Monday, 10 July 2017
Friday, 30 June 2017
Happy 150th Canada!!!
In honour of our nation turning 150 this Canada Day, I decided to come up with a VERY Canadian chicken wing. I had to think about some flavours that not only work together but also represent the flavours when one thinks Canada. I was tempted to rehash a poutine wing, but I came up with a decadent, multi-layered chicken wing tasting experience to represent "Mari usque ad Mare".
- Fresh Ontario Chicken Wings
- Brine of Clam Cocktail (used for Bloody Caesars, a drink from Alberta & I associate clams with the East Coast Maritimes)
- Montreal (Quebec) Steak Spiced rub
- Maple Bacon (what is more Canadian than Maple?)
- Canadian Beer (in this case I used Canuck Pale Ale, premiered at the Vancouver Olympics)
- Smokey Bacon Hot Sauce (made in Canada by Presidents Choice)
- Maple Syrup (from The Farm Pantry in St.Jacobs Ontario)
People want details with recipes; "How many wings? how much sauce? How many miligrams of spice?" and that's not how I work. I mean I roughly gauge how much I'm putting in but it won't turn out exactly each time, and for you, you can make it your own.
1. Brine wings in Caesar cocktail for 30 mins-2 hours - the longer the better
2. Drain, toss in Montreal Steak Spice - sprinkle liberally
3. Wrap 1 strip of bacon around wings. Secure with 2 toothpicks
4. Bring beer (i used about 1/3 of a tall can), hot sauce (I used about 1/3 of the bottle) & maple syrup
( I used a small bottle) to a simmer - reduce to sticky consistency
5. Grill wings over charcoal until bacon is crispy & wings cooked
6a. Brush wings with sauce just before finish grilling
6b Plate wings & drizzle sauce over wings*
* I did the second so that I could taste the wings before the sauce was added. With leftovers I broiled the wings with the sauce on to caramelize the sauce in the oven - I would say 6a is the better way to go.
Making the brine - a Caesar, if you are unfamiliar, is a cocktail made traditionally Clamato (a brand of tomato juice flavoured with clam juice), Worcestershire, hot sauce & vodka and in a glace rimmed with celery salt and garnished with celery and lime. It is my favourite alcoholic beverage (extra spicy of course). I know clam juice sounds nasty . . . but it is not a fishy flavour, trust me.
How much do you use? Enough to cover the wings.
For the sauce I didn't want something that bathed the wings, but highlighted some flavours. So this was a small batch sauce. About 1/3 of a tall beer can (you can drink the rest!). I really debated what kind of beer to use but I wanted something that had some flavour but also wouldn't overpower the whole sauce.
1/3 of a bottle of the bacon hot sauce (if you don't have bacon hot sauce, that's ok, go with a cayenne based hot sauce. And the maple syrup - just use real maple syrup (not table syrup) but be gentle with the amounts. You want to simmer this sauce and reduce it to a syrupy state, but be careful not to burn it.
After the wings have brined for a while, drain that liquid off, and in the same bowl, add that Montreal Steak Spice. This rub mix of black pepper, salt, coriander, garlic, cayenne pepper and dill is the spice mix used to pickle Montreal smoked meat - which is delicious and is great on steaks. I've never used it on wings before, and it brings out a meaty taste in the wings.
Wrap those wings in bacon. The wings are kept whole so that a single strip of bacon would easily wrap around and it would be easier to grill. Sure you could use typical split wings, just cut the bacon in half?
I also put a water soaked toothpick on each end of the bacon to secure them.
I live in a condo/apartment building that only has an open pit bbq grill that I cannot possibly control the temperature on. Let me tell you what I did and what you could do.
I cooked with lump charcoal to create that campfire smoke flavour that is like being in the great outdoors. I also used a BBQ mat at first so that the bacon on the wings would cook and hug those appendages tight. Later I removed the mat and let the flames kiss those wings and later raised them up higher to keep cooking through without burning. This whole process took about 40 minutes.
If you don't have this crazy BBQ set up, you could use your Big Green Egg and smoke, or more likely you have a gas grill. You know how your heating device works best, just be careful that a) the bacon fat doesn't flare up and burn the wings b) that the bacon cooks before the chicken cooks.
In the photo above, I had transferred the wings to the upper level, grilling corn (and allowing the bacon grease to drip down and flavour that corn!
