Sunday, September 30, 2012

Spicy Chicken Wings Mk IV

Cooking, or at least developing a recipe, or a dish, or a snack, or even just figuring out just how you like your grilled cheese, is always a work in progress, you’re never likely to get it right the first try, or even the second, time and patience is your friend. I’ve recently started a hot and spicy affair with chicken wings, trying to nail the perfect crunchy spicy wing, a good crust, moist perfect flesh and of course hot! Easier said than done, you have to get the ratio of flour right, choose the right spices, should I just use wheat flour? Deep fry? Oven bake? I previously wrote about mark 1, but now with mark 3 behind me, I am almost there, and this recipe (mark 4) is as close to perfect as I can get, in a perfect world of course.

The quantities below are based on 500g of chicken wings.

Spice Mix
10g Coriander seed
10g Cumin seed
5g Chili flakes (hot)
5g Sweet smoked paprika
5g Salt

  • Grind all the ingredients together, a blender is handy but a mortar and pestle will do the job. 
  • Sieve the resulting mixture, saving both the resulting powder and coarse separately. You should have about 16 grams of powder, if you’re off by a gram or two don’t worry, but much more than that put the coarse back in the blender and grind more. 
  • Mix the 16g of powder with 5g of the coarse, about a 3:1 powder to coarse ratio. Set this aside, and either discard the remaining coarse materials or seal up in a jar and store.

The powder separated from the coarse chaff.

16g powder & 5g coarse chaff.

25g Fine semolina flour
25g Plain wheat flour
21g Spice mix (the 16g powder + 5g coarse from above)

  • In a large bowl mix all of the ingredients together, if you have more than 20-21g of spice mix adjust the flour accordingly, 5 parts flour mix to 2 parts spice mix. 

Getting it all together
  • Pat the chicken wings dry with some paper towels, and lightly coat with some oil, canola is fine, I usually just use the aerosol cooking oil that I spray the sheet pans with, it’s canola and as it’s a spray I can get a nice even light coating. 
  • Add the wings to the bowl with the spiced flour and cover with a double layer of clingfilm. 
  • Gently toss the wings in the flour, making sure to coat thoroughly, you may wish to give another little spray with oil to help, but it’s not always necessary.
  • Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, this will allow the starch in the flours to hydrate, making for a stronger coating that will help trap in steam from the wings as they cook, and less likely to fall off.

  • Preheat the oven to 200-210°C, let it sit at temperature for a good 15 minutes before adding the chicken. 
  • Line a sheet pan with baking paper and spray with some non-stick spray (yes the double up of non-stickiness is needed) 
  • Arrange the chicken on the pan, allowing room around each wing for airflow. 
  • Cook for 15 minutes, and then remove from the oven and turn each wing over, cook for a further 15 minutes. 
Note: for extra crispy wings, and for people not watching their weight, spray the wings when placing them on the sheet pan, and again when you flip them. 

Serve up with some hot sauce, a finger bowl and lots of napkins.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Braised Beef Cheeks

Slow cooked meat is awesome, melt in the mouth, big rich flavours, it’s all good, apart from the time it takes to get the result, you can cheat it with a pressure cooker, well the texture kind of, but you can’t cheat the rich strong flavour that a three hour braise produces, which is a problem when it’s a Wednesday night at 6pm and you have beef cheeks you really want to eat, but like hell you’re going to wait til what will probably be a 10pm dinner time. So like the crazy food weirdo that I am, I think hey I can cook two meals tonight, I don’t need to be sociable, I’ll just set up shop in the kitchen for the night. With one dinner made, and ate, I set about getting a beef cheek braise on the go, I figure if I get it in the oven by 8pm and cook it for 3 hours at 140ºC, I should be able to get it cool enough and get it in the fridge overnight to be finished off the next day.

2 Beef cheeks
2 Carrots, diced
1 Onion, diced
2 Celery stalks, diced
1 tsp Smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp Hot paprika
1 tsp Mustard
1 tbsp of Garlic confit
1 tbsp Tomato paste
250 ml Red wine
50 ml Tawny port
2 Bay leaves
1 Bunch of thyme

Preheat the oven to 140ºC

Brown the cheeks in a little olive oil, remove and place in a casserole dish (or dutch oven, I would have used one, but the enamel on mine exploded off with some gusto a while back and I haven’t replace it yet).

Sweat the onion, carrots and celery in the pan.

Add the paprikas, mustard, tomato paste, and garlic, cook until fragrant.

Deglaze with the port, and when almost evaporated add the red wine, bay leaves and thyme, simmer for a couple of minutes.

Pour the mixture over the cheeks and place on a lid, or cover tightly with a double layer of tinfoil. Cook for 3–4 hours.

When done, carefully remove the cheeks to warm bowl, and strain the liquid into the same, the vegetables have done their work, and will be pretty bland, so just discard them.

