Nothing could be simpler to make than this dish. Being rewarded with a very flavorful dinner after simply dumping everything into a pot would just be short of cheating.
I chose dehydrated mushrooms for their availability. Going for fresh ones if they happen to be available would certainly be the best way to go. I'd skip on canned varieties though as I tend to get that aftertaste of tin even after multiple washes.
This recipe calls for shiitake and dried black fungus. You have a lot of options here. Any mushroom or an assortment of them would be equally flavorful. Straw, chanterelles, button to name a few. I wouldn't go for buttons alone though or any other light flavored mushroom for their very subtle flavor. Be guided by the mushroom's color. Darker colored ones usually taste earthier.
After the mushrooms have fully rehydrated, which I do overnight, give them a thorough wash to remove any dirt or unwanted debris, then strain them out of the soaking liquid. At this point you might find the quantity of mushrooms too much for the recipe. We really want this much 'cause the natural juices from these mushrooms will make-up for the stock in which our chicken would cook.
Next would be to cut the chicken up. Note how I chose to make little pieces. This way, much of the bones would be exposed, eventually making for a deeper flavored broth.
We're basically done at this point. Arrange the leeks, ginger slices, and star anise at the bottom of the pot, then lay the chicken chicken pieces on top. We want the chicken to steam rather than be submerged in the cooking liquid to stew. Allowing such little cuts to boil in the stock would break them down too much.
Pour in the wine and the stock. Notice that this recipe just calls for half a cup of chicken stock. This would just serve to get those mushrooms started in releasing their natural juices. You can definitely add in more stock if you wish. Just remember to adjust for the seasoning later.
Next to go in would be the soy sauce. Pour it directly into the pieces of chicken instead of dumping it into the base. This would give the chicken a beautiful golden sheen when done.
Sprinkle the sugar over, and allow to cook for 3 hours on low. I used the Crock-Pot Touchscreen programmable slow cooker to make this recipe. Touchscreen or manual dial, the dish cooks all the same, but it makes a difference how you interact with the appliance and how it looks inside your kitchen. It's one of my all time favorites because of the slightly larger design (6.5 quart) and the awesome, modern look.
I like this dish best topped over hot steamed rice. As you can see in the photo, I started with a few drops of sesame oil and salt to the rice cooker for some aroma and a touch of flavor that would complement the flavors of this dish.
Keep this tip in mind the next time you cook your rice. Get creative. Rice is a very neutral flavor base making it perfect with any herb or spice you find complementary to your dish. Try adding in curry powder, beef broth, sprigs of rosemary, or even some liquid smoke. The possibilities are really endless.
Just before serving, add in the sesame oil. Adding it too early and allowing it to cook will cause its aroma to lose potency. This fact holds true for any recipe that requires its use.