Friday, July 10, 2009

Chicken Wings and an Epiphany

Today was Chicken Wing day on the grill. A big success. Actually, I am trying to clean the freezer out of stuff that has been in the way for awhile. The Mrs. and I bought a bag of frozen chicken wings about a year ago as a "just in case" item to have if we are surprised by guests. Ordinarily, I avoid the frozen food aisle when I want to cook wings, and buy as fresh as I can. But it never hurts to have just in case items about ... you know, just in case.

But, a year is probably too long to have things in the freezer, so time to use them up. I was still pretty pleased with myself from yesterday's experiment with the flight of steak marinades, that I decided to repeat with another flight of flavorings. My bag contained 24 wing parts, I divided them up into 4 batches of 6 parts each. I put these parts into 4 ziplock bags and marinated.

I repeated a couple of the sauces from yesterday. The successful Garlic Power and Raspberry Chipotle were used, as well as a couple more bottles of different BBQ sauces. I had a little Stubb's Mesquite left, and was happy to empty the bottle. I also have some Sticky Fingers Carolina Sweet and use that for my fourth. I added about 1/2 cup of sauce to each bag and rubbed them in well. I let these sit for about 2 hours in the fridge hoping that the flavor would invade the meat.

OK, cooking time. Wings are simple to cook on a grill. Start with a hot grill, place the wings at a slight angle so the pretty grill marks are formed. Immediately, drop the heat to medium, and cook away. While you should never walk away from a grill while it is cooking, it is especially true for wings. The meat is very thin, and the line between undercooked, just right, too well done and burnt is not very long. Unlike a steak, where you really should only flip once, wings should be flipped several times during the cooking process.

But, this is not a how to cook wings blog, it is a flavoring experiment blog. So, how did the tastes differ?

Surprisingly enough, not a great deal. the wings were certainly flavored. I could tell the difference between the Raspberry Chipotle and the rest fairly easy. The Chipotle certainly leaves an after taste that I love. Lots of flavor, and just a little spicy. Even my resident, "be careful and don't make it too hot" wife enjoyed these alot. The other 3 sauces tasted remarkably similar. All accented the meat, flavor was there, but the extra flavor was very slight. I purposly chose to NOT brush on any sauce during the cooking process; something I generally do. I wanted to see what the marinade alone does.

I found out, and I found out something about my tastes...

I enjoy the tastes of flavor enhanced meat. I do not enjoy sauced meat nearly as much.

Let me give you a couple examples... i have friends who enjoy going to trivia night at a chain restaurant called Buffalo Wild Wings. The company is terrific, the game is fun, the beer is cold. But, the wings are awful. The menu lists 15 or 29 different sauces, ranging from sweet to painfully hot. 2 minutes before the wings are served, a "chef" coats the order in whatever sauce has been requested. They always arrive over sauced, and are just awful. I guess the theory is to offer enough choices that no one has a right to complain; as you will certainly get the wings arriving in the taste requested. But the meat is soulless.

A more complicated example is my neighbor Tom. He is also a bit of a foodie, a competitive BBQ veteran with several winning titles under his belt, with a specialty in sausage. We have a history in the neighborhood of enjoying each others cooking. Our annual chili cookoff is something to behold.

Tom is defiantly influenced by Kansas City Bar-B-Que. He makes his own sauces, experiments with them and has his favorites. The Mrs. and I enjoyed 4th of July at his place for some terrific ribs and sausage from his smoker. They were terrific, and I ate myself bloated full. But... he chose a sauce that over powered the meat. It was sweet, to the point of being almost candy sweet. Good, but honestly, let's taste the pork, and not the sauce. Back to the point of this post, he also does a great round of wings. He spends a lot of time selecting the plumpest and freshest. He has a terrific sauce with just the right amount of spices. They are terrific, but... Again, a very powerful sauce.

Well, to each his own, but the point of this blog is for me to journey into my food knowledge, appreciation and abilities. So, for me, I will flavor the meat, but will let the flavor only accent the meat.

Just my opinion

But, to each

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