Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Science Of Chicken Wings; What Does It Say (About Me) When A Great Chef’s Rice Recipe Is Just So-So And Almost Anything Is Improved With Chocolate

The game and, more importantly, the commercials, have been dissected and discussed. Let’s talk about what was really important during the Super Bowl and that was THE FOOD.

Too bad I didn’t see THIS story before I set out to make one of Alton’s most popular recipes – Buffalo Wings. Alton is not my fav, but I like his idea of steaming the wings and THEN roasting them.

That's the way I first learned to cook duck. I steamed it first and then set the whole thing right on the oven shelf to roast. The steaming releases some of the fat and makes for less smoking in the oven and some believe makes a crisper bird. With wings, this is particularly important if you're not deep frying them.

The crazy scientist over at Serious Eats tested this and other theories and believes the salutary effect of the steaming is basically bogus. Crispy wings can be achieved other ways. However, since I didn’t read his treatise until 2 days AFTER I’d already steamed and then roasted the wings, I figured at least I’d gotten rid of some of their extra fat...and how could that be a bad thing?

The other step in Alton’s recipe is to air dry the wings after steaming. You set them on a rack and let them sit in the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour.

Some folks do this with turkeys too. They go, uncovered, in the fridge overnight before roasting, especially after brining. But I don’t like the idea of a naked turkey getting his wings and other parts all over everything, so I skip that.

Okay, back to the recipe, I steamed the wings, let them sit in the fridge for an hour, roasted them and turned them in butter and hot chili sauce. Good, but they lacked pep. Also, I wish I had salted them before they went into the oven. Alton adds a bit of salt to the sauce, but (and I NEVER say this) they needed more.

Let me see what Science Boy thinks about drying out the wings and salt. Hmmm, in his final recipe, after all his testing was done, he does sprinkle them with salt (AND baking powder, but that’s another story) before leaving them to chill uncovered in the fridge. That’s the only salt he adds. I guess it soaks in and gives the wings enough flavor to avoid them tasting a bit flabby.

So in the end, he asserts that it isn't the steaming but the air drying (and baking powder) that gives you a crispy BAKED wing. Lesson learned.

Next was my guacamole.

I had the BEST avocadoes. I LOVE when that happens.

Click here, for more about the recipe.

Does Fried Rice sound weird for the Super Bowl? I had been dying to try this ever since I saw Mark Bittman’s article (and video) about this Jean-Georges Vongerichten recipe. The recipe is a bit different from regular fried rice in that it has a sprinkling of crispy fried garlic and ginger tossed on at the end.

In the video, Mark says if Jean-Georges were there, he’d be kibbutzing that Mark was overcooking his garlic and ginger, as he left it on a nanosecond longer than the famous chef might have. That’s what I did too and I shouldn’t have.

I thought the garlic tasted bitter and the ginger didn’t give the dish the spark that I thought it would. I also changed the recipe in one important way. I used brown and red (which I absolutely adore) rice instead of jasmine. I know that gives a different sensibility to the dish, but it wasn’t the rice that was the problem, it was the burned garlic and ginger. Frankly, I don’t know how you can get the garlic browned WITHOUT it tasting bitter. Practice, I guess.

Along with the rice, I made a simple roasted vegetable and chicken dish.

Chinese Chicken and Vegetables

½ cup low salt soy sauce

2 tbls. sesame oil

2 tbls. honey

2 tbls. water

1 garlic clove, pressed

1 big red onion, cut into large chunks

2 zucchini, cut into large chunks

1 red pepper, cut into large chunks

10 oz mushrooms, halved

4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks

Mix together soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, water and garlic in a small bowl.

Cover large baking sheet with foil. Spray with Pam.

Place vegetables in large bowl. Pour over half of soy sauce mixture. Mix well. Using a slotted spoon, place vegetables on prepared baking sheet, saving the marinade. Cook at 400ºF for 20 minutes.

Mix remaining soy sauce mixture with chicken chunks.

After the vegetables have cooking for 20 minutes, give them a good stir and add the chicken to the baking sheet with a slotted spoon, saving the marinade. Bake another 20 minutes.

Place the saved marinade in a small saucepan. Bring the boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Set aside.

Serve chicken and vegetables with fried or plain rice. Coat with a bit of the cooked marinade before serving and serve the rest separately, if desired.

(The ginger and garlic do look nice sprinkled over the rice,

until you taste it, that is.)

Dessert was easy breezy.

Make your usual banana bread in a square pan. Mine took about 33 minutes.

Mix a few teaspoons of brown sugar with a few tablespoons of sour cream.

Melt 3 tablespoons of chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate with 1 teaspoon of Crisco in a microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until melted and smooth.

Dip banana and/or strawberry slices in chocolate. Let stand on waxed paper until firm.

Spoon a dollop of sweetened sour cream on a piece of banana bread.

Top with chocolate dipped fruit.

Garnish with more fruit if desired.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I spent the Super Bowl at an Italian restaurant in NYC celebrating my MIL's 84th birthday. Never had to worry about party food. On one hand, no boring game. On the other hand, no cool party food. I would have loved some wings instead of the rather pedestrian restaurant we went to. I ate the meal, took the photos, and though, "Meh. There really isn't that much to say about this place."

I've been seeing a lot of posts about buffalo wings lately and I find the topic of the best way to cook them fascinating. My thought is, if it's greasy and covered in hot sauce, it's all good!

Anonymous said...

Wow Sue, interesting post, I learned a lot from it. Thanks for taking the time to write it all!


Emily said...

Oh my gosh, yessss! What a meal. I'm very, very jealous. I don't think fried rice is weird; I'd eat it any day of the year. It's that good.

The guac looks great. I love when I have good, ripe avocados too.

And banana bread is my favorite thing in the world. Did you get the recipe-thing working yet?

Cynthia said...

Dang! I love your chocolate covered bananas!

Sorry to hear the rice was a disappointment... I hate when that happens after all the effort you know...

Heather said...

Anytime I cook garlic for more than a few minutes it goes from browned to bitter. I usually brown the garlic in the oil the recipe calls for, then remove the garlic. I add the oil with the other ingredients and proceed as normal, then add the garlic back in at the end of the recipe after the cooking time. It's an extra step, but I love garlic so I think it's worth it. And it adds a nice flavor to the oil for an extra dimension without the bitterness.

As a side note, I am always suspicious of recipes that state "Add the (whatever, usually onions) and garlic to the pan" - it assures the garlic will be overcooked and bitter. What is wrong with some recipes these days?