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Tea-smoked chicken legs with shrimp and udon noodles

(Julian Landa)
By Andrea Pyenson
Globe Correspondent / June 17, 2009

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Serves 4

Last month the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts hosted the 2009 New England Culinary Tea Competition. Inspired by Cynthia Gold, tea sommelier at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers, the competition challenged students from local culinary schools to explore using tea in creative ways. Jakob White, one of the four winners, recently completed the Certificate Program in Culinary Arts at Boston University and is working at 51 Lincoln in Newton Highlands. Smoking chicken legs in a wok in the kitchen, rather than outdoors, is surprisingly easy and yields succulent meat with a delicate smoky flavor. White used tea to flavor the chicken, which he served with shrimp and noodles.

SMOKER

4 tablespoons loose black tea
1/2 cup brown rice
1 tablespoon water
4 whole chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Line a wok with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil so the foil comes above the rim of the pan by about 12 inches. In the bottom of the pan, place the tea, brown rice, and water. Place a round baking rack above the tea mixture.

2. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Set it on the rack. Bring the sheets of foil up and over the chicken to form a tent. Fold to secure.

3. Set the wok over a medium-low heat. You'll quickly smell the tea smoldering. Smoke the chicken for 25 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. (The chicken is not cooked through at this point.)

NOODLES

2 tablespoons canola oil
8 large shrimp
1 package (8.8 ounces) udon noodles
1 1/2 teaspoons shrimp paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, cut into julienne strips
1 piece (1 inch) fresh ginger, grated
1 carrot, cut into julienne strips
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
10 ounces Chinese pea pods, trimmed
1/2 Napa cabbage, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 scallions, diagonally sliced

1. Set the oven at 450 degrees.

2. Heat a large heavy skillet with a heatproof handle until hot. Add the canola oil and cook the chicken skin side down for 2 minutes or until browned.

3. Transfer the chicken to the oven. Cook for 10 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken registers 170 degrees.

4. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp and udon noodles. Cook for 3 minutes or until the shrimp are opaque.

5. In a bowl, combine the shrimp paste, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and cayenne pepper. Stir well and set aside.

6. Remove the chicken from the oven. Transfer to a plate; cover and keep warm. Handling the skillet carefully, discard the excess oil from the pan.

7. In the same skillet, cook the garlic, onion, and ginger, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.

8. Add the carrot, mushrooms, pea pods, and cabbage. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly softened.

9. Add the udon noodles and shrimp. Pour in the shrimp paste sauce. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

10. Divide the noodle mixture among 4 deep plates. Set a piece of chicken on each one. Sprinkle with cilantro and scallions.

Adapted from Jakob White