While the meat rests in its sauce, prepare the polenta. I unashamedly use instant polenta, good for you if you have the time and patience to put up with making the regular kind, and for putting up with the burns you get from popping bubbles of steamy polenta hell. Bring 500ml Chicken stock to the boil, remove from the heat and whisk in 125 grams of instant polenta, keep whisking until thick, you may have to put it back on the heat for a couple of seconds, but usually it isn’t needed. Add half a tub of crème fraîche and whisk in until fully incorporated.

Spoon a pillow of polenta onto a plate, take a cheek and slice it in three, then rest it on the polenta, spoon over a generous amount of sauce, and finish with a grating of a nice nutty cheese and a sprinkling of herbs.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cured Egg Yolk

Not much curing has happened in my household recently, something I mean to change, get my hands on a nice piece of pork to make some bacon, or should really stop faffing about and finally get around to making some homemade pastrami. But I’ve got to work my way back up to it, can’t just jump in headfirst, well I tell myself that, but who am I kidding, I’m just lazy, forgetful and easily distracted, ooooOoooo a kitty.

Anyway, I was in one of those moods, not really feeling like doing anything, TV wasn’t distracting enough and I didn’t feel like reading, so I thought I’d see what I could manage in the kitchen without actually producing anything to eat immediately, as I wasn’t really hungry. After staring at the pantry and then in fridge, and thinking ‘close the door, it’s not library, stop wasting power’ etc. I spied the eggs and ideas of the oft thought of but seldom produced cured egg yolk came to mind.

Pulling out the sacks of rock sea salt left over from the last egg curing madness that was kai kem eggs, I set about making a layer of salt in the bottom of a dish and digging through the draws for some cheesecloth, which I was sure was in the bottom draw, but now have no idea as I had rearranged the kitchen, disaster averted and cheese cloth in hand, a little rectangle was cut, slightly bigger than a yolk widthwise, and twice as long. An egg was cracked and carefully separated, yolk delicately placed on the cloth and wrapped gently, then placed on the salt bed, and buried in another layer of salt. The dish wrapped tightly in plastic wrap was placed in the fridge and left for 2 days.

Actually 24 hours should be enough, and quite truthfully I totally forgot about it, that is until I opened the fridge to dig about hoping to find something to eat, when I saw the bowl and remembered, oh yeah there’s a yolk in there, carefully unwrapped and salt ceremoniously (I said a little prayer at the wastage of salt) dumped in the sink, the yolk was extracted and unwrapped, placed on a pillow of kitchen paper towel and shoved with love and attention back in the fridge, where I’m sure it will be forgotten about again, not that it matters too much, the sucker needs to dry out.

Five days later, it had dried sufficiently enough for its purpose, being grated over some freshly made pasta. I set about getting the pasta sorted, two parts egg to three parts flour, mixed and kneaded and left to rest, wrapped, in the fridge for half an hour before being rolled, folded and run through a pasta machine until the desired thickness and cut into noodles. Cooked in generously salted boiling water, then drained and seasoned well with black pepper and good olive oil, dished up in a bowl and a little cheese grated over top, then finally finished with a good grating of the bright orange yolk.

“Does it taste like foot?” My partner asked as she poked her plate with her fork. Well no, be assured it is not a funky piece of dried egg with all the negative connotations one can take from eggs gone wrong, in fact it has no noticeable aroma, but the flavour is that of intense yolk, the curing and drying has concentrated all its rich wonderful flavour.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fish Cakes

3 Medium potatoes (about double the amount of fish)
200 grams Smoked Kingfish
1 red onion (half)
Handful of Parsley
1 teaspoon Hot English mustard
1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
Salt to season
  • Peel and boil the potatoes until tender.
  • Finely dice the onion, and place half in a bowl, and set the other half aside for the horseradish creme below.
  • Add chopped parsley, the mustard and paprika to the bowl, and flake in the fish, make sure you have some nice chunks.
  • Use a mouli or ricer to purée the potatoes, do this in a separate bowl as you don’t want to add hot potato to the fish.
  • When the potato is cool enough to handle, mix it into the fish and season with salt.
  • Take a handful of the potato mix and push it into a floured ring mould, use the back of a spoon to pack it down.
  • Carefully remove the cake from the mould and dust with flour, place on a sheet pan.
  • Cool the cakes in the fridge for 10–15 minutes, so they can firm up.
  • In a heavy pan pour enough oil to come up about 1 cm, I use rice bran oil as it has a decent smoke point and neutral flavour. When the oil is up to temperature, about 180ºC, carefully place the cakes in the oil and cook until golden on both sides.
Horseradish cream
Half a tub of Crème fraîche
2 Tablespoons Salted capers, rinsed
Half a red onion, finely diced
2 Tablespoons Horseradish
Juice of 1 Lemon
Salt to season

Dice up the rinsed capers and mix all ingredients together in a bowl, adjust the seasoning with salt and extra lemon juice if needed, let it sit for a 10 minutes or so, so the flavours can meld and develop.