So the wings are cooked! Don't they look delicious just like this? Yes and they were. Pit master privilege meant I ate this sucker right off the grill. So good.
Now, it's at this point you have a choice: brush the sauce on the wings and caramelize the sauce OR plate the wings and drizzle the sauce on. I did the latter but I recommend the former.
I was ready to jump in before I almost forgot to remove the toothpicks. Remove the toothpicks before yous serve these!
I was jacked up to have these wings. The bacon, the sauce, the chicken. You could do this in the oven but the BBQ is really the way to go.
The flavours were all over the place, but worked together, like the mosaic that is our country. The rub and the rub gave the chicken a meaty spiced taste. The sauce was sweet but savoury with a bit of a kick.
The brine also helped keep the chicken stay moist and juicy through the grilling process. My only complaint about grilling wings is the joints seize up and tearing apart the bones is not an easy process.
These were some decadent wings. The sauce is rich, the chicken/bacon combo is self-indulgent. I won't lie, these are not a wing you will eat in big batches without overwhelming your palate and body. A serving of 3 whole wings is best. But if you make enough, these were great leftovers.
So however you spend Canada Day, or anytime, these are a great Canuck inspired addition to our cuisine pantheon.
Happy Canada Day everyone! Cheers . . . eh?!
Thursday, 29 June 2017
Monday, 26 June 2017
Monday, 19 June 2017
Monday, 12 June 2017
Monday, 5 June 2017
Monday, 22 May 2017
Having the title of Lord of the Wings comes with certain expectations; that you will like spicy food, you will order chicken wings anytime possible ... and if your going to get married, you will have chicken wings at your wedding. Well, we did, and it was great.
1 Year ago, I married the love of my life after a very long courting period, and it was the happiest day of my life. It also involved a lot of chicken wings, but my bride-to-be knew what she was getting into, and she did everything to make my dreams come true (wing and otherwise).
We knew we were going to integrate chicken wings into our wedding (no it was not the theme) but exactly how, we weren't sure. Ok that's not true, we knew for a long time that we would have a Chicken Wing Fountain. Wait, you've never heard of a chicken wing fountain? You know where you dip chicken wings into a fountain flowing with wing sauce - like a chocolate fountain - only 10 times more awesome!
When we booked our vendor, it was the most important question I had, if we could do this at our post-dinner buffet. The coordinator was blown away and had never heard of such a thing, but she was excited and said they would get on board to make it happen. We hit a little snag when she left a few months later on leave and a new coordinator said they could do the chicken, but the fountains we would have to look into ourselves.
I researched online and found NOTHING about chicken wing sauce fountains other than a few pictures, but no how-to's or instruction guides. So I took the plunge, bought 2 fountains online and went to a restaurant supply store to buy some jugs of hot sauce to test this concept out. I mean if people can do nacho cheese, why not wings?!
The test was a success!!! I was using a President's Choice Buffalo Wing Sauce (something that would be tasty for all palates) which is a little thick, but it worked. I also got a BBQ sauce (for those that don't like 'hot') and it took some finessing with some vinegar to thin it out because it was a little too thick, but I finally got it to the consistency that it flowed from the top with ease.
Clean up was pretty easy - I expected this to be a massive mess - but as long as I drained the sauce (that was a bit messy) the equipment was disassembled and washed with ease.
I also got several 3.5 litre bottles of 3rd Degree hot sauce that would go as part of our give-aways at the end of the night. I designed some labels and with a short assembly line of fiancee and father-in-law-to-be, we got over 100 of these little bottles filled up.
WEDDING REHEARSAL DINNER
For our wedding rehearsal dinner for our wedding party, we had looked at many restaurants, caterers and even considered doing our own bbq (boy did we not have time to do that!) but to keep it to a reasonable price and availability it was really not working out. In the end, we booked the party room in my apartment building (which walks out to the garden/courtyard). It was a little chaotic with our group finding my building, then getting everyone in, but once the food arrived, everyone was good to start eating.
For food, we went with Pig Out BBQ on Spadina Street in Toronto; they gave us a great deal, delivered the food and got us some great grub. One of the dishes was of course, smoked wings in a sweet smokey BBQ sauce. They were a big hit, but then, so was all of the food that night (pulled pork, ribs, salads, mac & cheese etc). There was so much food and some very happy, full tummies afterward. We were super happy with this vendor.
