Garlicky Three-Cup Chicken

Garlicky Three-Cup ChickenBy Wendy Ruopp, Managing Editor of EatingWell

I just have two questions about this chicken recipe: Why is it called "Three-Cup Chicken"? And can I please have it for dinner tonight? It has the Asian flavors I love: Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, fresh ginger and fresh basil. And lots of garlic: 12 cloves plus 1 tablespoon minced garlic. That's why Kathy Gunst included it in her story "A Fresh Look at Garlic" in the March/April issue of EatingWell. (Find 25 healthy garlic recipes, including more of her new garlic recipes for garlic scape pesto and more.)

According to her, the name of this classic Taiwanese dish comes from the combination of soy sauce, rice wine and rice vinegar in equal measure (actually 3 tablespoons each in this recipe, not 3 cups--I suppose if you wanted to multiply it to serve 64 instead of making 4 servings, you'd use 3 cups of each…and an awful lot of chicken).

To make it for dinner tonight, I just have to spend a fragrant hour in the kitchen with my wok (or skillet). My reward will be a saucy, garlicky chicken dish that I'd spend a lot more for in a restaurant than the $10 I spent on ingredients.

Three-Cup Chicken
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Makes: 4 servings, 2 pieces chicken & 1/3 cup sauce each
Active time: 40 minutes | Total: 1 hour

While there are dozens of variations on this classic Taiwanese Three-Cup Chicken recipe, the "three-cup" in the title refers to the fact that this healthy chicken recipe is almost always made with equal parts soy sauce, Chinese rice wine and rice vinegar (and usually sesame oil). The sauce for Three-Cup Chicken develops a wonderfully pungent flavor from toasted Sichuan peppercorns and star anise; look for them in Asian markets or online from penzeys.com. Serve the chicken and sauce over rice.

1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (Shao Hsing or Shaoxing) or dry sherry
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons honey or sugar
2 whole star anise
1 bunch scallions, divided
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 chicken drumsticks, skin removed (see Tip)
4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed and trimmed
12 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole, plus 1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped, preferably Thai basil

1. Toast peppercorns in a large flat-bottomed carbon-steel wok or heavy skillet over high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Crush in a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin. Set aside near the stove.
2. Meanwhile, combine broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, rice wine (or sherry), sesame oil, honey (or sugar) and star anise in a medium bowl. Finely chop enough scallions to equal 2 tablespoons and reserve for garnish; cut the remaining scallions into 2-inch lengths. Place the sauce and scallion pieces near the stove.
3. Heat canola oil in the wok (or skillet) over high heat until shimmering. Reduce heat to medium-high; add 2 drumsticks and 2 thighs and cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken over and cook for 3 minutes on the other side, reducing the heat as needed if the pan gets too hot. Transfer the chicken to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken; remove to the plate. Add the scallion pieces, garlic and ginger to the pan; cook, stirring once or twice, until they begin to brown, about 1 minute. Add the crushed peppercorns and stir for 5 seconds. Add the reserved sauce and cook 2 minutes. Add the chicken; stir to coat with the sauce.
4. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, cover the pan and cook, turning the chicken halfway through, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part without touching bone registers 165°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in basil leaves and cook, uncovered, for 1 minute more. Garnish with the chopped scallions and chopped basil.

Per serving: 346 calories; 18 g fat (3 g sat, 8 g mono); 90 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrate; 9 g added sugars; 29 g protein; 1 g fiber; 594 mg sodium; 404 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Zinc (21% daily value).

Tip: To remove the skin from chicken drumsticks, grip skin from the meaty end of the drumstick with a paper towel and pull down toward the exposed bone until it comes off completely.

Watch This: How to Stir-Fry Chicken

By Wendy Ruopp

Wendy Ruopp has been the managing editor of EatingWell for most of her adult life. Although she writes about food for the Weeknights column of EatingWell Magazine, her husband does the cooking at home.


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