Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Frying By The Seat Of Your Pants On A Wing And A Prayer.

Frying By The Seat Of Your Pants
On A Wing And A Prayer

If you ask people to name their top ten list of favorite foods, I’ll bet you fried chicken will be high on that list. Most people are content with eating regular fried chicken.  The Hawthornes wanted the crunchiest, crackliest, and crispiest chicken possible.  We wanted to try our hands with wings and come up with a perfect, thin, crisp and crackly, substantial, and almost glassy crust that encased juicy meat.  But there’s more.  I wanted to be able to douse the wings in an Asian-style sauce that combined hot, salty, and sweet flavors, and still retain that crackle and crunch.  And I did.
I decided to look into the double-frying method, which I’ve been intrigued with for some time.  First, a little science in the frying department.  Whenever you drop food into hot oil, you get a big burst of bubbles and sizzle.  The oil is not boiling; you’re boiling the water that’s at the surface of the food.  Think of frying as a dehydration process.  The dryer your food is when you start frying (which is why I always tell you to pat your scallops dry) the better the crust will be.  The problem here is the water just under the crust has a hard time escaping.  You could fry longer, but you’ll end up with extra-crispy crunch and dry, overcooked  meat.
To avoid this problem, I double fry.  After the first fry, any moisture in the food works its way to the surface after the food cools, making the surface soggy.  The second fry boils off that moisture, allowing the water to escape, giving you a drier and crisper crust.
It turned out my double-fried chicken wings were crunchy and they were juicier than ever.  Chicken skin has a lot of moisture and the higher ratio of skin to meat in wings (More than any part of the bird.) demands that you remove as much moisture as possible from the skin before the meat overcooks.  When you only fry once, the meat is cooked before the moisture is pulled out of the skin.  The remaining moisture makes it way to the surface, making the crust soggy.  The beauty of double-frying  is that stopping the cooking process and letting the wings have a resting and cooling period before you do the second fry slows down the cooking of the meat.  With the second frying, you increase the overall cooking time without overcooking that little bit of wing meat, and you expel all the moisture from the skin.
It’s a beautiful process.

Double-Fried Chicken Wings with Asian Sauce
1 large package chicken wings – about 3 pounds
Cut wings at joint and use both cuts.  Cut off tips and place in freezer bag for future chicken stock/consommé.

1 cup flour
3 TB cornstarch
1 ½ cups water
1 tsp kosher salt
Whisk all ingredients until smooth.

Heat peanut oil over medium-high heat until 350°.  I use a deep 9-inch diameter pan with 2 ½ - 3 inches of oil.

Dunk wings in batter in batches, stirring to coat.  Remove wings from batter, one at a time, letting excess batter drip off, and drop into hot oil.   You must fry in batches.   I fried 6-8 wings at a time.  By putting the wings in the hot oil one by one, you won’t drastically lower the temperature of the oil.  Fry for 6 minutes, remove, and place on wire rack.  No paper towels.  You don’t want the wings sitting in oil.

While the first batch is resting, check the temperature of the oil, and drop in the next batch, one at a time.  Fry 6 minutes and remove to rack. 

Re-check temperature of oil.  Now take the first fried batch and refry for 6-7 minutes, until golden brown.  Return to rack.  

The wings in the back have gone through the second frying.  The wings in the front are on the first fry.

Refry the second batch and return to rack and let rest.

Continue double-frying the rest of the wings.
Toss with Asian sauce.

Asian Sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1-inch knob of frozen ginger (I always have frozen ginger.  Simply peel, then nuke for about 25 seconds.  You can easily squeeze the juice out.  Run the rest of the ginger through a garlic press
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 TB sriracha sauce
3 TB light brown sugar
2 TB water
2 TB tamari sauce (soy sauce)
2 TB cornstarch

Mix all ingredients until smooth.
Coat wings in sauce, transfer to platter and serve.

Serve sauced wings alongside an Asian bowl with gaillardia from the garden.

I recommend serving this with your favorite cole slaw and/or potato salad, but I’m offering a special side dish.  I remember a popular recipe from years ago – carrot coins.  I daresay it’s in every Junior League and church cookbook ever published.  I like to take retro creations and update them for today, so I’ll be using the best of my July garden goodness for a bright and beautiful vegetable mélange  - Squash, Zucchini, Pepper, and Carrot Salad tossed with a Catalina dressing. 

Vegetable Salad with Catalina Dressing
2 cups baby carrots, sliced in half
1 small green pepper
1 small zucchini
1 small squash

Blanch the carrots for 2 minutes.  Bring salted water to a boil, toss in carrot slices, cook two minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water.  Slice the rest of the vegetables same size as carrots.  Mix together in a bowl and toss with Catalina Dressing.

Catalina Dressing
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup minced onion
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp yellow mustard
2 tsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Texas Pete
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
A sprig of mint adds a nice touch.

Combine all ingredients except for oil, salt, and pepper.
Mix well.
Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking the entire time until you have a nice emulsion.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over vegetables and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate, giving it at least 30 minutes for all the flavors to meld.

Serve with lovely yellow roses.

Wings derived from July & August 2016 issue of Cook's Illustrated.
Vegetables and Catalina dressing mine.

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