Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings with Chilies, Garlic, and Thai Basil

Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings

Since I never deep fry at home, I love to order deep fried stuff when I go out. The dish that I almost always get at Chinese restaurants is salt and pepper pork chops, jiao yan pai gu. Small pieces of pork chops are flavored with salt and pepper, lightly dredged in flour, and deep fried until crispy. It gets even better when some restaurants top the dish with stir fried chopped chilies, thin slices of golden fried garlic, and deep fried thai basil leaves. I wanted to recreate this dish at home with chicken wings. By pan frying the chicken wings, I was able to get a nice crispy skin then I cooked the chilies, garlic slices, and basil leaves briefly in the hot oil and tossed that with the wings. The garlic isn't as fragrant and crispy as the deep fried stuff but the flavor is still there. In addition to black and white pepper, you add some ground szechuan peppercorns when seasoning the wings or finish the dish with a sprinkling of szechuan peppercorn salt for an interesting kick.

Quick Tip:
After purchasing a bunch of basil, snip the ends of the stems off as you would with cut flowers and store the basil in a glass of water by a bright window. I've been able to keep basil happy like this for over 2 weeks now.

Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings
Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings with Chilies, Garlic, and Thai Basil

2 lbs chicken wings, cut into wingettes and drumettes
1/4 C flour
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 jalapenos, seeds and pith removed and cut into a 1/4 in dice
3 cloves of garlic, cut into thin slices
Handful or two of thai basil leaves, larger leaves torn in half

Season the chicken wings with salt, white pepper, and black pepper (it's best if the black pepper is freshly ground). Lightly dredge in flour. If the wings aren't seasoned enough at this stage, you can season them more after cooking.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken wings and brown on all sides. Cover the pan and let the chicken wings cook over medium low to medium heat. If the pan gets too dry add a little water. Cook for about 15 minutes. Remove the cover and begin to crisp up the chicken again. The chicken wings are fully cooked when no blood coming out of the bones, juices are clear, and the internal temperature 180 degrees F. Remove the chicken wings to a rack to keep them crispy.

By now a lot of fat will have rendered from the skin. Drain the fat from the pan, reserving about 1 - 2 tablespoons. Return the pan to medium heat. Add the garlic slices and cook until they start to turn a little golden. Add the diced jalapenos and saute briefly. Off heat, add the thai basil leaves and toss the leaves with the rest of the hot ingredients. Toss the chicken wings with the chilies and basil leaves. Transfer to a platter and serve. Add more pepper and salt if it needs additional seasoning. I always like to add a little more freshly ground black pepper.

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