Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Saigon Street Wings


It's officially chicken wing season, aka football season. Along with nachos, chicken wings are probably the most consumed snack during this time of year while enjoying the big game. I've given myself an unofficial goal to make special snacks for as many Patriots games as I possibly can this season (not necessary the nighttime games, but at least all the others).

This past weekend I cracked open my beloved Fried Chicken cookbook which contains several mouthwatering wing recipes. I elected the Saigon Street Wings, as I am a fan of all things Asian. These are easy enough to prepare, but require a bit of advanced prep since the wings must marinate overnight.

With a minimal ingredient list, these wings are a breeze. They marinate in a mixture of fish sauce, palm sugar or light brown sugar, and garlic. The same combination is used to make the glaze.

A couple quick notes. First of all, I halved this recipe when I  made it, and it was perfect for 3 of us snacking at the onset of the game (they didn't last long!). My wings marinated for a full 24 hours which was probably too long (the recipe states overnight, and well, technically it WAS overnight) as the wings were a touch on the salty side, but still very delicious. Next time I'd marinate them for about 12 hours give or take.

I also decided to reduce the sauce into a syrup while simultaneously frying up batches of wings in my deep fryer. This was not a great plan, as I was focusing more on the wings than the wing sauce. It ended up over-reducing/burning and I had to chuck it. Fortunately I was able to quickly whip up some replacement sauce and was more diligent in watching it the second time around.

Anyway, happy football season, y'all! Make these wings! They are YUMMY!!!

Saigon Street Wings
Serves 4 to 6
(From Fried Chicken)

4 pounds chicken wings, wing tips removed and cut in half at the joint
14 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup fish sauce
1 cup palm sugar, chopped, or firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying
2 cups rice flour
Cilantro, chopped, for serving

Place the wings in a large zip-top bag.

To make the marinade, in a large bowl, smash 10 cloves of the garlic and the salt together until they form a paste. Add the fish sauce, sugar, and 1/4 cup of the vegetable oil, and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Pour half of the marinade over the wings in the bag, rub to coat the chicken, seal, and refrigerate overnight. Cover and chill the remaining half of the marinade until you’re ready to fry the chicken.

Pour the reserved marinade (the portion that did not touch the chicken) into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, decrease the heat, and simmer until reduced and syrupy, about 35 minutes.

In a deep fryer or large, deep stockpot, heat 3 inches of vegetable oil over high heat to 350°F. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

Place the rice flour in a large bowl. Remove the wings from the ziptop bag, discarding the marinade. Depending on the size of your fryer, you may need to fry in batches. Dredge half of the wings in the rice flour until well coated. Carefully place the chicken in the hot oil. Fry for 10 to 13 minutes, or until golden brown. Maintain an oil temperature of 325°F. Drain the wings on the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining pieces.

After all of the wings have been fried, mince the remaining 4 cloves of garlic and place in a fine-mesh wire strainer. Carefully dip the strainer into the hot oil, just deep enough to submerge the garlic, and cook for 10 to 15 seconds or until lightly browned. Transfer the fried wings to a large bowl, add the cooked marinade, and toss to coat. Transfer the glazed wings to another large bowl and toss with the fried garlic. (Using two bowls prevents the garlic from being coated in the glaze.) Serve with chopped cilantro.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Guajillo-Braised Beef Short Rib Tacos


Happy Taco Tuesday! It's my favorite non-holiday, and luckily for me I can celebrate it weekly if I desire ;-)

A taco is perhaps the most delicious blank canvas I can think of. You start with a tortilla, traditionally a soft corn tortilla gently heated in a skillet to make it more pliable and enhance the flavor of the corn. You could easily opt for a flour tortilla, or a crunchy shell, but my favorite is always the tried and true (and more authentic) soft corn tortilla. I purchase mine at Trader Joe's.

Then you have your filling which can range from vegetables, beans, scrambled eggs, any type of meat or even seafood. Inspiration for a taco filling can come from almost anywhere. I've made Buffalo chicken tacos so anything is fair game.

