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You steam-bake a chicken (or ham) inside a clay sculpture.

Cracking open the clay cloak is the first part of enjoying Beggar's Chicken, a showy entree served in Chinese restaurants around the world. The second part is indulging in the fragrant, moist bird that steam-bakes inside its own clay pot.

According to Chinese fable, this dish earned its name from a pauper who was so hungry he wrapped a feathered bird in mud and threw it into his campfire. The results were so succulent the technique was soon passed on to the chefs of royalty.

We use this technique, only slightly modified, to produce two highly fragrant and succulent entrees. The first is a whole-meal dish of herb-seented chicken with carrots and potatoes, the second a clove-studded ham with yams and onions. To preserve the juices, the ingredients are first wrapped in baking parchment or foil.

You don't need to be an artist to produce these entres. Simply shape a sheet of low-fire white ceramic clay (available at ceramic and art supply stores for $5 to $6 per 25-lb. package) around the parchment. The shape of the food suggests the form; you'll use most of the clay to wrap the food. Use the extra from the trimmings to create a rustic chicken or pig.

You can shape the meat in clay a day ahead, then cover with wet towards and plastic wrap and refrigerate until baking. Chicken Baked in Clay

1 broiler-fryer or roasting chicken, 4-1/2 to 5 pounds

Olive oil or salad oil

Salt and pepper

3 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered

20 to 25 pounds low-fire white ceramic clay

Baking parchment or foil

6 green onions, ends trimmed

4 or 5 red thin-skinned potatoes (2-in. size), scrubbed and halved

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

3 slices partially cooked bacon

4 to 6 sprigs rosemary, each about 6 inches

Remove the giblets from the chicken and reserve them for other uses. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Rub all over with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make about 20 small 1/2 inch-inch-deep slits in chicken breast and insert a sliver of garlic into each.

Cut clay into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices with edges touching on a pastry cloth, dish towed, or parchment paper, measuring at least 15 by 30 inches. With a rolling pin, roll clay into a 15- by 25-inch rectangle that is about 1/2 inch thick. Lay a 15- by 30-inch piece of baking parchment or foil on the clay. Set chicken in center of parchment.

Arrange green onions next to chicken; surround with potatoes and carrots. Drape bacon over breast, then fill chicken cavity with half of the rosemary: set remaining rosemary on top. Bring sides of parchment together and fold over to seal, then fold ends to seal in bird.

Shape clay around package by bringing opposite sides to center; dampen with water where edges overlap, then pinch clay snugly against chicken to seal. Pinch open ends together. Leaving a 1-inch edge on top and ends, cut off excess clay.

Lift the clay bundle from cloth and transfer to an ungreased baking sheet at least 12 by 17 inches. If desired, use trimmings to shape a chicken's head and tail on bundle. Smooth clay with wet hands. Pierce clay in several places to allow steam to escape (optional).

Bake in a 375[deg.] oven for 2 hours, or 2 hours and 15 minutes if refrigerated (expect clay to crack slightly). Let stand 10 to 20 minutes.

Transfer clay bird to a board or tray and invite guests to watch as you gently crack clay with a mallet or hammer. Pull off major clay pieces. Unfold parchment; you may prefer to take chicken back to kitchen and put it and vegetables on a platter and juices in a bowl. Carve bird to serve with vegetables and juices. Serves 4 or 5. Ham Baked in Clay

1 bone-in, fully cooked ham, 5 to 6 pounds

About 2 teaspoons whole cloves

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon each dry mustard and lemon juice

20 to 25 pounds low-fire white ceramic clay

Baking parchment or foil

2 to 2-1/2 pounds yarns, peeled

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

Score fat side of ham in a diamond pattern. Insert cloves in center of diamonds. Mix 2 tablespoons brown sugar, mustard, and lemon juice; spread on ham.

Cut clay into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices with edges touching on a cloth or parchment paper measuring at least 15 by 30 inches. With a rolling pin, roll clay into a 15- by 30-inch rectangle that is 3/8 inch thick. Lay a 15- by 30-inch piece of parchment or foil on clay. Set ham in center of parchment; arrange yams (cut into 1-in. pieces) and onion around meat and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bring sides of parchment together and fold to seal; fold ends to seal in ham.

Shape clay around package by bringing opposite sides to center; dampen with water where edges overlap, then pinch clay snugly against ham to seal. Pinch open ends together. Leaving a 1-inch edge on top and ends, cut off excess clay.

Put the clay packet on an ungreased 12-by 17-inch baking sheet. Shape packet with trimmings to form a pig or a pig's head; smooth with wet hands. Pierce the clay in several places.

Bake ham in a 375[deg.] oven for 2 hours, or 2 hours and 15 minutes if chilled (expect clay to crack slightly). Let stand 10 to 20 minutes. Transfer to tray and invite guests to watch as you crack clay with a mallet. Pull off big clay chunks. Unfold parchment. In the kitchen, put meat and vegetables on a platter and juices in a bowl; at the table slice ham and serve. Serves 6 or 7.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jan 1, 1984
Words:970
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