Scented with wine, ginger, and scallions, this eye-opening broth is one of the headiest in this collection, and the ultimate essence of chicken soup. It seems the most likely to cure whatever ails you. It is best prepared in a Yunnan chicken steamer-a covered terra-cotta or stoneware crock with a chimney in the center. It is set over a pot of boiling water, and the resultant steam extracts the juices of the chicken, creating an aromatic elixir, best sipped directly from small cups.
In place of such a steamer, use a deep, fairly narrow, heat-proof glass or ceramic casserole that has a tight-fitting lid and that will hold 3 to 4 quarts of combined solids and liquid. You will also need a larger pot that will hold the casserole, and a rack to set it on.
Yield: 10 demitasse cups or 6 first-course servings
One 4- to 5-pound chicken
2 cups water
4 thin slices peeled fresh ginger
5 small scallions, green and white portions, sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
½ to 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
Chicken should be chopped through bones and skin into 2- or 3-inch chunks. Blanch in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse chicken.
Set steamer over saucepan that will hold it above the water level and that fits tightly enough so that steam does not escape at the sides. Distribute chicken pieces evenly inside the steamer or casserole and add water, ginger, scallions, wine, and a pinch of salt.
Cover steamer and bring water to a boil. If using a casserole, wrap it completely, lid and all, with plastic wrap and place on rack inside larger pot that has enough water to come one-third up to the sides of the casserole; cover outside pot. Whether using steamer or casserole, reduce heat so that water simmers steadily and creates steam. Keep a kettle of hot water ready to refill saucepan as water evaporates.
Steam for about 3 hours or until chicken is completely tender and well covered with broth. Strain soup, discarding ginger and scallions. Skim off fat and add salt as needed. Just before serving, reheat in a saucepan, preferably of enamel or glass.
Chicken can be nibbled on as a snack, or it can be served at room temperature with small bowls of vinegar and soy sauce for dipping.