Last but not least, you finish off the taco with toppings, which can include a myriad of salsas, guacamole, sour cream, chopped onion, cilantro, cheese, and more.

The magic occurs when all of these flavors are wrapped up together into a single bite, and it truly feels like magic with tacos as good as these. This Guajillo-Braised Short Rib filling is outstanding. The flavors are complex and fairly spicy, while the texture is unctuous and so melt-in-your-mouth tender!

The braising liquid consists of a mixture of toasted guajillo and chipotle chiles, onion, garlic, cumin, Mexican oregano, and dark Mexican beer.

I was supremely neurotic when shredding my short ribs and removed every speck of gooey fat because I seriously hate that texture, and didn't want anything distracting me from enjoying these perfectly braised short ribs. It's worth the extra effort in my opinion rather than just hastily shredding away. You owe it to yourself after waiting hours for them to finish cooking.

Top to bottom: seared short ribs, before braising, after braising 3 hours

This filling was actually prepared weeks in advance of a recent game night I hosted! It freezes, thaws, and reheats beautifully, making this a wonderful idea for a make ahead party dish or even a weeknight meal (Did someone say "Taco Tuesday?" Oh yeah, that was me).

These Guajillo-Braised Short Ribs are seriously epic in terms of taco fillings. I can't stress enough how amazingly delicious they are! Like I said earlier, they are on the spicy side, so I made sure to serve them with some sour cream to cool them down, some chopped onion for crunch, as well as a slightly mild homemade salsa verde.

I boiled about 1 pound tomatillos with 2 stemmed, halved and seeded jalapenos (normally I leave the jalapenos whole with the seeds in there but wanted to cut a bit of the spice since the filling was already pretty spicy), about 1/2 a large roughly chopped onion, and a couple peeled garlic cloves, then drained and pureed in a blender with some salt and ground coriander since I didn't have fresh cilantro on hand. The salsa verde received rave reviews all night, with threats to drink the remainder straight from the jar.

If you manage to have leftovers of this filling (hint: you won't!), it would be extraordinary on top of nachos as well, and with football season officially starting, I can't think of a better way to wrangle your friends to celebrate all the occasions worth celebrating!

Guajillo-Braised Beef Short Rib Tacos
Makes 16 tacos; serves 4 to 6 (we yielded 19 moderately stuffed tacos which comfortably fed 5 people without side dishes, but you can easily stuff 16 tortillas with a more generous amount of filling than we did)
(From Tacolicious)

8 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds boneless beef short ribs*
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 (12-ounce) bottle Negro Modelo or other dark Mexican beer
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup water
Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
Chopped white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, salsa of choice, and lime wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Working in two batches if necessary to avoid crowding, lightly toast all of the chiles in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for 30 seconds on each side, until fragrant but not blackened. Set them aside on a plate.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches to avoid crowding, add the meat and sear for about 3 minutes on each side, until the pieces have formed a uniformly browned crust. Add more oil to the pot as needed to prevent scorching. As the pieces are ready, set them aside on a plate.

Add the onion to the same same pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until it starts to brown. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Pour in the beer, add the toasted chiles, and turn down the heat to low. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the chiles have softened and are pliable. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Transfer the contents of the pot to a blender and reserve the pot. Add the cumin, pepper, oregano, salt, and water to the blender and blend the mixture on high speed until smooth and the consistency of cream, adding more water if needed to thin the mixture a bit.

Return the seared meat to the pot and pour in the chile mixture. Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is fork-tender.

Remove from the oven and, using tongs or a couple of forks, shred the meat in the pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Serve with the tortillas, onion, cilantro, salsa, and lime.

*Note* You can ask your butcher to bone the ribs for you, or you can just cook them with the bone in and then bone them before shredding the meat. You'll need 5 pounds of bone-in short ribs to yield the required 3 pounds of meat. This dish can be on the spicy side, so if you're really sensitive to heat, cut back a little on the chiles.


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