Simmered Chicken Livers

When our daughter was very young, we were fortunate to have a series of wonderful Chinese caregivers for her – they loved her as one of their own and spoiled her rotten: multi-dish hot lunches were the norm (is it any wonder she can’t think of a cold sandwich as lunch to this day?), and one of her very favorite dishes (although she’ll deny this vociferously now) was simmered chicken livers. One day she asked for this for dinner, so off to the store we went, only to find that the chicken livers were not available. A loud wailing ensued, and an older woman bent over the stroller: “Oh, honey, won’t your mommy buy you a cookie?” She totally did NOT believe that the tears were being shed over chicken livers….

Not a lot of people seem to eat liver these days, but my husband and I do like it, so we took advantage of some extra turkey livers being available at the farm where we buy our Thanksgiving turkey. This dish is quick and tasty (if you’re a fan of liver) and can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold.


  • 1 lb chicken (or duck or turkey) livers
  • 1/4 c dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 c light soy sauce
  • 1/4 c Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 T brown or raw cane sugar
  • 1/2-3/4 c water
  • 2 scallions, cut into 2″ sections
  • 3 slices fresh ginger root
  • 2 cloves star anise or 1/2 tsp anise seed
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns


  1. Boil 4 c water, then pour it over the livers in a bowl. Give it a gentle stir, then drain and rinse the livers in cold water.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small pot, add the livers, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 m.
  3. Turn off the heat and allow the livers to sit another 5 m.
  4. Cut into bite-sized pieces and serve hot, drizzled with a bit of the liquid.


You can remove the livers from the liquid and reduce it at a rolling boil, then use the resulting syrup as a drizzle on the livers.

do ahead

This dish can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and either served cold or gently reheated. Store the livers in the liquid in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.


Spice-braised Chicken

This recipe results in a chicken with a spicier, less neutral-flavored chicken than the Simmered Chicken, but after you serve it on its own, you can still use the leftovers in a variety of ways: cold as an appetizer, sliced over noodles, mixed into fried rice. The addition of Sichuan peppercorns gives it a truly authentic flavor, but if you can’t find them in an Asian grocery or in the Asian section of a conventional store, you can substitute some other peppercorns – black, green, red, pink, or a mix.


  • a 3-4 pound chicken, cut up (try to buy local, sustainably raised birds – your mouth, your body, your environment, and your local food economy will thank you!)
  • 3 slices fresh ginger root
  • 2 scallions, cut into 2″ sections
  • 2 star anise (available in the spice section of most stores, but much cheaper in Asian markets)
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 T Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/4 c dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 c cooking wine
  • 1/4 c sesame oil


  1. Rinse and pat the chicken dry. Place in a heavy-bottom pot with the remaining ingredients. Add enough water to cover up to 1/2 of the chicken.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook just until cooked through, approximately 40 m, turning at least once to ensure an even color.
  3. Remove the chicken to a cutting board. You can serve the pieces whole, cut the meat off the bone, or serve Chinese style: using a heavy cleaver or very sturdy chef’s knife, cut the chicken into “chopstickable” pieces, bones and all.
  4. While you cut the chicken, bring the sauce to a rolling boil and reduce slightly.
  5. Place the chicken on a plate, pour a little sauce over it, and serve hot.

Five-Spice Brined Ribs and….

I’ve become a big fan of brining (soaking an animal protein in a mixture of salt, sugar, and water before cooking), and this recipe is the result of an experiment in that arena. (You can find an excellent in-depth discussion of the basics of brining in Cook’s Illustrated.)

I have made this recipe with beef short ribs as well as pork ribs – cooking time will vary greatly, so plan on testing at regular intervals; otherwise, this is a great recipe that involves almost no prep time whatsoever. The brine will also work for other proteins – chicken, duck, rabbit, fish…and even tofu! (Count on 1/2 lb of bone-in poultry or 1/4 lb of fish or tofu per person).

