I live to eat and love to cook. Welcome to my life!

October 21, 2009

Smokin' hot wings, episode #1 & #2

Most of the people I know are able to go face down in platter of hot wings and call it a day. What kind of hot wings is another story....In my personal opinion (yes, I have many), the wings themselves must be good sized, the outside somewhat crispy (can be fried, grilled or baked), good seasoning with dry run or slathered and the sauce has to have the perfect balance of heat +flavor. Too much heat and I am miserable and feel like I have wasted a good meal and too much vinegar and you feel pickled.

There really is not much better than gnawing crisp & juicy morsels of meat from the bones that are doused in hot sauce with bleu cheese dressing on the side. Unless it is the salt and vinegar wings from Albertsons (have to figure out how to make those!). Or unless you are at a restaurant in North Carolina called the Wild Wing Cafe where you are offered your choice of 33 different sauces (how to choose????). But on a totally random note...don't bother trying to get hot wings in Ireland. We did once or twice based upon my BFF Clover's extreme craving and love of the wing and were served "not so hot" wings in a pool of ketchup and wings with a drizzle of pesto. Letdown city.

My newest personal food challenge is to make killer hot wings at home...from scratch...and somehow not have them be uber fattening (i.e. no deep frying allowed). My first try was a baked recipe that involved basting with sauce, dredging with flour, baking, repeat the basting dredging and more baking. It was unfortunately not our favorite, both Brock and I decided they needed to be crispier-the "batter" was a bit squishy and you lost some of the flavor of the sauce with the flour. The friend who gave this idea to me assures me it is awesome, so I am assuming it was operator error and will most likely make another attempt on another day.

Last nights wings were a take on wings that we had enjoyed at a local restaurant (now closed "sad face", hoping he will re-open at some point!) called Cookes Smokehouse. The owner/chef smoked his wings before battering & frying them and slathering in his sauce and they were terrific!

One of the best kitchen gadgets Brock has gotten for me/us is our cook top smoker (http://www.cameronsmoker.com/) . If you are anything like me in lacking patience and working full time, you will understand the very genius of this little contraption. Instead of building a fire in your Little Chief smoker and letting something smoke for hours and hours upon end (which is wonderful, but I don't always have the time for it!), you are able to pop in the food, smoke it for 20 minutes to an hour and have an incredible product in a fraction of the time. Instant gratification is gooooooood! Extra bonus is that it is portable enough to take camping/fishing (mmmmm...smoked trout!) and can be used at home on your outdoor burner or gas barbecue. Aside from meat and fish you can smoke just about anything on there and it turns out delicious. We have done pork chops, chicken thighs, ribs, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes!

Sorry, got a little excited....Back to my hot wings.

As I have mentioned before, chicken as a meat is not my favorite unless it is brined prior to cooking-infusing some flavor and moisture makes all the difference and this goes especially for something you are going to smoke as the cooking method definitely tends to dry out meat.

So first we trimmed up the wings...

Then we brine them in:
4 cups water
1/3 cup salt
2 T Cider vinegar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup (not packed) brown sugar

Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours, remove from brine, rinse and pat very dry.

Prep your smoker
Tin foil on the bottom for easy cleanup, good spray of oil on the rack to avoid sticking and 1 T Pecan (or whatever youprefer) chips under the drip tray

Brush the wings with a little olive oil, no need for salt or pepper because of the brine. I used deee-licious olive oil from Rancho Olivos from a recent jaunt up in to wine country. It has just a hint of garlic in it and a terrific flavor! They have tasting Friday through Sunday and are right across the street from Brander Winery & Tasting Room-great spot for a picnic & tasty wines! http://www.ranchoolivos.com/ Thank you to Christine for introducing us to her friends!

I also heart that they were smart enough to make a pretty little pouring spout in the bottle. Smart people and so thoughtful!

Cram as many wings in the pan as you can...20-25 is the max unless they are skinny wings (hope not!).

Smoke for about 20 minutes, longer if you want smokier (up to 35 mins) or less if you want it lighter.

You can hold them like this and do more if you need...they will stay tasty in the fridge for at about a day.

Grill on the BBQ, brushing a thin layer of your preferred wing sauce on as you heat them up and crisp the skin.

Serve with more wing sauce and bleu cheese for dipping.

We declared this method a winner and will definitely be doing it again!

On another note, you will see that I served these with mini double stuffed Yukon gold potatoes... another take on pub grub that is really quite fun! A lot of work for anything more than 2 people, but since I cook for Brock and I 90% of the time, it works for us!

Roast 8 mini Yukon gold potatoes at 350 for about 30 minutes, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides. Mix in butter, milk, sour cream, cheese, chives, bacon & seasoning in whatever combination you find appealing and mash until it is smooth. Refill the skins and bake again at 35 for about 15 minutes.

You may notice that my plate looks like it was meant for an 8 year old or an anorexic sorority girl...I am doing my best to lose some weight (hence the no fry method) and small portions seem to be working for me. Although I hate it, I have to admit that it works. :) And P.S. We did have a salad with this as well!

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