When we put out the call for our latest recipe contest, we asked you to send in your most "settable-and-forgettable" (but not, you know, forgettable) slow-cooker recipes. (Pajamas not required, but strongly encouraged.)
And you all hugely delivered. Our test kitchen was set ablaze (electronically) with melty meats, complex curries, and saucy sandwiches. The competition was fierce; the top recipe was not immediately apparent, which meant for vigorous rounds of re-
GG Wang's winning recipe has the home cook plop an entire raw chicken (!) into an Instant Pot, only for it to emerge perfectly soy-braised 90 minutes later. We sat down with the IP wizard herself, Wang Jie, to hear how she developed such a winner of a chicken dinner.
Food52: Describe an early food memory.
GG Wang: Having been former aristocrats, my grandparents survived unimaginable atrocities since the Communist Revolution. Everything we owned was destroyed, except my grandma’s commitment to cook the family recipes she inherited. One time, my grandma served her signature dish, Braised Fish. For some reason, grandpa turned to me with a grin and said: “You see, granddaughter, no one else in the world can braise a fish better than your grandma.” Only six years old at the time, I wasn’t even sure I liked Braised Fish that much. I was nonetheless struck by the affection between the two of them, and the love around the sharing of food. I wish my grandpa had lived long enough to witness my life’s work and taste my Braised Fish.
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
My favorite thing to cook isn’t tied to an ingredient. I am guided by the freshest, most in-season ingredients. Some of my best recipes happened unplanned.
How does cooking actively connect you with your family and heritage?
My Mom lives in Shanghai. I live in N.Y.C.. We exchange pictures of our meals on WeChat. A typical exchange goes like this: A picture pops up featuring an ingredient unavailable in N.Y.C.; a text from her reads, “look what’s in season at the farmer’s market today? Haha, all for me and none for you!” I immediately order a rack of pork spareribs from my buddy at the Harlem Shambles. I cook them to perfection and send my mom a picture. She replies with a crying emoji: “the price of pork went up again. Now I miss your spare ribs even more. Tell Fred to eat a piece for me!” And then, two weeks later from my mom: “Ms Panda Bear, look at these handsome spring bamboo. All for me and none for you. Haha.” I'm often tempted to buy a flight to Shanghai just for those spring bamboos.
Tell us about the first time you had soy chicken.
As I’m typing this, my mouth is watering because I can still taste my first soy chicken. I was 14 years old, arriving into Guangzhou Railway Station after a 42-hour train ride from Shanghai. I had butterflies the entire trip because I took this long journey to visit my cousin, whom I was excited to see! Sure enough, the very cousin showed up to meet me at the train station. The first sentence out of his mouth was, not surprisingly: “You hungry?” And voila, a lunch box full of the most delicious soy chicken appeared in front of my face!
...and about the process of developing this recipe!
Asian foodies love debating on how to dress up American supermarket chicken, which isn't as gamy or intensely-flavored as chicken is in Shanghai. I've now lived in N.Y.C. for 20 years, and have had to make peace with the fact that a plate of authentic soy chicken will just never taste the way it did back home.
Like most of my recipes, this one was discovered by accident: a dinner guest left his “smoked bacon ends” in my fridge next to the chicken legs. Originally, I was planning on making Chicken Tikka Masala but had a light bulb moment—I decided to add them to my soy chicken recipe. The result surprised me. It tastes different from traditional soy chicken. But I really liked it. And then I made it for my friends at dinner parties and they told me they liked it too.
What’s been the best thing (aside from your winning recipe of course!) to come out of your slow-cooker/IP?
The best thing to come out of my IP was actually something my husband, Fred, made! One day, I was mad at him about something. So he threw a bag full of mysterious ingredients into the IP and ordered me to stay away from the kitchen, lest the surprise be ruined. A couple of hours later, we dined on the most amazing Moroccan Chicken. He asked me if I were still mad at him. I was like: “Eh? What? Mad at what?"
If you were stuck on an island, and could only bring one kitchen tool, which would bring you the most joy (joy, not the most utility)?
No doubt, my 15-inch carbon steel wok.
Who are your biggest cooking inspirations?
I've recently started watching Mark Bittman’s Minimalists. I'm most inspired by simple, comfy foods.
What are the top 5 recipes you turn to again and again?
Piglet in a Basket (a recipe I'm most proud of!), Monday Night Spare Ribs (another of my top recipes), Kimchi Ji-gae (following Eric Kim’s kimchi recipe), Coffee Braised Beef Short Ribs, and Stir-fried Duck with Szechuan Pickles.
What’s your kitchen project you’re ready to tackle in 2020?
Just a few weeks ago, we upgraded our kitchen with a brand new gas range and hood. I’m so ready for 2020 to be my best year for home cooked meals and dinner parties. Now that I know how to work the Food52 website, I also look forward to sharing some of my recipes with friends at Food52.