Our rehearsal was on a Thursday night to make it less hectic the night before our Saturday wedding. For Friday dinner we went with one of our favourite Chinese restaurants from our undergrad, New Ho King. But I got something I had never had (or knew they had) before: General Tso chicken wings. My favourite General Tso chicken is from here, and the fact they had them on wings was amazing. I did a pick up and they were a bit cold by the time I ate them, but that sticky, sweet, spicy flavour was there and I couldn't believe I was having wings again!
The wedding went pretty smoothly with few hiccups and great weather. A beautiful ceremony, fun entertainment, and lots of food and lots of booze; everyone seemed to have a great time. It was good to see all of the planning, time, and money paying off for such a great party.
Our venue was the Great Hall in Hart House, a student centre at the University of Toronto (where we met) but think of the place as Harry Potter-esque rather than student centre. Before dinner there was an oyster bar, antipasto, and a bunch of fancy appetizers being served. For dinner, we had multiple courses including roasted butternut squash soup, buffalo mozzarella/tomato salad, squid ink pasta, and duo of beef & chicken entrees. There was lots to eat and people seemed quite happy with the meal (we didn't get much time to eat, but from what I tasted, it was very good). After that it was cake cutting and everyone had our wedding cake for desert.
As mentioned, on the tables were take-aways of our "Wedding Pyre Sauce" - some spicy 3rd Degree hot sauce that I still get compliments on to this day. Some used it that night, others saved it for home. Some even pirated extra bottles from other tables!
LATE NIGHT BITES
The dinner course went a bit longer in time than expected, so when people came out after dinner,speeches, and a bhangra dance performance, they found late night food stations set up with even more food; a candy table, a poutine bar, beef sliders, and cotton candy on a stick. But THE food station that stood by far was our chicken wing fountains.
The venue could not run this station (only provide chicken wings), so I hired one of my student staff from work to come, set up, sauce and serve at the fountains. Mike did a great job and even got the fountains to run better than I did in the test runs!
I was busy . . . talking to people, or getting pictures taken (who knows it was so busy), but as soon as I could I was out in the courtyard making sure the fountains were up and running!
When I talked to the venue, they said they could do the wings with no issue. My big request was that the wings be fried, not baked. I know baked wings are easier for catering, and I've had them before and they don't turn out the best. Well these fried wings were amazing. I could have eaten these crispy, salty wonders just on their own. I couldn't tell you how happy I was they turned out so well.
The fountains were a novelty and entertainment on their own. So many people commented how they had never seen anything like it and that it was so appropriate because of me. People came out saying they were stuffed from dinner, but that didn't stop the wings from all being eaten!
There were skewers and tongs for people to dip, but some couldn't wait and did hand dips! The two sauces worked well, but the Buffalo sauce was the more popular of the two. If I was to do it differently, I would maybe have done a ranch fountain instead of the BBQ.
I gotta say, I was very happy how these turned out. I also had to work very hard to not spill on my tux and I'm proud to say I stayed sauce free!
Sunday was a chill out day as well as some clean up, but then it was all night packing and getting ready for our honeymoon. Monday we were off early morning and flight bound for a beatiful resort in Costa Rica.
The resort was quite remote, so it was a long van ride through back country, but when we arrived, the place was paradise. We got to our honeymoon suite and we were starving. We were also exhausted, so we decided to order room service. Low and behold, what did I see on the menu? Buffalo chicken wings.
The wings looked amazing. The cut of the chicken was weird (like the drummets had large chunks of the scappula meat on them) - the meat was a bit tough, but the sauce was a nice mild Buffalo sauce. What a way to start a vacation!
The resort also organized a romantic dinner on the beach later in the week. Guess what was on THAT menu? Buffalo wings. These weren't as good (or as Buffalo-ized) as my first meal, but hey, I wasn't expecting wings at all!
So after one year there have been a lot of changes in my life, but now I have my Lady of the Wings by my side. Looking back at all the photos, I remember what a great day we had and it couldn't have gone better. We couldn't have done it without our amazing family and friends, wedding coordinator, and some awesome vendors who helped make it such a special day for us.
I truly feel that I am so lucky.
Lord of the Wings
Tuesday, 16 May 2017
Monday, 15 May 2017
Wednesday, 10 May 2017
Monday, 8 May 2017
You know that it won't end well.
Also, this is still close to May 4th to count right? #maythe4thbewithyou