Five spice powder is a spice mix found in Chinese cooking that it includes all 5 flavors found in Chinese cuisine: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. You can make your own by combining equal parts whole Sichuan (or other) peppercorn, cinnamon sticks, cloves, fennel seed, and star anise. After toasting the spices lightly, grind in a mortar or with a coffee or spice grinder. If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to mess with that, five-spice is also available pre-mixed in Asian markets and in some conventional groceries – try the Asian section first, then the baking/spice aisle.

brine – count on 1 pt (2 c) per lb of ribs

  • 1 c water
  • 1 c peach nectar
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 T sugar, preferably brown or raw cane
  • 2 T kosher salt


  • beef shortribs or pork ribs (spareribs, back ribs, or country style) – count on about 1 lb per person


  1. Combine the brine ingredients in a glass baking dish large enough to hold the ribs in one layer, stirring until the crystals are completely dissolved.
  2. Add the ribs to the brine – the liquid should just cover the meat.
  3. Refrigerate for 3-8 h, then remove the ribs from the brine and pat dry.
  4. Preheat the oven to 275F.
  5. Place the ribs on a roasting rack in a pan, and roast until very tender. For pork ribs, this can take as little as 1.5 h; for beef ribs, count on at least 2.5-3 h. Test for doneness: the meat should be sliding off the bones and easily pierced with a knife or skewer. If the meat begins to brown too much, cover with foil and reduce the temperature to 250F.

Simmered Duck

It’s been a long time since I’ve cooked a duck, but inspired by the recent acquisition of a pastured one from our lovely local farmers at Back Forty Acres, we’re back on track. The beauty of a pastured bird is that it is much leaner than the conventionally farmed version, and the flavor – well, there’s just no comparison!

One of our favorite duck preparations is a dish in which the duck is simmered whole in a spiced liquid, then served warm, at room temperature, or chilled. In China, it would usually be chopped, bones and all, into bite-size pieces with a huge cleaver: you eat the pieces, spitting out the bones as you go. If that is unappealing or you don’t own a cleaver (or your kids refuse to eat it that way!) you can carve it much as you would a roast chicken or turkey, slicing the breast, removing the wings, and leaving the drumsticks and thighs intact or cutting the meat off the bone.

Eileen Yin-fei Lo has a detailed description of how the spiced liquid was made (and kept for years) in her grandmother’s kitchen, but it is possible to simplify the process and make the liquid for a single use if you don’t have the time or energy to keep it safe for that long! We also prefer a “white-simmered” version (which doesn’t contain soy sauce) to her “red-simmered” one.

Whole star anise and anise seed are generally available in the spice section of most grocery stores.


  • 1 duck, 4-6 lb
  • 2 T Chinese cooking wine or sherry
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 stalks scallion, cut into 1″ sections
  • 3 slices fresh ginger root
  • 3 pieces star anise or 1 tsp anise seed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp Sichuan or other peppercorns – the black/white/green/red mix is nice here
  • zest from 1/2 an orange
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves


  1. Rinse the duck with cool water, then pat dry. Rub it inside and out with the cooking wine, then with the salt, and let it stand 1 h in the refrigerator.
  2. Place the scallions and ginger inside the duck cavity, then put the duck in a large pot.
  3. Add  the remaining ingredients and enough water to cover the duck.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, immediately reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer for 1.5 – 2 h.
  5. Let the duck cool in the sauce just until it’s cool enough to handle, then cut it into bite-size pieces with a cleaver or carve it as you wish. It can be served as is, or with a garnish of fresh scallions.


  • The cooking liquid can be reduced over medium high heat until it’s a sauce consistency, then drizzled over the duck meat.
  • If you prefer the duck at room temperature, remove the bird from the liquid and let it cool up to 30 m before slicing.

do ahead:

  • Cool the duck in the liquid in an ice-water bath in the sink, then refrigerate it in the liquid if you prefer to serve it chilled.
  • The duck can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and chilled in this fashion. You can either serve it cold or remove it from the liquid and let it come to room temperature (about 30 m) before serving.

Quick Soupy Noodles – move over ramen!

We’re deep into the school and after-school schedule now, which means trying to get dinner on the table before swim class or Tae Kwon Do or…. This is a super quick twist on the Pan Asian Noodle Soup recipe posted a long time ago. For noodles, I like to use yaki-soba, but you can use any sort of instant noodles, fresh or dried. Try to buy the least processed noodles you can find and throw the seasoning packet directly into the trash! If you have time to make chicken broth and/or stew a chicken on the weekend, you’ll have homemade broth and cooked chicken meat on hand; if not, use organic free-range low sodium (phew!) chicken broth and cubed tofu in place of the chicken – storebought cooked chicken is usually not sustainably raised and is frequently full of chemical fillers and preservatives.


