Ed Schoenfeld’s Schmaltzy Chicken Fried Rice
When I cook, I like to create layers of flavor. A technique that I particularly relish is creating onion-flavored oil and using it as an underlying flavor base in my cooking. For this recipe, I suggest roasting a chicken on a bed of onions that flavor the rendered chicken fat; however, one could simply get some chicken fat sacs from a butcher, put them in a pan and render them over slow heat. Adding a chopped onion partway through the process would give the oil a great smell and flavor. Plus if you don’t want to eat the cholesterol of the schmaltz, you could always substitute vegetable or olive oil.
As far as the roast chicken goes, eat it for dinner and save a cup or two of the meat to make the fried rice. Of course, you don’t need to roast a chicken; any leftover chicken would work well enough.
First roast a chicken and render, flavor and save the chicken fat.
Remove and reserve the fat sacs from the cavity of the chicken, cutting them each into a few pieces.
Brine a 4-pound chicken in salty water for at least 2 hours, or for as long as 12 hours.
Wash, dry and season the chicken, rub it with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and place it in a skillet or a roasting pan over a bed of 3 large, coarsely chopped onions that have been mixed with the chopped chicken fat sacs. Roast it at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until the temperature registers 160 degrees on a meat thermometer.
Important: To create onion-flavored chicken fat, keep just enough water (1/4 cup) in the pan to prevent the onions from burning. Add more water, a little at a time, as necessary. Toward the end of the cooking time, stop adding water and let any liquid in the pan evaporate, but take care not to burn the onions.
When the chicken is finished cooking, remove it (and the onions) from the pan and eat them, reserving 1–2 cups of the meat for your rice.
Carefully drain off, strain and reserve the chicken fat. You will need about 2 tablespoons (there should be a little more than this).
4 cups cooked and chilled white rice *You may use your favorite long- or short-grain rice. I like a type of short-grain Japanese sushi rice called kushishikari rice that is grown in California and available in Japanese specialty stores in New York — but jasmine, Carolina, basmati and another variety are all fine. What is critical is that the rice is cooked and chilled. *
2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat — preferably the onion-flavored fat from your roasted chicken. You may substitute vegetable oil.
1 cup finely chopped red or yellow onion
1–2 cups cooked chicken, more or less according to taste
Salt and finely ground white pepper, to taste
1–2 teaspoons soy sauce (I suggest mushroom-flavored Healthy Boy brand, but a regular Kikkoman works fine).
¼ cup finely chopped scallions
Place a 14-inch wok or a large skillet over the highest possible heat. Preheat the pan, and when it is quite hot add the 2 tablespoons of onion-flavored schmaltz.
Add the chopped onions and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
Add the rice and toss it in the skillet. Use the back of a large spoon to break apart the clumps of rice that have stuck together. Cook, stirring the food for 3–4 minutes, or until the rice is just warmed throughly and is starting to give off steam.
Add the chicken, tossing it with the rice for a minute or two, until it is warmed throughly. Taste the rice for seasoning; it can use a considerable amount of salt and a touch of white pepper. Then mix in the soy sauce to taste, stirring for about another minute. Finally, add the scallions, toss the food for another 30 seconds and serve.