Pickled Vegetables
Spring onion
Fennel Bulb
Cider vinegar
Olive Oil

Slice up spring onions, dice the fennel bulb, mix together in a bowl with a splash of cider vinegar and olive oil, easy huh.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science public lecture series has started up for 2012, the videos of the lectures, past and present, are available on iTunes. They are informative and entertaining.

I’ve also been having good fun searching my way through google books and google scholar, it’s a treasure trove of cooking and food related information, from 60s magazine recipes to the 1825 treatise The physiology of taste: or, Transcendental gastronomy, which is an interesting read.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Spicy chicken wings

Nothing much can beat a humble spicy chicken wing, especially with cold beer chasing it down, even better if the weather is fine and you get to enjoy the sun beating down (not long now Wellington) as you guzzle down cold beers, putting out the ever increasing heat of the unctuous spicy wings. Well ok so the weather’s not quite up to par yet, and most of my spicy wing and beer consumption has taken place in the sheltered warm embrace of Fork and Brewer, but sometimes you’re stuck at home, and if like me, you’re out in the food culture wasteland that is Karori, where haute cuisine is the choice between Fush’n’Chips or plastic fantastic Subway. So we make do with the situation we have, too lazy to go out at night, we stay in, wrapped up against the cold warming ourselves with spicy, greasy, chicken flesh, thanking our lucky stars we stocked up on some decent beer and don’t have to rely on the local for our tipple.

You can cook these however you like, I oven baked them with the help of a little canola oil spray, you could deep fry them though if you prefer.

500 grams Chicken Wings, or as we call them nibbles
10 grams Cumin seeds
10 grams Coriander seeds
5 grams Sweet Smoked Paprika
5 grams Kosher salt
5 grams hot fine chili flakes
20 grams flour

Preheat the oven to 210ºC, and spray a sheet pan with cooking spray.

Grind all the dry ingredients, sans flour, using mortar and pestle, you could however use a blender if you’re inclined that way. When thoroughly ground, but not powdery, a little texture is a good thing, mix in the flour.

Pat the chicken dry, and very, very lightly coat in oil, and mix together with the spice mix, firmly pressing it into the wings.

Arrange the coated wings on a tray, then give it a light spray with oil, this helps crisp up the coating but is optional. Cook for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, turn over all the wings and cook for another 15 minutes. Serve up with some demonically hot chili sauce and lots of paper towels.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Two Weeks of Food Madness (Bliss?)

Wellington on a plate has wrapped up, two weeks of food madness finished, and many a oyster eaten. There have been, apart from all the great restaurant deals, some great events, and it ended appropriately for some food bloggers, with a two day conference held mainly at Le Cordon Bleu. Thanks to all of the sponsors and organisers of the conference, check out the list of the great people who made everything possible. Can’t wait for next year. Once I’ve had a decent chance to sort out all the photos I took, I will probably do a gallery post about the conference.

Le Cordon Bleu The New Zealand Chocolate Festival T Leaf TArcher McRae Alessandra Zecchini The Dumpling HouseThe Gourmet GannetGrow from HereHarperCollins PublishersThe Kitchen-MaidL’affaire Au ChocolatMoon Over MartinboroughMy Darling Lemon ThymePeoples CoffeePositively Wellington TourismSix Barrel Soda Co.Viviane PerényiYellow Brick RoadWellington on A PlateBoulcott St BistroCocoFork & BrewerFoxgloveGeneral PractitionerHummingbirdMaginnity’sMonsoon PoonThe Tasting RoomTi KoukaFloriditasFloyd’sLiquid WinksMoore WilsonPop DiningRegal SalmonLittle PenangOmega SeafoodBongustoSt ClairMan O WarNeudorf100% NutzAll Good BananasArohaThe Collective DairyEcoStoreEquagoldKokakoLittle BirdLove Plant LifeR QuteHoly Moly Ice CreamMad MillieIntercontinentalHouse of SabraEat & GreetSo D’Lish

I entered a couple of recipes in Stuff’s My Dish competition, and both of them won their category. Entrée (for Arbitrageur): pork hock with pickled rhubarb & Bistro Classic (for Boulcott Street Bistro): pork cheek confit with fennel and apple sauce. They ended up on the menu of the respective restaurants for a week, which is pretty cool, and awesome seeing someone else interpret my recipe. Check out the recipes, pork cheek confit and pork hock cake.

Last but not least, as I mentioned in my previous post, I was one of the presenters for the City Market Visa Wellington on a Plate event, Pecha Kucha: Imbibe. Well the videos are now on YouTube, I can’t embed them, but you can see my presentation here, and the playlist for the others here.