  • enough noodles for 4 portions
  • 8 oz cooked chicken, cut into 1/4″ slices across the grain
  • 2 heads baby bok choy


  • 1 T oil
  • 1 T fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1.5 qt water, stock, or broth
  • 3 T Asian fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam, available in Asian markets or in Asian section of conventional stores
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1&1/2 tsp brown or raw cane sugar
  • 3/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/8 tsp salt (you may want to start without the salt and add to taste – the need for it varies based on your choice of liquid)
  • 1/8 tsp dried pepper flakes (optional, or you can serve chopped salted chilies, sriracha, hot oil, etc. to taste at the table)


  1. Soak the bok choy in several changes of cool water until no more grit remains. Cut the leaves into 1/2″ ribbons and the stems crosswise into 1/2″ slices.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil until it shimmers, turn heat down to medium, then explode the ginger and garlic just until fragrant – do not allow the garlic to brown.
  3. Add the curry powder, and again cook just until it is fragrant.
  4. Add the water/broth/stock, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, salt, and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer for 5 m.
  5. Add the noodles, chicken, and bok choy to the broth, turn the heat back up, and return to a boil, by which time the soup is ready to serve.

The Original Chicken Rice Bowl

In Southern California, with its large Asian population, the “rice bowl” is a common item in many restaurants, from the ethnic mom & pop shop (many of which make a great one!) to fast food joints (both those that qualify as Asian, like Yoshinoya, and downright American ones, like Jack-in-the-Box, all of which are pretty ghastly). The basic concept is a one-dish meal – some sort of topping served over rice. The homemade version is not only a one-dish meal, it’s also a one-pot meal, a style of cooking that is quick and economical and saves on the pile of pots to be washed! Here, then is a recipe for Chicken Rice Bowl – homemade and healthy! Review the Basic Steamed Rice post for directions on how to use different varieties of rice, how to wash and soak it, and how to cook it.


  • 2 c rice, washed and soaked
  • 3 c water if you’re using a pot, water up to the 2 c mark plus 1/2 cup more if you’re using a rice cooker
  • 4 oz cooked chicken, shredded – do your taste buds, your health, the earth, and the chicken a favor and buy sustainably raised if you can!
  • 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, caps cut into thin strips, stems reserved for making soup
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil



  1. Put the rice and water into the cooking pot or rice cooker, then cook according to the Basic Steamed Rice post only until the water reaches the level of the top of the rice.
  2. While the rice cooks to this point, combine the marinade ingredients, then add the chicken and mushrooms and let the mixture rest.
  3. Place the topping mixture over the partly cooked rice, sprinkle with 1/2 of the scallion, but do not stir. Cook until rice is done.
  4. Let the rice stand, covered, for 10-15 m, and only then mix gently, adjust the seasoning, top with the remaining scallion and sesame oil, and serve.

Chinese Super Bowl Wings

It’s Super Bowl weekend, so of course – it’s time for wings, right? Here is a faux Chinese (meaning I created it) recipe for chicken wings – sweet and spicy and baked or grilled instead of fried, so much better for you than the traditional hot wings. You can get whole wings and twist them into a triangle by tucking the tip over the second joint, or you can use the drumettes and/or second joints. Do try to buy pastured chicken if you can find it in your area – you’ll do your tastebuds, your body, your environment (and the chicken) a favor.


  • 3 doz chicken wings


  • 1 c  Shaoxing cooking wine  or dry sherry
  • 1/4 c light soy sauce
  • 2 T honey
  • 2 T apricot preserves
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T fresh ginger root, minced


  • toasted sesame seeds (optional) – a mix of black and white is nice


  1. Rinse the wings and pat them dry.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, then add the chicken and marinate in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.
  3. Drain the marinade off into a saucepan heat to a boil, reduce to a slow boil until reduced to a syrupy consistency, 15-30 m.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450 or preheat the grill.
  5. If you are grilling: grill the wings 4-5 m, baste the top with some of the sauce, turn over, baste the top and grill for another 4-5 m. If the outside begins to blacken too much, move the wings to a part of the grill that is cooler. If you have a gas grill, turn one burner off, move the wings to that side, leave the other side on, and cover the grill. If you are baking: bake the wings10 m, baste the top with some of the sauce, turn over, baste the top and grill for 5-10 m more. The juices should run clear when pricked to the bone at the joint or thickest part.
  6. After removing from the heat, immediately sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. If you plan to use the sauce for dipping, be sure to bring it back to a boil and simmer it for 5 m, adding a bit of water if it’s too thick.
  8. Serve with the sauce and/or some hot chinese mustard.

do ahead:

The wings can be prepared ahead and refrigerated overnight – don’t sprinkle with sesame seeds. Brush with the sauce and reheat in a 250 degree oven until warm, then sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.