Chefs' Recipes

Bianca Johnston's crispy chicken and rice

A deeply flavoured dish that maxes out the flavour of chicken wings, with greens and lemon for freshness.

By Bianca Johnston
  • 20 mins preparation
  • 2 hrs 20 mins cooking (plus chilling)
  • Serves 4
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Community is at the heart of Bianca Johnston's cooking, as is practising clever waste-minimisation techniques. "I always want to cook honest food with peak-season ingredients," she says. Cooking wasn't initially on Johnston's radar, but an appearance on My Kitchen Rules as a teenager sparked a new-found appreciation for food. "Cooking didn't come super naturally to me. I guess that's why it took me a long time to blossom," says the 2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Chef winner, "but hard work gets you there."
The 27-year-old first developed that work ethic as an apprentice at the now-shuttered Smolt Kitchen in Hobart, before she hit the stoves at Tom McHugo's, a revitalised gastro pub in Hobart's city centre. It's there that she has really honed the idea of what kind of cook she wants to be.
"Tom and his partner Whitney's stance on hospitality is so infectious. They aim to make sustainable food accessible to everybody," says Johnston. "They are really focused on creating a community. They truly live it."
For Johnston, this includes spending weekends working at Fat Carrot Farm, one of the pub's vegetable suppliers. "I went to start learning about farming practices because I want to be informed about what I'm cooking with," she says.
Bianca Johnston, sous chef at Tom McHugo's, Hobart.
Working closely with producers and developing a sense of community has also had a significant influence on her cooking. "They are friends; it's not just a work relationship. At least once a year we have a community day where the pub is closed and producers, beer makers and winemakers all come together. The people you're hanging out with are the people that have an input into what you're doing every day, so it does feel like you're really feeding the community."
She says the crispy chicken rice is on heavy rotation at staff meals. "This recipe fits in with what we are about at Tom McHugo's, making the most of what you have. It came out of the need to use meat off the carcasses in a stock, but can also be made by poaching chicken wings."

Ingredients

  • 2 kg chicken wings
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced, trimmings reserved
  • ½ cup finely chopped coriander stalks and leaves, plus extra leaves to serve
  • 400 gm (2 cups) medium- or long-grain rice, rinsed in cold running water
  • 70 gm desiccated coconut
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 bunch gai choy or mustard leaves, roughly chopped
  • 150 gm wombok, shredded
  • 30 ml fish sauce
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) lemon juice, plus extra wedges to serve
  • Chilli oil and toasted desiccated coconut, to serve

Method

  • 1
    Preheat oven to 200°C. Place chicken wings in a single layer in a flameproof ovenproof dish. Roast until golden (45 minutes).
  • 2
    Transfer wings to a large stockpot and deglaze reserved oven dish over medium heat with enough water to cover base. Continue cooking, scraping and stirring to release any bits stuck to the base
    (3-4 minutes). Transfer mixture to stockpot. Add 4 litres cold water with coriander and reserved onion trimmings. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer until wings are soft, but not completely falling apart and stock is well flavoured (1 hour).
  • 3
    Strain stock over a large bowl, then transfer to a jug and place in the freezer until fat solidifies.
  • 4
    Meanwhile, when wings are cool enough to handle, remove meat (discarding bones). You should have 600-700gm meat.
  • 5
    Remove solidified fat from stock and reserve. Heat 500ml stock in a saucepan over medium heat and add rice (reserve remaining stock for another use, see note). Season with 1 tsp salt flakes. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low, cover with a lid
    and cook until liquid is absorbed (12-14 minutes). Set aside, covered, until needed.
  • 6
    Heat reserved chicken fat (add a little oil, if necessary) in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat and cook chicken meat, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden (15 minutes). Add coconut and cook, stirring, until golden, adding a ladle of extra stock if over-browning (1 minute). Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant (3 minutes).
  • 7
    Add onion, coriander, mustard greens and wombok, and cook until lightly wilted but still retaining some texture (1 minute). Season with fish sauce and 1 tsp salt flakes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Serve with rice, topped with chilli oil, toasted coconut and extra coriander.

Notes

Leftover chicken stock can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.