Andrew Zimmern’s crazy awesome wings

So a couple weeks back, I happened on an episode of Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Made, which is the replacement for Best Thing I Ever Ate, for which I think they just ran out of ideas and categories for. And Andrew Zimmern was on there. You know, the guy from Travel Channel who has a show called Bizarre Foods, and eats some of the absolutely craziest things that anyone would ever put in their mouth–including one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen–bull schlong. Quite honestly, I drew the line right there and haven’t watched that show since.

But when I saw him dial up this recipe for “Grandmother’s Chinese chicken wings” and my mouth was watering right away. My mouth is watering as I type this, because I tried these things two Sundays ago and they were phenomenal. I made them again this past Sunday and I may make them every Sunday until the end of time. They were that good. And it’s not like they are crispy–you make them in a large pot and essentially stir fry them for like an hour. But holy crap, the sauce is like a parade of flavors–sweet, spicy, tangy, soy-ee. Anyway, I get it. I get why he tried to re-create these for years before a friend came across the recipe from a Chinese grandma. You have to get a few ingredients you may have trouble finding–dried chiles, star anise, sake and mirin. But you can usually find stuff like that in a store like Whole Foods, or giant grocery like Woodman’s here in Madison.

So do me a favor and do Zimmern a favor and try these wings for your next party. They will go FAST.


Football season = smoked meats time

One of my favorite things about football season is that while there is a chill in the air outside (for the most part, as even in Wisconsin we have some pretty warm weather through September) is that it’s a great time to break out the indoor smoker my wife bought me a few years ago. And while typically I make chicken wings in my Cameron Indoor Smoker, and occasionally ribs–the first two weeks of the season I went a tad healthier to honor the fact that I’m trying to lose weight.

Last week it was chicken tenders–extremely easy as I put them in the smoker frozen, sprayed with cooking spray and sprinkled with salt, pepper and other spices. The cooking time is minimal compared to the low and slow time needed to “tenderize” wings and ribs. I am pretty sure the chicken smoked for about three hours and came out perfect, albeit maybe slightly overcooked before I finished the tenders on the grill. I mixed up some homemade ranch dip by mixing light mayo, light sour cream, a splash of vinegar, onion and garlic powder and salt and pepper. Perfection.

Then yesterday I made a flank steak in the smoker. And it was made even more perfect by the fact that I was in Nashville this past weekend, and picked up some Loveless Cafe dry rub–an awesome sweet, spicy and savory blend to rub on meat before grilling or smoking it. I had the steak in the freezer, so also put that right in the smoker frozen and rubbed it generously with the spice mix. Then I smoked it for about four hours until tender and slapped it on the grill for about five minutes. Done deal: meat snacks! It’s like homemade jerky, but more like a combination of thick steak and jerky that is nicely smoked and seasoned.


Try these wings…..

Chef JimBut first, you’ll need a stovetop smoker like the one I have from Cameron. When Jen and I got hooked on the Food Network about five years ago, more than one program pimped the use of a stovetop smoker, where you put a few wood chips in the bottom of the unit and put it on the stove on low heat while it smokes anything (within reason) and makes your whole house smell like bacon. But to me, nothing comes out as consistently amazing as the chicken wings. These smokers cost around $50 and are easy to store. And hey, Father’s Day is around the corner, so you might consider this for Dad. Anyway, I posted this on Grub For Guys a few years back, and it’s a good time to re-visit it….

I know most of you probably have your favorite place for Buffalo chicken wings, or any chicken wings. Either that, or you think that the ones you make yourself are better than anything else out there. Well, since this is my column, I’m going to lobby for my own take on chicken wings. And I’ve got buddies to back me up about how good they are.

Two years ago, my wife and I became enamored with the Food Network. And on more than one show, they were using this device that I just had to have – a stovetop smoker. In other words, you don’t need one of those giant, bulky contraptions to smoke meat. You can buy a small one that you put on your stove for around $50. My wife bought one for me as an anniversary gift and I still say it was the best present ever. So without making this into an infomercial, just read this article I wrote praising the Cameron indoor smoker which has links to buy one. I’m sure there are other varieties out there, but this is the only one I know of.

Okay, you’ve got your smoker, now what? Well, buy yourself a 5-pound bag of fresh or frozen chicken wings. Lay them flat on a baking sheet, and spray both sides of the wings with olive oil spray. Then sprinkle the wings with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and then a very generous shaking of any type of Cajun seasoning (I use the dry rub stuff from Rendezvous restaurant in Memphis, which you can order online).

Then, prepare the smoker according to the directions, meaning you have to put a small amount of wood chips in the bottom of the unit and spray the grill rack with cooking spray.

After this, you’re in business. Put the wings in the smoker (it will hold 5 pounds easily, 10 pounds if you stuff them in there), and smoke on low-medium heat for about 3-4 hours. Folks, this is one of the most amazing smells known to man—natural smoke that will make your whole house smell like bacon. My mouth is watering as I type this.

Anyway, once you’ve thoroughly smoked those wings, you have to finish them in the oven or on a grill. I prefer the grill, because not only do you have the smoky flavor and spice from the red pepper and Cajun seasoning, but the crispy barbecue chicken texture.
Grill them for maybe three minutes per side and then keep warm in one of those tin party platters. Or bake them for maybe 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

I have made these smoked wings for many occasions, mainly on Sundays during football season. Any time we’re having a get-together now with friends, I am asked to make them, and so far they have not disappointed. What are you waiting for?


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