I am an unabashed condiment queen. It used to be that the extent of most of America’s condiment repertoire was the trinity of ketchup-mustard-relish with maybe mayonnaise and horseradish thrown in for good measure. But go take a look at the inside of your refrigerator door right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait. I bet you have a much wider variety than that. My refrigerator door is so packed with jars and bottles it actually groans in protest every time I open it. Sure, I have the basics but also: ginger paste, oyster sauce, two kinds of thai curry pastes, a few kinds of nut butters, fish sauce, kimchi, teriyaki, hoisin, sriracha, sambal, tubes of tomato and anchovy pastes, chutneys, key lime juice and various hot sauces. It’s a very Asian influenced assortment and reflects my eating/cooking style rather accurately. This doesn’t even take into consideration the large tub full of jars of pickles, jams and even more chutneys that lives on one of the shelves. And let’s not discuss the tower of miso containers residing in one corner. I have a lot of condiment type things. An ungodly amount.
After listening to that fridge door groan a few too many times, I decided to do something with some of these condiments and the natural leap for me was a sauce for chicken wings. We’re in the heart of the best part of football season or, depending on who your team is, the pits of despair. Regardless, you’re going to need some food and for me chicken wings fit that bill perfectly. Now, Buffalo Wings have been around forever (since 1964 if you believe the internet) and while they are a classic, I’m mixing it up a bit. I’m taking a bunch of those Asian ingredients from my refrigerator door and doing a Korean riff on the buffalo wing. A kimchi buffalo wing.
I described these to a friend the other day and her first question was “what’s kimchi?” Deep in my city-girl-chef-snobbery, I came to the stark realization that not everyone has crossed path with kimchi. I felt like a jerk. So, if you’re not familiar, let me give you the upload on this kimchi stuff. It is a very typical Korean condiment made of various vegetables, usually napa cabbage but could be made from all kinds of things, that is combined with salt, garlic and a spicy Korean chile powder and left to ferment into a mess of funky deliciousness. I will admit, it is an acquired taste. Not everyone cares for it, but I do. While my favorite sources are Asian/Korean markets, kimchi can now easily be found at Whole Foods and regular grocery stores. My favorite source is a local Korean market that has a salad bar type of set up – all kinds of kimchi and pickled/fermented salads that can be bought by the pound, perfect when you want to try just a little. Taking the first leap can be a challenge – in a Korean market there are usually shelves and shelves filled with so many brands it’s overwhelming. So do what I do: watch. See what everyone else is buying and if you feel bold, ask someone which one they like and why. Believe it or not, people can be really nice and helpful. Give it a shot.
So now that you’ve got the line on kimchi let’s turn it into a wing sauce. First, I make a sorta Korean buffalo sauce – into the blender goes a big does of that kimchi, sugar, miso, fish sauce, garlic, Korean chile powder. After a short simmer a good dose of fresh chilies and lime juice are added for zip and acidity. It’s got a good funk and, depending on how hot you like it, a nice, balanced burn. Since the heat in kimchi varies widely – I’ve had some that are blazing and some that are very mild – taste the finished sauce and adjust the seasoning to how you like it. The wings are roasted with my favorite method of the moment – flour, salt, high heat – and basted with the sauce a few times during cooking until deeply caramelized and a little sticky. The flavor is sort of familiar but different and quite good.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: A BIG FUNKY HELLO! These are a good, if messy, game time snack so keep plenty of paper towels around for sticky fingers. As I mentioned above, the flavors are familiar – the heat, the stickiness – with a slight edge – the funky, the tanginess. It’s an modern update of an old favorite with the added bonus of using up a little of those multiple jars and bottles taking up space in your fridge. Case in point: this uses miso, something I have been trying to work through for the last year. It might only be 1 Tablespoon but I’ll take it.
Eight years ago: Sunchoke Soup
Seven years ago: Bacon Wrapped Dates
Six years ago: Caramelized Roasted Pears
Five years ago: Strecca di Nonna
Four years ago: Sunday Gravy
Three years ago: From Scratch Rum Cake
Two years ago: Rumaki (chicken livers and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon)
Last year: Post Holiday Granola
KIMCHI BUFFALO CHICKEN WINGS – based on this recipe
Don’t have palm sugar? Use turbinado (snag a few of those little packets of “Sugar in the Raw” from Starbucks) or light brown sugar. The heat in this sauce really depends on the heat in your kimchi – some are much spicier than others. My kimchi was more on the funky, than spicy, side and made a delicious complex sauce but wasn’t too high on the heat spectrum. I’ve added gochugaru (Korean chile powder) or cayenne to up the spice but if you’d like a bigger heat boost, add hot sauce such as Tabasco or a good habenero hot sauce, to the blender with the kimchi. You can also taste the sauce after the simmering and adjust to your liking.
for the wings:
3 pounds whole chicken wings (about 12 whole wings)
2 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
for the kimchi buffalo glaze:
1 cup chopped napa cabbage kimchi
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
2 Tablespoons palm sugar (see note above)
1 Tablespoon white miso
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon Korean chile powder (gochugaru) or 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
½ cup water
hot sauce to taste, optional
3 fresh Thai chilies or 1 serrano chile, finely minced
6 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
Cilantro leaves, thinly sliced scallions and lime wedges, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a large sheet pan with foil and spray with vegetable oil. If you have non-stick foil hanging about, this is the time to use it.
- For the glaze: in a blender, combine the kimchi, garlic, sugar, miso, fish sauce, chile powder and water; puree until smooth.
- Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- Cook over moderate heat for about 5 minutes, until slightly thickened.
- Add the lime juice and chilies. Taste and adjust the seasonings if you like.
- Transfer about ¾ of the sauce to a bowl for basting and keep the extra ¼ of the sauce separate in a clean bowl (this is to avoid any cross-contamination with the pastry brush during glazing/cooking.)
- For the wings: In a bowl, combine the flour with the salt.
- Add the wings and toss to coat.
- Spread the wings on the prepared sheet pan in a single layer and spray lightly with vegetable oil.
- Cook the wings for 15 minutes, until lightly browned.
- Using the ¾ bowl of sauce, brush the tops of the partially cooked wings, turn and brush again.
- Rotate the pan and cook another 15 minutes.
- Glaze the wings again – brush generously with the larger bowl of sauce, turn and brush again. Use all the sauce in this bowl if you can. The wings will likely stick a bit to the foil – take care to gently loosen so you don’t tear the foil.
- Rotate the pan and return to the oven for another 15 minutes until the wings are caramelized and cooked through.
- Place the cooked wings in a bowl and drizzle with the smaller amount of reserved “clean” sauce, tossing to coat.
- Transfer the wings to a serving platter and garnish with cilantro, scallions and lime wedges. Serve hot.
- Do ahead: you can make the glaze 1-2 days ahead and refrigerate until needed.