By Cathy Huyghe
"I am on vacation this week with my family in rural Pennsylvania, so I was especially close to fresh-grown produce when it came time to shop for ingredients for Ming Tsai’s chicken wings. My family lives near several Amish and Mennonite communities in central Pennsylvania, which meant super-crisp celery for dipping and super-creamy (and not mass-produced) blue cheese.
I was off to a good start, including the step of brining the chicken in a water-salt-sugar solution overnight. It was an easy step that I think helped to keep the chicken moist in the final product, though it was difficult to tell precisely since I didn’t keep no-brined chicken pieces for comparison.
Tamari isn’t a difficult ingredient to find in Boston but in rural Pennsylvania I had to substitute regular soy sauce. Assembling the sauce was another easy step, even though I had forgotten to leave the butter out to come to room temperature. My sister, who was testing the recipe with me, suggested melting the butter slowly – in 4 to 8 second increments – in the microwave, which we did. We zapped, then whisked the rest of the ingredients (hot sauce and soy sauce) together. Zapped, then whisked. It worked fine.
The temperature of the oil, however, was a problem. It may have been easier to keep the temperature more precise if we were working on a gas stove – the stove we used was electric – but I would have appreciated more detailed instructions on how to keep the temperature steady at 375 degrees. I understand the importance of not adding too many pieces of chicken to the oil at once, since that would decrease the temperature of the oil too dramatically and the chicken would cook unevenly. We only cooked 4 or 5 pieces of chicken at a time, which left plenty of room in the pot, but still the oil burned and so did a few of the smaller pieces of chicken. Ten to 12 minutes of cooking time was more accurate, in our test of this recipe, than the stated cooking time of 15 to 20 minutes.
We immediately dipped the chicken pieces into the hot and spicy sauce before serving it alongside the celery sticks and ranch/blue cheese mixture. Most of our guests tasted the wings straight first, and from the on dipped them into the “cooling” ranch/blue cheese mixture before their next bites.