Salt baked chicken is one of the most classic dishes in the Hakka repertoire. The dish is both clever and flavorful. Traditionally it is made by sealing the chicken with a tight cocoon of lotus leaf or parchment paper, which is then baked in scorching coarse salt. Despite the fact that the bird is packed solidly in a thick layer of coarse salt as it cooks, it doesn’t get unbearably salty because the salt doesn’t penetrate the wrapping. The salt coat mainly serves to retain heat and cook the bird evenly.
This week I tried to remake the dish by giving it a western twist – the chicken wings were marinated with cayenne, garlic and lemon zest, before it was baked in my reliable Staub cocotte. The unique cooking method locks in all the flavors and bastes the bird in its very own essence, the chicken turned out juicy and succulent. And once the ceremonious unveiling began, herb-scented steam curled out of the parcel of goodness, filling the room with gratifying aromas. =)
Ingredients (serves 2):
8 chicken wings (mid-joint)
2 egg whites
500g rock salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp cayenne powder
1 tbsp crushed black pepper
Zest from 2 lemons
2 sprigs rosemary (chopped)
1) Preheat the oven to 250 deg C.
2) Wash chicken wings, pat dry. Mix with marinade.
3) Wrap the chicken wings with tin foil.
4) Whisk the egg whites until foams form. Add salt and mix well.
5) Line a French oven with tin foil. Spread a layer of salt mixture. Put in the chicken wing wrap and cover it with the remaining salt mixture.
6) Bake the whole French oven for 30mins. Do not cover up the French oven while baking, otherwise the salt mixture cannot be dried, making the chicken very salty.
7) Smash to remove the salt on the surface. Take out the chicken wings and serve!
8) Soak the French oven with hot water until the salt melt before washing.