By Rosie Hawthorne on April 2, 2022
I’m going with an American favorite this month – fried chicken. But not fried breasts or thighs, since because of their size, they can be difficult to cook evenly. I’m using the wings. And I have a double-fry technique that will produce a crisp, crackly exterior and a juicy interior. Add to this a complex sweet, savory, and spicy sauce that just coats the wings, and you’ve got a perfectly balanced, winning combination. In addition, I’m offering a tangy slaw that’s a bit off the beaten path from your run-of-the-mill coleslaw. I think you’ll like this medley of flavors and textures.
Before I get into the recipe, let’s talk a bit about frying. The secret to achieving crisp and non-greasy fried food is found in maintaining the proper temperature of the frying oil. That said, I have come across one of those spiral bound and heavily stained hometown recipe books usually put out by the blue-haired ladies-of-the-church (and always a veritable treasure trove of Americana) which professes the secret to perfect fried chicken to be “peanut oil and Jesus.” And I really can’t argue with that. So, here’s the bottom line: If your temperature is too high, the surface burns before the food is cooked through. If the temperature is too low, the crust forms slowly and allows the food to absorb more fat and become oily. We need a happy medium, which is generally between 350° and 375°. At this temperature, when the meat makes contact with the hot oil, its surface dehydrates and forms a crust that prevents further oil absorption while still continuing to conduct heat to the interior of the food. This all leads me to recommend one buy an instant-read laser thermometer– a fairly inexpensive device worth every penny. It takes the guess work out of frying.
3-4 pounds chicken wings, cut in two at the joints, tips discarded
Spicy/Sweet Wing Sauce
In large bowl (because you’re going to add fried wings to this later), mix sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Microwave for about 40 seconds, until ginger and garlic are fragrant but not browned. Whisk in remaining ingredients until sauce is smooth.
Heat peanut oil over medium-high heat to 350° in large, heavy pan. Mine has a 9-inch diameter and is 5 inches deep. I pour in about 2 ½ – 3 inches of oil.
In a large bowl, whisk until smooth:
Place half wings in batter and stir to coat. Using tongs, pick out wings, one at a time, letting excess batter drip back into bowl, and add to hot oil, turning heat up to maintain temperature. I fry 6 at a time, so the temperature doesn’t drop drastically. Fry about 7 minutes, until coating is light golden and beginning to crisp. Transfer wings to rack. Return oil to 350° and continue frying remaining wings in batches, removing to rack.
Increase heat to 375°. Add fried wings in batches of 6-8 and fry until deep golden brown and very crispy – about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to rack and let sit 2-3 minutes. Transfer wings to sauce and toss until coated.
Now, about that double-frying: Double-fried wings are crisper and crunchier, even with the sauce, than single-fried wings. The meat is also juicier. Chicken skin contains a lot of moisture, so to produce a crisp crust, you need to remove as much moisture from the skin as possible before the meat overcooks. By single-frying, the meat would be over-cooked before the moisture is driven out of the skin and the remaining moisture makes its way to the crust and turns it soggy. Double-frying avoids this. Interrupting the cooking and having a brief cool-down period slows the cooking of the meat itself so you can increase the overall cooking time and expel excess moisture from the skin, resulting in juicy meat and crisp skin.
As for a side dish to fried chicken, you can’t go wrong with slaw. I know everybody’s got a recipe for coleslaw, however, this cabbage salad is just a tad different. It’s bright, tangy, nutty, appley, and cheesy. And it will complement those wings perfectly.
1 small red cabbage, sliced
First, marinate the cabbage.
In a small saucepan, combine:
Bring to a simmer, then pour over the sliced cabbage. Toss to combine. Let sit at least an hour. I let mine sit for several hours and it gets to a lovely and wonderful color.
Whisk vinegar and mustard until well-combined, Very slowly, drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly to incorporate and make a perfectly smooth emulsion. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Drain marinade from cabbage and add additional ingredients:
Combine all ingredients, then pour dressing over top and toss.
For any culinary questions, feel free to e-mail me at RosieHawthorne@gmail.com. Bon appétit! For more Rosie’s Recipes on the Outer Banks Voice click here