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Tea-Smoked Roast Chickens
© John Kernick

Tea-Smoked Roast Chickens

  • ACTIVE: 50 MIN
  • TOTAL TIME: 3 HRS Plus 24 hr brining
  • SERVINGS: 6 to 8
  • MAKE-AHEAD
  • STAFF-FAVORITE

"This recipe looks like a doozy, but it really delivers," says Andrea Reusing. "The chickens are just so reliably juicy, even when they're cooked longer than they should be." Smoking the birds quickly over anise-scented tea makes them wonderfully fragrant. If you prefer to cook one chicken instead of two, smoke it in a wok or a pot rather than a roasting pan.

video Michael Schwartz: How to Keep Chicken Juicy

Brined Chicken

  1. 2 quarts water
  2. 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  3. 5 dried red chiles
  4. 4 star anise pods
  5. 3 tablespoons honey
  6. One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  7. Zest of 1 small orange or tangerine, removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
  8. One 1-inch piece of cinnamon stick
  9. 1 cup soy sauce
  10. 1 small yellow onion, quartered
  11. 1 tablespoon sugar
  12. Two 3 1/2-pound chickens, wing tips removed

Tea-Smoking Mixture

  1. 1/2 cup jasmine rice
  2. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  3. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons loose black tea
  4. 6 star anise pods, broken into pieces
  5. 4 dried red chiles, broken into pieces
  6. Vegetable oil, for rubbing
  7. 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
  8. Salt

Scallion-Ginger Sauce

  1. 6 scallions, white and pale green parts only, minced
  2. 3 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  3. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  4. Salt
  1. MAKE THE SCALLION-GINGER SAUCE: In a pot, combine the water, garlic, chiles, star anise, honey, ginger, orange zest, cinnamon, soy sauce, onion and sugar. Simmer over moderate heat for 10 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Set 2 large oven roasting bags or other sturdy bags in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the chickens. Set the chickens in the bags and pour in the brine. Turn the chickens to coat them completely with brine. Turn the chickens breast side down and tie the bags. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a bowl, combine the rice, sugar, tea, star anise and chiles. Remove the chickens from the roasting pan. Line the pan with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Scatter the tea mixture on the foil and set a rack in the pan. Remove the chickens from the brine and pat dry. Transfer the chickens to the rack, breast side up; be sure they do not touch the side of the pan. Tent heavy-duty foil over the chickens and seal all around the edge of the pan. Seal overlapping pieces of foil with tape.
  4. Set the roasting pan over high heat and cook for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 3 minutes. Uncover the chickens and let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer the chickens to a rimmed baking sheet, breast side up. Rub the chickens with vegetable oil, sprinkle with the Sichuan peppercorns and season lightly with salt. Roast in the upper third of the oven for 35 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 425° and continue to roast for about 35 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner thighs registers 165°. Transfer the chickens to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.
  6. In a bowl, combine the scallions, ginger and oil and season with salt. Carve the chickens and serve with the sauce.
Serve With Steamed green beans with Chinese XO Sauce or fried rice.

Suggested Pairing

An earthy Pinot Noir.