Friday, July 22, 2011

Chicken Wing Confit

The exception that proves the rule. That’s what we have here on Day 2 of our Fantastic Four Food Night Grilling posts. Course #2 – not grilled. But it DOES touch on a technique Food Night is extreeeeeeemly fond of; Confit.

And in this case, Chicken Wing Confit. There is no question that the wing is not exactly the most glamorous part of the bird. When you think “chicken wing”, you likely think of deep fried, smokin’ hot, somewhat forgettable bits of bird that are typically drowning in buffalo or other cloyingly sweet and/or sour sauce. Not to put words in your mouth, of course. But if you confit the wing... look what fun that can be...

Food Night assures you, the confit process is INSANELY easy, and produces results that are preposterously good and disproportionate to the level of effort required. The simple three step "how to confit poultry" process is as follows;

1). Cure. Season your poultry with a healthy does of salt. More than you normally would use if you were going to simply grill or sautee the item. Seasonings? Optional, but encouraged. Add them now. Garlic, fresh herbs, fennel, clove, peppercorn, etc. Cover, and let the product hang out on the cure in the refrigerator for 24 hrs. Or more, preferably, like say 72 hrs.

*Those are duck legs from Heartland on the cure.

2). Rinse, pat dry. Place in an oven going pot. Cover completely with fat (traditionalists would use fat from whatever protein you are using…chicken fat, duck fat... but I’ve been using olive oil to great success thanks to Michael Ruhlman). Bring to a bubble on the stove, then place in a 180 degree oven for 12 hours.

*Whole Foods currently has very cost effective large format containers of olive oil.

3). Remove the pot from oven, skim any gunk off the top of the pot, and let cool. DONE. You now have confit’d… whatever. Duck legs. Chicken legs. Chicken wings. Duck wings. Go crazy. Store your “whatevers” COMPLETELY submerged in the fat in the refrigerator*, where they will keep pretty much indefinitely. Please make sure your whatevers are totally submerged in fat to preserve them safely and properly.

*Here is where a Le Creuset vessel comes in handy as it will go from refrigerator, to oven, to cool on the counter, and back to the refrigerator. Very convenient.

From here, you can simply remove your preserved legs/thighs/whatever from the fat, and reheat them on a sheet pan in the oven, perhaps broiling them a little at the end to crisp up the skin.

For the GrillTastic Food Night, I had some leftover chicken wing confit that I’d made a few weeks earlier. And I found some of the season’s first killer heirloom tomatoes at the co-op. So… this happened…

Honey Bourbon Glazed Chicken Wing Confit with Heirloom Tomato Salad
1). Make chicken wing confit, using the technique above. This can/should be done WELL in advance. Food Night added a whole pile of fresh herbs (tarragon, thyme, oregano) and lots of shaved garlic, in addition to allepo chile flakes, fennel, coriander seed and cumin to the cure. And the wings were actually on the cure for 72 hours.

2). Get started on Heirloom Tomato salad (recipe follows). You’ll want the tomatoes seasoned and sitting in a colander as you warm the wings in the oven.

3). Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove wings from fat (fat should be at room temp so it isn’t solidified), arrange on baking sheet, and place in oven to warm.

4). Whisk together the Honey Bourbon Glaze (recipe follows) while wings are warming.

5). Baste wings with glaze a time or two while they are warming.

6). Remove wings from oven. Turn on broiler. Reduce glaze in a saucepan to thicken. Baste again with thickened glaze and broil to char SLIGHTLY. Remove from oven, and baste again.

7). Lovingly arrange wings on a plate, scatter with tomatoes, garnish with more shaved radish, chives, and a few flecks of Maldon on the wings (not on the tomatoes… those are plenty seasoned).

8). Devour. But don’t eat the bones…

Heirloom Tomato Salad
Heirloom Tomatoes, of various colors
Breakfast Radish, shaved thin on a mandoline
Olive oil
Kosher Salt
Finely diced fresh green or red chile (optional)
Finely diced chives

1). Dice the tomatoes into smallish (pea sized or larger) chunks. Place in a colander, season with salt, and let stand for at least 20 minutes. The tomatoes will throw some moisture, concentrating their flavor.

2). Toss the tomatoes with the remaining ingredients and reserve for use with the wings.

