I haven't bought any books in a while, so I was fortunate to get the "Momofuku" cookbook as a Christmas gift (thanks Chef K). Having been to both Momofuku and Ssam Bar, I had a firsthand reference (and reverence) for the flavors beneath the techniques and ingredients listed. Although I did not have the fried chicken, David Chang's opening line to the page was enough to reel me in... he professes, "I love love love love love fried chicken." My sentiments exactly. I grew up with a built-in appreciation for the flavor. Although my mom was horrible at making it, I learned years later in New Orleans how to throw down some pretty damn good fried chicken. It only made sense that Chang's version would be tasty considering his style and approach to simple foods.
I had recently tried prepping wings sous-vide first and frying later, so Chang's recipe was interesting. He brines, steams, then fries. Granted, it's not altogether strange to pre-cook chicken before frying as I'm sure there are many fast food and convenience products out there that do it for consistency or whatever other reasons they may have (I knew a guy back home who boiled his chicken in Zatarain's before grilling). The interesting part to me was the brine/steam portion. We usually brine meats that are low in fat to give them extra 'juiciness' for dry cooking methods. Steaming is definitely wet... even though the finishing method is frying which is dry heat cooking. Keller also used a brine before frying, but bypasses any sort of precooking.
- Since wings are obviously smaller in size, I diluted the brine to 1/2 C salt, 1/2 C sugar, 5 C water and kept the 1 hour brine time the same (this is closer to the ratios I use at home for pork).
- Steaming is much quicker than for larger parts. Depending on your steaming method, this time will vary. Ideally, you only want to steam them until they are just done.
- Let them fully cool in the refrigerator before frying. Just allow them to sit out at room temp for 15 minutes before you drop them in oil.
- Chang employs stove-top frying (which I assume is mainly for the book's purpose of cooking at home). I deep fry. You should just by a deep fryer for your home. It really makes no sense to not have one... especially if you have an inherent southern love of all things deep fried as I do (I keep it in the garage to prevent smelling up the house). I could not imagine living without one. Fry the wings at 375ºF for about 6 to 7 minutes (allow the skin to fully crisp).
- Only toss in about 2 tablespoons of Chang's 'octo vinaigrette' (yes, this is the most important flavor component of the entire recipe, and you will need the book for that) per each round of 8 wings. I've made this recipe twice, and find that more is overkill as the pungent acidity of the sauce is hightened by the saltiness of the brine. The brine dilution also helps.
- That's it... pretty good wings at home. I've also developed an appreciation for the texture and imbedded flavor when the wings are reserved for left-overs and reheated in the oven.
Much thanks to Chang and Meehan for one of the greatest books of the year. I will definitely try the brine/wet-cooking approach for other future applications (we've already done it for sous-vide, but there are many more possibilities).