Jan asked me last week why I never make chicken wings. As is usually the case, at some point in the past she told me that she did not like them. As is also the case, she completely denies ever having said that or that she did not want them that day. Eilene prefers legs to wings, so I threw in some of those as well.
Note: I had intended to post this last Monday, however, life got in the way. Jan has promised her publisher to finish her next book this Summer and we all got roped into working on her transcripts—ten 1 to 3 hours long interviews on life in Silicon Valley. I can’t believe we did the whole thing—if any of you are in need of transcription services, I can highly recommend Rev—we sent them an half hour audio tape and got a near perfect transcription back in under an hour.
I am not particularly fond of “hot wings,” but there are many other options. As a start, I decided to marinate the chicken in Irish whiskey. Looking at various recipes on-line, I did not find any whiskey-based sauces that really grabbed me—many called for massive amounts of sugar or honey. For others, I felt, the problem was that the seasoning did not seem to pair well with the whiskey. If I was going to use good Irish whiskey in this recipe, I wanted the other ingredients to complement—not bury—its flavor.
Looking at Irish whiskey cocktail recipes, I found one that used ginger. That sounded like it might be nice and cinnamon complements ginger. Hints of onion, pepper, and honey would also go well, but not so much as to bury the whiskey flavor. Finally, a touch of soy sauce for the umami. As an after-though, I decided that a bit of apple wood smoke would work well with this combination of flavors.
Note: To round out my dinner I made potato salad, barbecued corn, and sautéed red radishs and greens.
After Dinner Note: These wings were very popular. Jan thought it was the best chicken she had ever had. Everyone else couldn’t talk, because their mouths were full.
Karl’s Apple Wood Smoked Irish Whiskey Chicken Wings and Legs
½ cup Jameson’s Irish Whiskey
2 Tbs. honey, Turkish
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. dark soy sauce
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated
1 Tbs. ground ginger
1 Tbs. yellow onion, grated
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper, cracked
4 lb. chicken wings, first joint removed
2 lb. chicken legs
2 Tbs. cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup water
Apple wood chips
1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl.
2. Put the chicken pieces in a gallon plastic bag and pour the marinade over the chicken.
3. Seal the bag and massage the chicken to distribute the marinade.
4. Marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours, flipping the bag occasionally.
Tip: Overnight is better.
Note: Do not discard the marinade when you remove the chicken.
5. Remove the chicken pieces from the bag and blot dry them with paper towels.
Tip: You are not trying to wipe away the marinade. You just want to remove the excess moisture from the surface of the chicken.
Note: You want the chicken to be as dry as possible—so that it sears not steams when it hits the grill. If you have the time let the chicken air dry in the refrigerator for one hour.
6. Put the marinade in a small pot and bring it just to a boil.
Tip: This heating will cause the lipoproteins—that were released by the raw chicken—to clot. While this “scum” is edible, it would make the sauce look and feel “grainy.”
7. Pour the liquid through two layers of cheesecloth set in a sieve back into a bowl.
Tip: Twist the cheesecloth into a sealed bag and gently press as much of the sauce out of the scum as possible.
Note: Wash the pot to remove any remaining scum.
8. Return the sauce to the pot and bring it back to a simmer.
9. Stir in just enough cornstarch to thicken the sauce.
Tip: If you do not think you will have enough sauce to brush over your chicken you may add another ¼ cup of Irish whiskey.
10. Prepare your grill.
Note: If you are using charcoal, build a bi-level fire in the grill—push all of the coals to one side of your grill. If you are using gas, turn on all of your burners and heat the grill for five minutes—turn one side of the grill to its lowest gas setting when you put on the chicken. This helps the pieces that are farthest from the hot side of the grill to cook completely.
11. Oil your grating well and lay the chicken, pretty side down, on the hot side of the grill.
Tip: Close the grill lid.
Note: Chicken wings have a pretty side, the top of the wing, and a less attractive side, the underside of the wing.
12. Sear the chicken for 10 minutes.
13. Open the grill and brush the undersides of the wings with the whiskey sauce.
14. Transfer the wings to the cool side of the grill.
Tip: As you are moving the chicken, flip the wings pretty side up.
15. Brush the tops of the wings with the whiskey sauce.
Tip: Brush all of the sauce onto the wings.
Note: If you are using chicken legs, as well as wings, place them meaty side closest to the hot side of the grill.
16. Close the grill lid and continue to cook the chicken, undisturbed, for another 30-40 minutes.
Note: If you are using wood chips for smoke add them at this time.
17. Check the wings for doneness and redistribute the pieces if some are cooking unevenly.
Tip: Move the “done” pieces to the coolest side of the grill and move any pieces that are not quite done closer to the heat or even directly over the hot side of the grill.
18. Transfer the chicken to a platter and tent with aluminum foil to keep them warm.
19. Let the chicken rest for five minutes and then serve warm.