it is Friday (i think) afternoon and storming intermittently here in Montreal. i rather enjoy the lighting and rain, but heavy thunder tends to leave me feeling unnerved... or maybe it was the two double cappuccinos (which i have taken to calling a cappa-cappa) i had earlier in the day. either way, i am feeling equal parts anxious and excited. the former i blame (mostly) on the weather, but the latter is all about the wings.
let me pause to explain that chicken wings may just possibly be my favorite of all the major food groups. they possess the perfect blend of collagen-rich skin and tender, flavorful meat, making for what is—sans doute—the tastiest part of the entire chicken. while i am usually wary of genetic modifications in plants/animals intended for food, i fully welcome the prospect of chickens each bearing a dozen (or more) wings.
for now, we stuck with the standard two-per-bird wings, which were cut in half. note that i did not discard the little wing-tip section, as that tasty little nub may just be my favorite bit of the thing. don't judge me! my favorite animator gave the chicken a generous dusting of kosher salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika, with a dash of ground ginger, ground cumin, and five-spice powder, then placed them in a 425°F oven on a parchment-lined baking sheet. that combination of spices had definite echoes of the east, so i set out to create a sauce that did the same.
the first step was to open the fridge and stare blankly at the contents while waiting for inspiration to strike. we occasionally purchase a pre-made sauce/dressing called Memories of Thailand which would have been a good starting point for a quick marinade. it is a Thai-style sweet chili sauce of such lackluster flavor, one would be left to assume that the person who invented said condiment once visited Thailand and found it to be a very boring place. surely i could make a tastier version of such a thing.
the key to my desired sauce was a balance of sweet (honey and brown sugar), sour (fresh-squeezed lime juice), and spicy (sriracha and chopped pickled Thai chilies). now, let me be clear here... despite my very tropical background, i am something of a wimp when it comes to intensely spicy food. so, while this sauce was spicy, it did not possess the level of heat that earns you a t-shirt for surviving some sort of killer-wings challenge at your local hole-in-the-wall. that is most definitely not my thing.
to this (moderately-spicy) mixture i added crushed garlic, finely-grated fresh ginger, a dash each of hoisin sauce and soy sauce, and a splash of toasted sesame oil. then came the controversial (in our household) ingredient. fish sauce. truth be told, i am not a fan. i totally get that there is a certain je ne sais quoi that relies on the presence of fish sauce lurking in the background of a given dish, but it tends to be too much for my liking, leaving the dish overpowered by the unmistakable quoi that is the essence of rotted fish.
me: why do we even own fish sauce? i hate this stuff.
him: are you kidding me... it's awesome. we should put it in more things.
i am fairly certain this is why couple's therapy was invented. however, i acquiesced and added a splash to the bowl, then offered up the resulting mixture for judgment. he stuck the tip of a (freshly-washed) finger into the bowl then gave it a taste.
him: wow!!! it's like 'memories of Thailand'... but sooo much better!
i took a taste, and i was inclined to agree.
the chicken wings had by now been roasting for about half an hour, with a quick flip halfway through that time.
the bowl was a bit too small for the task, so the wings had to be coated in two batches, then returned to the oven.
what followed next was fifteen (or so) minutes of what i like to call intense basting. this was his job, and it consisted of opening the oven every couple-few minutes to brush the wings with the sauce that remained in the bowl, until said sauce was all gone. i cannot begin to explain the delicious fragrance wafting through our place. it was a magical blend of garlic and ginger with the spicy notes of five-spice and chilies and the caramelizing honey and brown sugar, all enveloped in that unmistakable, effervescent burst of lime. it is crazy how fifteen (or so) minutes can suddenly seem like an awful long time.
finally, they were done.
the objective here was not to (attempt to) recreate the crunch of deep-fried wings, but to produce something decadently sticky and sweet, with a glaze that looks/feels like warmed-up marmalade right out of the oven. that is some seriously sexy sticky stuff!
i served up the wings along with slices of cucumber and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro, and that combination proved to be absolutely divine. having never traveled to Thailand, it would be dishonest of me to present said sauce as a "memory", but i prefer to think of it as a "delusion" of something that just may be Thai-worthy.
this was a sticky, sour, sweet, spicy treat tailor made for a Summer day. the cilantro offered a lovely bit of herby freshness and the cucumber slices provided the right amount of cool to balance the (moderate) heat. this was a thoroughly perfect meal, and we were too busy coming up with terms to describe the incredible flavors to be upset that our poor tomato plants were being knocked about in the torrential rain and wind. he did have to attempt a quick rescue in the midst of an impressive display of lightning. after all the stress of caring for our tiny garden, every tomato counts.
it is now extremely late in the evening. i am catching up on my latest k-drama, in between working on a lovely, lacy, completely itch-free sweater for self. my multitasking skills usually allow for knitting while watching things, but the combination of lace charts and subtitles means i have to alternate my way through this project. oh... and i may have also recently finished my third cappa-cappa of the day. sad, but true. it should be noted—lest anyone assume i am running out to the coffee shop multiple times a day to purchase overpriced coffee drinks—that this stuff is a mix. a wholly, totally, and completely addictive mix that i literally find myself drinking all day. no... i do not have a problem.
i have tried it in three flavors so far: Cappuccino, Mocha, and Vanilla. it also comes in unsweetened, decaf, and Caramel Latte varieties, but that last one just sounds completely unnecessary. i prefer it with one pack each vanilla and (plain) cappuccino. not only am i fond of blends (i am a complicated lady), but two packets makes for just enough liquid heroin to fill my warrior princess mug. i do not have a problem.
most fun part? it foams up on contact with hot water. i am fairly certain that this stuff will eventually be shown to cause every known kind of cancer.
the frothy layer looks a bit less frightening after a stir.
so, that is my latest obsession, replacing my usual obsession of drinking four (or five) large cups of tea per day, plus the one (or two) normal-sized cup of herbal tea i frequently have before bedtime. no... i definitely... definitely... do not have a problem.