro, scallions and ginger. It smelled absolutely amazing. And took all of ten minutes since we just used chicken breast. We don't have a Chinese steamer, so Calphlon would have to do.
Steaming the chicken

The rice was cooked according to the label. From MarxFoods website:
Rinse Chinese Forbidden Rice well before cooking. If cooking along with other ingredients that you do not want colored, rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Boil two cups of water for every one cup of rice used. Once the water has boiled, cover the pot and simmer the rice on low for 25 minutes. After simmering, remove from the heat and let sit (covered) for ten minutes before serving. Each cup of dry Chinese black rice yields about 2 ¼ cups when cooked. Boil the rice in.

It came out nicely; nutty and al dente.

The chicken was awesome. It had a really mild flavor from the peppers, but was brightly flavored by the ginger green onions and cilantro and was incredibly tender.

Szechuan chicken and black rice


1 package chicken breast or tenders

3 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns (available at Chinese Grocers), or en masse at Marx foods

2 tbsp kosher salt

1/2 cup cilantro leaves loosely packed
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 scallions, chopped

  1. Prepare a rub by toasting peppercorns and salt in a small skillet over med-high heat until salt turns beige or golden. You can double or treble recipe and save for future uses.
  2. When cool enough to handle, grind salt-peppercorn mixture in very clean coffee grinder, with a mortar and pestle
  3. Coat chicken with peppercorn mixture. You'll have some rub left over for pork or beef next time. Put chicken in non-reactive plate or bowl, cover with plastic wrap, leave to marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours or, ideally, a day.
  4. Place chicken in a steaming basket, sprinkle with ginger, garlic scallions and cilantro. Steam until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  5. Serve atop forbidden rice.

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