It’s Super Bowl week and I find myself thinking less about the match-up on the field and more about what I’m going to eat during the game. Recently I’ve been working on the Ultimate Make-at-Home Buffalo Wings. It’s the perfect recipe for your own Super Bowl party, guaranteed not to set your oven fire (yes, there’s a story there). But as I been preparing for ICE’s first sous-vide seminar, I decided to see if technology could help us build a better chicken “wing”. Here’s the play-by-play…
There’s nothing technologically advanced about brining, but there are some things you shouldn’t mess with. Whether you making chicken for a Tuesday night dinner or a pull-out-all-the-stops, completely-impractical-but-delicious batch of buffalo wing, brining has major advantages. An overnight soak in a brine leaves meat juicier and more flavorful after cooking. Vacuum packing (sous-vide-ing) meat in a bag with a brine helps the brine to penetrate the meat more completely. After sealing the chicken legs in a sous-vide bag, they rest in the refrigerator overnight so the brine can work its magic. The chicken may then be cooked in the bag with the brine. For very tender meat that could easily be pulled from bone, the chicken was cooked at 151˚F (66˚C) for 4 hours.
Perfect Chicken Brine
6 chicken legs
500 grams buttermilk
20 grams fine sea salt
15 grams sugar
4 grams smoked paprika
Combine the buttermilk, salt, sugar and paprika in a bowl and whisk until dissolved. Pour over the chicken and leave to marinate overnight.
Once the chicken is cooked and cooled, then comes the tedious, and oddly satisfying, job of taking the chicken apart and putting it back together without any of the bones. First, remove the cooked chicken from the bag; be sure to reserve all of the gelled cooking juices (you’ll need some later). Carefully cut down the side of each leg and remove the skin in one piece. Arrange the skin pieces on a sheet of parchment paper to form a long, narrow rectangle. Next, remove the meat from the bones, trimming and discarding any tendons. Season the cooked meat.
300 grams boneless chicken leg meat, cooked and trimmed
35 grams gelled cooking juices
25 grams buffalo style sauce
Arrange the cooked chicken meat down the center of the skin. Use the parchment paper to roll the skin and meat into a cylinder. Twist the ends of the paper to help hold the shape. Refrigerate the cylinder until firm.
Time to Fry
The chicken pieces need a solid coating to keep from falling apart when frying. But since we’re talking buffalo wings, a breadcrumb coating would be blasphemy. So I devised a simple way to make a reinforced flour coating — Cut the cylinder into 1-inch pieces, roll the pieces in flour, then pat off any excess. Dip the pieces in beaten egg and roll in flour again. Place the floured pieces in the refrigerator or freezer to firm for at least 10 minutes.
Set two pans on the stove. Fill one with an inch and a half of vegetable oil and heat to 350˚F. In the second pan, whisk together equal parts whole butter and buffalo sauce (1 stick butter and 4 ounces hot sauce). Fry the pieces in the oil heated until just golden brown. Transfer the cooked pieces from the frying oil to the pan of sauce and toss well to coat. Serve immediately with celery sticks and blue cheese crumbles.
So there you have it. Even the most low-brow of foods can be taken to whole new levels with a little experimenting and some sous-vide technology. Reinventing familiar foods and flavors takes game day snacking to a whole new level.