Honey Bourbon Glaze
2T honey (or brown sugar if you find yourself honeyless)
Juice of half a lime
Zest of half a lime
2t sriracha hot sauce
1T whole grain mustard
1T Dijon mustard
1T soy sauce
2T bourbon
2t smoked paprika

Whisk all ingredients together. The end.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Food Night goes Grilling

As you probably have heard, it’s a weeeeeeee bit steamy here in the nation’s mid-section. How do we combat the heat at Food Night? We stand over a hot grill, that’s how. Because when you move AWAY from the grill... the sauna that is the atmosphere doesn't feel so bad! Anyway, it recently occurred to me that we have not had ONE single grilled item at Food Night.* Ever. How is that possible?! That’s a Food Night fail right there.

*Not including the braised pork shoulder which gets seared on the grill prior to braising.

For grilling inspiration, Food Night looked to the best restaurant in St. Paul… The Strip Club.

(photo by Tom Wallace, for

When not Food Nighting, you can sometimes find me enjoying proper food and drink at The too-fabulous-for-words Strip Club Meat and Fish.* Chef JD does a killer little ditty there called “meat on a stick” that changes daily and is typically served with fun little accoutrements. Who doesn’t love grilled bites with accoutrements?! Inspired (and after standing over the grill, excessively perspired), Food Night fired up the grill on a recent Saturday that was so sweltering, even the wine was sweating...

*Suggestion – if you would like to experience a perfect Saturday morning… begin at the St. Paul Farmers Market, cruise across the Street to the Heartland Market to pick up Saturday dinner proteins and whatever else, then scoot up the hill to TSC for brunch while sitting at the bar. Bang. Perfection. See you there.

Hell, we even grilled the SALAD at Food Night!

So let’s do this; let’s see if Food Night can pound out a post a day for the next four days – one for each course at the recently completed Food Night on a Stick. Yes? Yes.

Grilled Summer Salad

Like lots of things at Food Night, what follows is ripe for your brilliant and learned improvisations. Whatever you’ve got and wanna grill and make a salad out of… be my guest. But I must say… the following was super summery and delish.

- Garlic Scapes (pictured above, get ‘em at the Heartland Market, Farmers Market, etc); blanched for 30 seconds, shocked in an ice bath, patted dry,
- English Peas (shelled, blanched, shocked)
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Brussels Sprouts, halved through the core, excess leaves removed and reserved.
- Herbs (purple basil, arugula, tarragon, lemon thyme, whatever you want)
- Cucumber broth (recipe follows)
- Shallot (finely diced)
- Lemon juice
- Maldon sea salt

1). Fire up the grill, and get it HOT. (Food Night uses a gas Weber that gets blazing hot). Season scapes, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts separately with salt, pepper, and olive oil.

2). Skewer the tomatoes (soak the skewers for an hour in water if they are wood), and grill the tomatoes long enough to just blister the skins a tad and soften partially. Toss Brussels sprouts directly on the grill, they will pop and fuss a little bit, turn once to mark and soften, and remove. Grill garlic scapes to desired level of charredness.

3). Sautee reserved Brussels sprout leaves in a modest amount of olive oil for a couple minutes over med-high heat, finish with a little finely diced shallot and a splash of lemon juice.

4). Combine tomatoes, scapes, sprouts, peas, and herbs in a large bowl. Drizzle with cucumber broth, olive oil, lemon juice. GENTLY toss to combine, and sprinkle with a dash of Maldon sea salt.

5). Arrange lovingly on a plate, and finish with your favorite cured pork product from Heartland Market… Food Night used the utterly insane Wild Boar Prosciutto. Get it while you can (it’s very limited) – that stuff is funky delicious. Garnish with sautéed sprout leaves, micro arugula, and a drizzle of the cuke broth. Or, don’t.

Cucumber Broth
- 1 English cucumber, washed, rough chopped
- Handful bright green herb(s) (parsley or tarragon work great, blanch and shock for brighter green color)
- Salt (enough to season the cuke)
- Handful of Ice
- Water (maybe a ½ a cup… enough to get the mixture moving)
- Lime juice (roughly juice of ½ a lime)

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree. Extensively. Strain if you must, but not required – really depends on how finely your blender can puree the food stuffs. I like it unstrained for use in this salad as it retains some body/structure and seems more like a salad dressing substance. If strained, I’d probably emulsify it with oil for the salad dressing (as you would vinegar for vinaigrette).

Use as directed above. And with seafood. And in your favorite Hendricks Gin cocktail.*

*YEAH. Definitely use with Hendricks.