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Low Mileage Kitchen: Chinese New Year dish has French influence

On Monday celebrate Chinese New Year with Peking-Style Roasted Chicken. It’ll work equally well Bastille Day come July 14. |

On Monday, celebrate Chinese New Year with Peking-Style Roasted Chicken. It’ll work equally well on Bastille Day come July 14. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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The year-round Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand, 66 E. Randolph, offers Midwest-grown foods and other locally produced edibles, including those used in this recipe. Reach the Farmstand at (312) 742 8419 or go to

Cooking classes are offered through the World Kitchen program (; registration for the winter session began Jan. 11. Register online, phone (312) 742 TIXS, or visit the box office at 78 E. Washington.

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Updated: December 17, 2012 2:17PM

The start of a new year brings reflections on times past and life’s turning points. One such point for me happened on a magical day in 1989, when I received two fateful phone calls.

The first was from celebrity chef Martin Yan, crisply directing, “Call me.” The second, only a few minutes later, was from famed French chef Jacques Pepin, saying, “Call Martin.”

I had to pinch myself. True, I was between jobs. True, I knew both slightly from professional cooking circles and was in awe of their talents. But from opposite coasts they were calling Me? And with the same message.

Needless to say, I returned the calls quickly. I learned that both were working on PBS cooking shows at KQED in San Francisco. Both thought they could use some help. Could I come? Could I? Only a few weeks later I was living in California.

I often found myself sitting at a table between them where they, in rapid fire and diversely accented languages, compared techniques. What was classic and authentic to one was totally unheard of to the other. They barely took a breath. Neither did I.

So imagine my delight in turning the pages of Pepin’s newest book, Essential Pepin, to find Peking-Style Chicken. It combines his quick-as-wink ( I never learned to do it nearly as quickly) trussing technique with Yan’s two-step procedure for roasting poultry. Hauling out the stock pot and roasting pan, I was immediately transported back to California, learning everything I could possibly absorb from two pros.

Trussing the chicken not only makes it more attractive, but allows the chicken to cook evenly. Boiling before roasting gives the skin a shiny crisp finish, the technique used in Peking Duck. The basting liquid with its Chinese influence is delicious, as are the mushrooms roasting underneath — certainly a French touch.

Tasting this was a multi-sensory reflection on how luck and change comes to one’s life in unexpected and delightful ways. Merci and Shi-shi!

Judith Dunbar Hines is the director of culinary arts and events for the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, which operates Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand.

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