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Recipe Requests: Beggar's Chicken

by Jacqueline M. Newman


Spring Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(2) page(s): 7 and 8

The most popular recipe request since the last issue was about the why and what exactly is Beggar's Chicken. Therefore, this column is dedicated to the beggar, the legend says, who stole a chicken and prepared it. The story goes, that while it was still alive, a beggar encased a squeaking bird in mud and quckly put it into the fire. After it was deemed finished or he could wait no longer, the beggar is said to have grabbed a stick and pushed the hardened mass out of the embers. As he tried to pick it up, he dropped it. The baked clay split and the feathers, the story continues, remained attached to the baked mud as did some of the skin. With what was left, the beggar had a feast of succulent meat that we emulate to this day. The beggar's lack of a kitchen gave rise to a clay-baked chicken recipe and a variation of it, Salt Baked Chicken. Three variations below are offered to you and to every one who wrote to request same.
Beggar's Chicken I
3 Tablespoons dry sherry
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 Tablespons soy sauce
1/2 teeaspoon five-spice powder
1 three to four pound whole chicken, cleaned inside and out
1/2 cup smoked cured ham, sliced thinly
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, sliced thinly
1/2 cup water chestnuts, sliced thinly
1/2 cup soaked dry shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/2 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
3 to 5 pounds clay that hardens and is food-safe
about a yard of parchment paper
1. Mix sherry, salt, sesame oil, soy sauce, and five-spice powder and rub the chicken inside and out, reserving any not used.
2. Mix ham, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms with the leftover rubbing liquid and stuff the bird.
3. Wrap the chicken in parchment paper then surround it all over with about half-inch of clay.
4. Put it in the oven, turn the heat on and put it at 450 degrees fahrenheit and bake for two and a half hours. 5. Remove the hardened mass and egin by cracking the bird over a deep pan. Capture any juices and serve them in a gravy-type bowl. Set the broken pieces, much chicken and all, on a platter and bring it to the table. Finish cracking and serve in pieces with the guests removing the clay and eating the chicken as the beggar might have.
Note: This type of clay is usually available in art supply and craft stores.
Beggar's Chicken II
1 three to four pound whole chicken, cleaned inside and out
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1/2 pound ground pork
3 Tablespoons solid shortening or lard
1 large piece caul fat (about a pound)
2 large lotus leaves, pre-soaked for an hour
3 to 5 pounds clay that is food safe and hardens
1. Rub the chicken with coarse salt and set aside.
2. Fry the onions and the pork in the shortening until the meat is no longer pink, then stuff this mixture into the chicken.
3. Wrap the chicken in the lotus leaves and then cover this with half-inch to one-inch of the clay.
4. Either bake in 450 degree oven or wrap the chicken in four sheets of newspaper and secure with string. Then dig a pit a foot larger on all sides than the chicken, and fill with half wood and half charcoal. Ignite the wood and charcoal and when the coals are red hot, put the chicken in and surround it on all sides with the embers. Allow to cook for about three hours without replenishing the coals.
5. Crack open and serve (see the Beggar's Chicken I recipe above about how to do that and collect the juices.
Beggar's Chicken III
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 three to four pound whole chicken, cleaned inside and out
2 Tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 pound belly pork, diced into small pieces
1/4 cup preserved Shanghai cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup slivered fresh ginger
2 lotus leaves, soaked for about an hour
1 or 2 large pieces of caul fat, about one pound
2 to 4 pounds clay that hardens and is food-safe
1. Mix sugar, salt, and sherry and rub inside and outside of the chicken, then set it aside for half an hour.
2. Mix both soy sauces and set them aside.
3. Heat oil and fry the belly pork until almost crisp, add preserved vegetable, slivered ginger, and the soy sauces. Toss one minute more then drain and stuff into the chicken.
4. Wrap the chicken in the lotis leaves and then the caul fat. Cover with half to one-inch of the clay and bake in a 450 degree Farenheit oven for two hours.
5. Crack and serve as indicated in the Beggar's Chicken I recipe above.

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