Food escapades in modernist cuisine

Honey Soy Glazed Chicken Wings

A few weeks ago while reading through Modernist Cuisine at Home, I saw a recipe for sous vide chicken wings and put it on my list of things to try. Tonight I finally got around to giving it a go. MC recommends soaking the chicken wings in a brine for a few hours, cooking the chicken wings sous vide for an hour, and then finally frying the wings in hot oil until crispy. The MC version finishes the wings in a buffalo sauce but my wife and I decided to go Asian with a honey soy glaze.

To make the brine, I measured out approximately 500 grams of plain water using my kitchen scale.

After adding the water, I used the tare feature to zero out the scale and then added approximately 35 grams of kosher salt.

I just used my hand to mix the salt and water together. In a ziploc bag, I added the brine and chicken wings and let them soak in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. We bought chicken wings from BJ's, and they came with the wing tips attached. You can trim them off or just leave them on. I started cutting the tips off initially and then my wife told me to keep them on since she actually likes eating them.   

After the chicken wings were finished brining, I took the wings out of the bag and dried them off using paper towels.

I put the dried off chicken wings in a new bag and then removed as much air as possible using the water displacement method. We cooked up about 20 wings, so we needed two ziploc bags to accommodate all of them. I set my Sous Vide Supreme to 148 degrees F as MC recommends and then let the wings cook for about an hour.

After an hour in the water bath, I removed the wings. You can stop at this point and eat the chicken as is. It'll resemble a hainanese or salt-baked chicken that you can get in Chinatown from a BBQ joint. The wings are great with a little a ginger and scallion oil. The step of brining the chicken makes a big contribution to the flavor of the chicken.

If you want a crispy version of the wings, then you can continue as I did and fry the wings. Before frying, make sure you dry the wings off very well with paper towels because any moisture left on them will cause the oil to pop during frying (the next step).

Using a wok with about a half inch of vegetable oil in it, I fried the chicken wings in batches. MC recommends frying the wings at around 390 degrees F. For the initial fry, I used my candy thermometer to make sure the oil was at this temperature, but I didn't keep checking the oil temperature. I think this could have been my downfall since not all of the chicken wings were quite as crisp as I would have liked. I think the oil temp ended up dropping at certain parts throughout the frying process. If I were to do it again, I'd more diligently monitor the frying oil temp and also try using a coating on the wings (e.g. potato starch and Wondra) to get more of a crunchy exterior. Another separate MC recipe I saw had recommended the coating.

Once the chicken wings came out of the fryer, we tossed them in a sauce we made using soy sauce, honey, microplaned garlic, butter, siracha chili sauce, and chopped scallions.

The wings were definitely tasty and comparable to what you'd get at any wing take-out place around Boston, but I wasn't really satisfied with the crispness of the skin. This is something I'll have to work on for next time.


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