Yesterday I went to the Asian supermarket. As I browsed through one of the meat cases (which contains stuff like pig’s ears, chicken feet, rabbits and several varieties of whole chickens), I noticed a category of chicken labeled “hen” and priced more cheaply than the other chickens. Unlike most of the other chicken carcasses, the head and neck were not included. I remembered that I wanted to cook something in the master sauce, so I bought one of the hens.
Cutting the legs off so I could fit it in the pot was more strenuous than usual and it seemed like there wasn’t a lot of meat on the bird. A couple of hours later, when the chicken was done simmering, I found that the skin and meat were tough. It didn’t taste too bad, but chewing gave my jaws a workout. I can only conclude that the "hen" is a lean bird only meant for making stock or some other purpose, not as the centerpiece of a meal. One good thing about the hen was that it turned a uniform brown after simmering in the master sauce. As Bruce Cost says in Asian Ingredients, “For even coloring and the tastiest results, it’s important to use a fresh-killed chicken such as those available in Chinese poultry markets. The little yellowish chickens with the tags on them that have been raised in factory-like conditions and shipped on ice turn out with blotchy coloring when cooked this way, for some reason.” The last chicken I cooked in the master sauce was blotchily colored when finished, just as Cost describes. I also got that chicken at the Asian supermarket. Cook and learn.
In the coals to Newcastle department, I got even more green beans, despite the need to use the ones I already have. They just looked so beautiful and fresh there in the produce department, so I got a big pile of them. I saw something somewhere on the web about cooking them lightly and freezing them for later use at times when they’re in season, so I think I’ll do that with some of them. Other purchases included water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, fish sauce, shoyu, and canola oil for the pantry (I'm getting low on all of them). There was also a bottle of chili-ginger oil, which is something I’ve wanted to try for a while.