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Chicken, Duck Liver, and the Pins

by Harley Spiller

Personal Perspectives

Fall Volume: 2004 Issue: 11(3) page(s): 30

No one has taught me more about Chinese food than the Pin family of Jackson Heights, Queens. Mike Pin is one of my oldest and dearest friends. He brought me to his folks home for many meals that included hard-to-find Northern Chinese specialties such as ni law or molting snails and ha cha or salted raw crab. His mom, Rose, came to New York from Ding Hey in China’s Zhoushan Archipelago. She married a professional chef, John Pin, who also came from Ding Hey. This is her recipe for the famous cold appetizer from around Shanghai, Drunken Chicken. Although an amateur, she was an even better cook than her husband, and she kindly passed this recipe along via her daughter Doreen. It was our last contact in this world, as she died shortly after sharing this sumptuous snack. The recipe, written below as received, has what I call: 'Pin flavor.'

Just as Rose Pin’s chicken, when served, never has leftovers, there is another that when served comes with the same results. I created this Chinese-style never-left-over dish. One day it dawned on me that one foodstuff that is nigh on impossible to find in New York City is fresh duck liver. Most of it goes for expensive paté de foie gras, or in Chinatown--for the making of duck liver sausage, a delicacy commonly added to bo jai fun, a hearty claypot casserole of rice cooked with variety meats.

The only place in the yellow pages who sells it is Ottomanelli’s, a renowned game butcher. However, they only offer it in five pound tubs--much too much for a bachelor. There is, though, a roast duck cart that sometimes appears on Canal Street at the corner of Mulberry street. Sometimes they have bags of duck innards for sale. A buck to them gets you half-dozen livers, hearts and gizzards.

Below is also a tasty way to prepare the livers. Jiu cong or what I call gao wah are leeks grown indoors and in the dark so they never turn green. The yellow shoots are picked when young and cut in long slivers. They are rather expensive--about six dollars a pound, but you only need a very few ounces. If you have never tried them, let me advise, they are perhaps the most elegant-tasting of all the alliaceous plants (garlic, onions, and the like). I can not imagine anyone not liking gao wah. That name is Cantonese, and the one I use when purchasing them. Jui cong is the pinyin name, in China's national language. Never mind naming them, just make them.
Harley suggests that you enjoy both of the following recipes.
Wined Chicken Rose Pin
The recipe as given to me: Boiling water in large Dutch oven--place whole chicken, breast side down.
Water should cover the chicken
Boil for ten minutes.
Simmer for ten minutes.
Let sit for 1ten minutes with the heat off.
Cool chicken before cutting into quarters.
Place in a large glass jar.
Salt over completely wit half cup.br> Add sherry or wine cover half-way.br Seal tightly and store in a cool dark corner, or the refrigerator.
Turn chicken two or three times a day for even flavoring.
When you notice there appears to be less liquid, add whiskey to reduce the ullage (air space in the bottle).
Ready in three days.
Eat within a week.
Sauteed Five-spive Duck Livers with Gao Wah
6 large lobes (from three ducks) or half pound of duck livers
1 cup all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons ground five-spice powder
2 eggs, well beaten
3 Tablespoons corn or canola oil
4 slices fresh ginger
1 or 2 chili peppers (optional)
5 ounces gao wah (leek), cut in two-inch lengths
1. Wash livers and dry with paper towels. Remove connecting membranes or stringy parts, and separate the lobes. Discard any dark spots.
2. Dust the livers with the flour.
3. Add five spice powder to the remaining flour, and mix well.
4. Dip livers in beaten egg, then in remaining flour, and set aside for about fifteen minutes until the flour wets somewhat.
5, Heat oil and stir-fry the ginger (and the chili peppers, if used) for one minute, then discard the ginger (and the chili peppers; or they can remain, if desired). Then add livers and sear one minute per side.
6. Add leeks, turn the livers over, and continue to cook one minute or almost the desired doneness. Stir fry another half minute to mix well. Serve and eat while piping hot.
Note: If any lobe is very large or thick, you may want to cut it in half after it has seared on the first side. At the end, the livers should have a crispy, lacy, but ‘uneven’ crust and be pink in the middle.

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