Take a boring chicken and maximize the flavor with tons of aromatics and umami flavors…plus some delicious brandy.
I was at a friend’s house in Kuching a month ago and she served us a lovely chicken dish flavored with lots of lemongrass. It was cooked in homemade Chinese red wine, she explained, and she had added dark soy and shiitake mushrooms. It was delicious.
I decided that I would have to try to make it myself when I got a chance. However, I didn’t have any home-made red wine to use. What I did have was a bottle of really good cognac that had been left by the previous owner of our rental home. We don’t really drink too much liquor but I’ve always been able to use them in my cooking. Maybe this was a waste of really good cognac but let me tell you, this dish was the BOMB!
I started out by sweating a bunch of yummy aromatics (lemongrass, ginger, shallots, red onions, and galangal—all just stuff I had lying around my kitchen that needed using up). Then I added my chicken pieces to brown with a little salt. Once the chicken had taken on a little bit of color, I added my cognac.
Then I added some soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and a little bit of sugar. Tossed in 1-2 red chillies for some heat. Gave it all a good stir, let the whole dish come to a boil, then covered and simmered for about an hour.
The outcome—amazing depth and flavor! The cognac gave the dish a rich, sweet flavor, and the aromatics intensified the whole experience. I didn’t add any mushrooms but I will the next time as they would add even more umami flavors to this dish.
Chicken with Cognac Recipe
1 chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces, about 18 pieces
4 garlic cloves, smashed lightly
5 lemongrass, bottom parts only, smashed to release flavors
1 large thumb of ginger, sliced into medallions
1 large thumb of galangal, sliced into medallions
1 small red onion, cut into wedges
3-4 small shallots, halved or quartered
2-3 red chillies
6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted and halved or quartered (optional)
1/2 cup cognac
1 Tbsp salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tbps dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp sugar (or to taste)
1/2 cup water
2 tsp white pepper
2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1. In a large pot, heat up oil over medium heat.
2. Add garlic, shallots, red onions, galangal, ginger and lemongrass. Saute to release fragrance and flavors, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add chicken and salt. Let brown on all sides, stirring once or twice every 2 minutes.
4. Add cognac and stir to incorporate. (Notice that I put it through a sieve—this is because the cork had broken up and bits had fallen in and I didn’t want any of that in my dish). Let cook for about 2 minutes.
5. Add soy sauce, dark soy sauce and sugar. Stir to mix. Let chicken cook in this mixture for 3-5 minutes. If it looks like it is drying out, add some water.
6. Add chillies and white pepper. Stir these in and then turn heat down to low and cover. Let it simmer for 45 mins to 1 hour.
7. Remove cover and taste. Adjust seasoning by adding more soy sauce, salt, or sugar as needed.
8. Plate up and enjoy over rice.
Chicken with Cognac
We used a whole chicken for this dish so we had enough for leftovers the next day. Let me tell you, the dish tasted even better the next day! And with my working schedule, leftovers are wonderful things these days.