I’ve been craving a get together with some of my favorite virtual amigos for a long time now. But it seems I’m not quite as good at getting people over to my offline home. Luckily, the potluck I helped Dana Cowin put together for her cookbook helped inspire me to make good on seeing some of these lovely ladies in person more often.
I still weirdly get nervous cooking for other food people. But after doing so for Dana, Deb, Amanda and Merrill, I kind of got over it. The evening also gave me permission to not be embarrassed about hosting people around a coffee table. My beat-up old Moroccan floor poufs might be a far cry from the elegant chaise of an editor-in-chief, but my friends graciously made do with the well-worn butt grooves of guests past.
I also got the idea for this Peking chicken kind of via Dana—from the Food & Wine October issue, where they did a butter-roasted version with a soy glaze. They served the carved up bird inside pancakes with scallions and cucumbers, just like my favorite duck at Chinese restaurants.
The Peking duck girls brunch has been a long-standing tradition with my college friends, and since my birthday fell on a Sunday this year, I resurrected it for the celebratory occasion. It definitely wasn’t the most gluten-friendly of options for the birthday girl. But I made due with wrapping my duck breast in extra skin instead of the Chinese-style flour tortilla, which was a pretty fatty, classy good time.
Anyway, I’ve been wanting to make my own Peking duck spread at home with gluten-free duck sauce and lettuce wraps instead of pancakes. But I was afraid to tackle the duck itself in my kitchen. If the end product looked like one of the freaky glazed head-on carcasses hanging from a restaurant window on Mott street, then I would probably require a nice Chinese man to come help me carve it. And if it didn’t, then it just wouldn’t be worth it. So when I saw the idea to do the same thing with chicken, I thought: brilliant! That’s a bird I can handle.
Instead of the butter, I used a mixture of Chinese five spice and coconut oil to shove under the skin and keep the bird super moist (I like this brand). Since coconut oil has a semi-solid consistency at room temperature, it worked great for slathering. That is, until I realized my chicken was cold and the mixture turned into scales. Luckily, it melted away in the oven and produced some seriously beautiful Peking-like crispy skin.
I served the duck with kimchi pickles and these scallion-pancake inspired sweet potato latkes. Serena of the hilarious and drool-worthy blog Domesticate-Me brought a sesame kale and Brussels sprout slaw, and Anna of The Yellow Table, who just self published (ah!) the most beautiful cookbook, plied us with bubbly and dark chocolate for dessert.
It sounds both cheesy and ridiculous to say it, but the freelance food blogging life isn’t always easy. Sure, we get to make our own schedule and cook all day for our pay. But it can also be incredibly lonely. This is something I didn’t really realize until earlier this year, when I started getting weirdly clingly and needly in my relationship (not my usual MO). As 2014 comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting a lot on why that is.
Since I spent the first chapter of my blogging career as part of a team, I didn’t really notice how isolating sitting alone at a computer every day can be. Even if we were in different places, there was still a feeling of constant communication and, more importantly, feedback.
The latter is something that Anna, Serena and I commiserated on during our little food bloggers support group. It’s so amazing to get your comments, tweets, and thoughts on a daily basis—we thank you for it, because your words are what literally keep us going. But the social stuff also becomes kind of addictive. When I’m away from it, I notice how much my self worth languishes without constant “likes.” Some days I feel like I’m cooking in a void. I want to call out “HELLO” (ello…ohhh….ohh…oh). Is anybody out there? And would you like to help me drink the boozy chai tea lattes I just made at 10am?
I’m not complaining. It’s more that I’ve realized how much I need to find the balance in my work that I’ve sought out on my plate. To do so, the thing I’m craving most in the New Year is getting to connect more with you all. And in person. So I’m working on ways to do that.
Until then, I’m happy I have a quirky little offline support system in my fellow lady bloggers who face the same daily conundrums, like how to make your kitchen not smell like kimchi when the jar explodes and why on earth does Haylie Duff have a cookbook?
If you’re a fellow NYC freelance food soul sister, drop me a line—I’d love to connect! And if you’re just looking for an elegant main course for your holiday table, and want to mix in a little bit of the Jewish Chinese food on Christmas tradition, this Peking chicken is your ticket.
Happy holidaze – I’m so grateful for all of your gifts!
Chinese Five Spice Roasted Peking Chicken For Christmakkah
- One 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken at room temperature
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Canola oil
- 1/2 cup gluten-free tamari
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- One 2-inch piece of ginger thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- Kimchi-style spicy pickles for serving
- Boston or butter lettuce cups for serving
- Sliced scallions for serving
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Rinse the chicken and trim any excess fat flaps. Pat the bird dry with paper towels and sit, breast-side up on a rack inside a baking sheet. If you don’t have a rack, wind a long piece of tin foil into a circle and seat the chicken on top of it.
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the coconut oil, Chinese five spice and salt. Gently separate the skin from the chicken and rub the coconut oil mixture underneath. If the bird is very cold, the oil might seize up – don’t worry about it.
Lightly brush the outside of the bird with canola oil. Roast the chicken in the oven until the juices run clear, 60 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and rest the chicken until cool enough to touch.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the tamari, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and honey. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 minutes.
Brush the chicken with the sauce and carve, thinly slicing the breast on an angle. Arrange the chicken on a platter and serve alongside the remaining glaze, kimchi pickles, butter lettuce, and scallions.