7.28.11 Wings & a Prayer

Crispy 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
Just a month ago, I was waxing poetic to you about wings. If you still haven't made a batch, I want to urge you to give it a whirl. They're delightful as an hors d'oeuvre or snack, but they're also great as the centerpiece of a meal. I know my way is more involved than simply coating them in barbecue sauce and sticking them in the oven, but that doesn't begin to do them justice. To get the perfect combination of rich, silky meat and crisp, sticky skin, you really need to add in a couple more steps. You don't need to get all crazy like David Chang, who brines his wings, then poaches them in duck fat, then smokes them and then grills them. Although they're sublime. I'll let you skip the smoking step. But brining, poaching and grilling is the way to go. None of it requires much attention, but you'll snap to when you bite into your winged masterpiece.
Raw 790 xxx
wings are a little appreciated bird part, so show them some love
In last month's post I included a link to a little tutorial on how to take apart your chicken wings; turns out you could only access it if you're a Cook's Illustrated subscriber. Which, of course, I am, but you may not be. So here's a demo I found on YouTube. I use my kitchen shears, but if you have a nice sharp knife it should be that easy. (Try not to look at the guy's fingernails, hairy knuckles or creepy blue cutting board.) Rinse them, pat them dry with paper towels and lay them out on a baking sheet. Big, sturdy baking sheets like these are your friends in the kitchen. Get you some.Once you've taken apart your wings, you're going to brine them for a few hours in a salt-sugar solution. Don't ask questions, just do it. It really does make a difference.
Tare 790 xxx
tare looks like an oil slick
David Chang is into tare. He gushes about it in Lucky Peach, as it's a key component to many of his dishes. Essentially it's just a sweetened soy marinade that's used a lot in Japanese cooking. The nice thing about this wings recipe, is that you use the little wingtips (that I would normally toss in a ziploc and freeze until I need them for making stock) to build a flavor base for the tare.
Poached 790 xxx
don't wing it: follow the recipe
You may remember me telling you about poaching my chicken before grilling it for this Thai dish. The same principle is at work here. If the meat is cooked slowly first, you can blast it with high heat for a short time to get that fabulous crispy exterior. Otherwise, so often you wind up with undercooked meat or burnt skin, or worse: both. With this technique and you are guaranteed success. If the idea of poaching in fat (or oil) bums you out (and I don't think it should), you can substitute a flavorful stock, as I did with the Thai chicken. It's not quite the same thing, but it works.
Ume 790 xxx
these are ume plums, pickled with shiso leaves
To accompany these wings, I made a crunchy slaw that's packed with tangy flavor. I hit upon the idea when I was trawling through the fridge for Japanese ingredients. I came across a huge jar of pickled ume. These are a species of Asian tree plums that are super popular, often eaten pickled. If you ever see "ume-shiso roll" on the menu when you're eating sushi, try it! The pickled ume are an incredible combination of sweet-salty-sour that will leave your tongue tingling. Usually they are pickled with shiso leaves which have a distinctive almost minty flavor. Super addictive.
Ume slaw 790 xxx
i slaw what you did this summer
The flesh of the pickled plums becomes very soft and velvety, perfect to be whipped into a dressing for this slaw of cabbage, scallions and cilantro. You can throw this together in a matter of minutes. With the wings and maybe a little steamed rice, you have a dinner that will have people licking their fingers...and your feet.As for the prayer? Let's each say one to whatever divinity or higher power we turn to in times of distress, to deliver us from our national crisis, to right our government, and to set this country on a path toward greater equity, less poverty and justice for all.

Momofuku Chicken Wings

adapted from David Chang by Food & Wine
serves 4
  • — 5-6 pickled red chiles, seeded and ribs removed
  • — 6 medium garlic cloves
  • — 5 cups duck or pork fat (can substitute vegetable oil)
  • — 1 1/2 cups soy sauce
  • — 1 1/2 cups sake
  • — 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • — 1 cup kosher or sea salt
  • — 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • — 8 cups lukewarm water
  • — 20 chicken wings, whole (about 4 1/2 lbs)
  • — 1 1/2 cups mirin
  • — 1 bunch scallions, finely sliced, for garnish

Separate wings into 3 pieces (tips, wings and drumettes) by cutting at both joints. Reserve wing tips for the tare.

Combine water, sugar and salt in a large container with a tight-fitting lid or a large resealable plastic bag (at least 4 quarts), and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Add chicken wings and drumettes to brine mixture, cover and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.

To make the tare, heat the oven to 400°F. Combine wing tips and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large oven-safe pan and toss to coat. Roast until wing tips are dark golden brown, about 1 hour. Remove the pan from the oven, place over medium heat, and slowly add sake and soy sauce, scraping up any browned bits with a flat spatula. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by half, about 40 minutes. Strain and set tare aside (discard the wing tips).

Once chicken wings and drumettes have finished brining, heat duck or pork fat in a large pot with a tightfitting lid over low heat until fat is 190°F to 200°F. Drain wings and drumettes from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Add wings and drumettes to hot fat and cook, covered, over very low heat until just cooked through, about 30 to 40 minutes. (Don’t overcook the chicken; there should still be texture and bite to the meat.) When wings and drumettes are done, remove to a baking dish or baking sheet using a slotted spoon and reserve fat for another use.

When ready to finish wings and drumettes, heat the broiler to high and arrange a rack at the top. Broil wings and drumettes, turning them and rotating the pan halfway through, until skin is crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes (or more).

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once shimmering, add garlic and chiles and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. (Do not brown the garlic!) Add mirin and cook until the alcohol smell is gone, about 2 minutes. Add tare and reduce sauce at a brisk simmer to a light syruplike consistency, about 10 minutes. Add wings and drumettes and toss to coat. Top with sliced scallions and serve.

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Ume Slaw

serves 4
  • — 1/2 head Napa cabbage
  • — 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • — 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • — 8 ume plums
  • — 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • — 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • — 1 teaspoon shichimi togarashi

Remove and discard core and any coarse outer leaves from cabbage. Slice finely. Combine in large bowl with scallions and cilantro and set aside.

Using your fingers, pits plums, removing as much flesh as possible from pits before discarding them. Finely chop plums, or mash in a small bowl. Whisk together with mayonnaise, vinegar and shichimi togarashi. You want a creamy but slightly loose dressing. Add a little warm water to thin, if necessary.

Toss dressing with cabbage until well combined. Wait to do this until just before serving.

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