TL;DR Westcoast’s take on modernizing some of his favorite Indian meals. In part 1 we work on the main course and in part 2 we will do a dessert! Indian Cuisine, Meat cooking, creating amazing wings, and the Taylor-Nicki feud all are covered here.

Final Recipe: An appetizer course where we modernized an Indian dish of Butter Chicken and created “Butter Chicken” Wings: double cooked wings with a spicy and savory butter chicken gravy dip .

Soundtrack to this post: Chainsmokers – Good Intentions

Inspiration

It was my prediction a couple years back that Indian food would slowly continue to rise in prominence in the states becoming one of the “fad” ethnic cuisines. While I was in NY I surely saw that rise, but in LA it is even more apparent. Indian food is becoming mainstream. And mainstream usually distorts a cuisine–either for the best or worst.

Like the emergence of Chinese food, Indian food has been “American-ized”, apparent from the widely spread but marginally authentic Chicken Tikka Masala. This Neo-American+Indian cuisine hasn’t been a favorite of mine and I usually moan at the suggestion of eating Indian food at a restaurant other than the hole-in-the-wall more home-y grocery store meals that can be very satisfying.

Another problem with the change is that while the taste and quality has taken a step back, the presentation and preparation hasn’t changed.

I was inspired by this frustration to start developing my own evolved Indian recipes.

Research

One of my favorite North Indian (for a quick overview on Indian Cuisine) dishes is Butter Chicken–creamy, spicy, fragrant, and saucy. Some people will remark it’s similarity to Chicken Tikka Masala, I am insulted by the comparison (unless the CTM is properly made then there are similarities).

 

Butter-Chicken

Picture by Moti Mahal

It saddened me that East Coast hadn’t heard of this dish. Butter chicken isn’t a dish with a long cultural history (I do a more historical dish in part 2). Rather, butter chicken was developed by the restaurant chain Moti Mahal in the 1950s. Growing up eating North Indian and Punjabi food this dish was of my top choices and I often miss the properly made version you get in Delhi.

My recipe was passed down to me from an Aunt and regarding the flavor profile, I kept close to the flavors in the recipe below. If you want to create the original butter chicken substitute larger chicken pieces for the wings and cook them in the gravy rather than our preparation.

The take I was playing with was making “Butter Chicken” Chicken Wings. Taking that delicious gravy and turning it into a playful, finger food.

My research starts here:

Looking for recipes on creating the best chicken wings is a bit like the Taylor vs. Nicki debacle–there’s a lot of arguing and people don’t actually know what they are saying. Sidenote: Why the hell are the choosing to have these conversations on Twitter? Also, Katy, you need to back off my girl. Anyways.

Batter vs. Non-Battered

People have different preferences here.

Battering your wings is usually a great way to easily get that crispy outside as well as add flavor directly to the wings instead of a dip/sauce. Battered wings will also look bigger.  On the downside, batter doesn’t always stick to the wings and requires additional ingredients to execute properly.

Non-Battered (the method I used) is used if you want to get a ultra crispy skin as well as provides a low carb option. I also am a fan of saucy wings which goes well with non-battered wings.

Double Cooking

Understanding meat (our supplement) comes handy here. Chicken wings need three things: Moist Interior, Crispy Outside, and Flavor. Last first, the flavor will come from a quick marinade but mainly from the dipping sauce.

To get a moist interior, wings have to be cooked for an extended amount of time at a low temperature for the collagen to break down but not dry out. This is the problem with conventional frying of wings–you get a crispy outside but dry out the meat. The solution to this problem is double cooking your wings: start with an extended cooking time retaining your moisture and then fry the wings for a reduced amount of time.

There are three popular approaches:

  • Modernist Cuisine – Sous Vide the chicken followed by a fry
  • Serious Eats – Confit version of either baking/stovetop cooking at a low temperature followed by a fry
  • Alton Brown – Steam the wings followed by baking

The problem I had the the first approach was developing a crunchy exterior. Due to starting sous vide, it become exceptionally important to use batter to get the crisp. Alton’s method (seemingly more healthy) doesn’t get a crisp that I desired. I sided with Serious Eat’s method.

Development

At this stage I know that there are two main components to my dish: the wings and the sauce. My wings would be crispy and have fresher flavors while the sauce will be more savory and spicy.

IMG_0276

 

I adapted my original butter chicken recipe retaining the step of marinating the chicken before cooking. The wings would then follow the Serious method of a low temperature bake followed by frying.

For the dipping sauce, I would start with the original preparation of the gravy. I would then emulsion blend and pass the gravy into sieve to get a finished looking sauce, and optionally thickening with xanthan gum as needed.

Flavor Profile

  • Taste: heat, cream, spices, tomato-y, chicken
  • Aroma: the smell of the gravy will be most prominent (tomato, cream, spices)
  • Mouthfeel: crunch of the wings, moist and creamy inside and sauce
  • X-factor: a new twist on a popular indian dish

Plating

There isn’t much you can do with chicken wings. Maybe an option without the sauce and one with the wings tossed/being dipped.

Testing/Execution

Ingredients (2 servings)

  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 tsp tumeric (haaldi)
  • 2 tablespoons red spice powder (mirch)
  • A pinch fenugreek (kasoori methi)
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp corander
  • 1-2 lbs Chicken wings (are you a big eater?)
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Frying oil

Equipment:

Marinade

IMG_0271

Start with the marinade. Cut your wings into the three subsections (keeping the tips for a stock):

IMG_0272

(Optional): You can actually remove the second bone in the wing pieces to make it easier to eat later. What I will do is at the least make a cut in-between the large and small bone that will make it easier to remove later on:

IMG_0273

Combine the marinade items (wings, yogurt, a bit of oil, 1 tablespoon red spice, coriander, cumin, chopped ginger, lemon juice, salt & pepper):

IMG_0275

Shake and refrigeration for 30 minutes – overnight.

Sauce

IMG_0277

Start by putting butter, garlic, s&p, red mirch, and the tomato puree into a pan or pot:

IMG_0279

Wait for it to cook and then add pureed fresh tomatoes. After cooking for 10-15 minutes, taste and add additional spices as necessary.

Finally, add the tumeric and fenugreek methi when you think that it is almost done. Mix well and then put in the cream. You’ll notice that the brilliant orange color has started to develop. Cook for another 2 minutes, taste, and then remove.

If you find the sauce is too thick add a bit of water, if it is too thin wait until after straining to blend xanthan gum.

IMG_0280

 

Emulsion blend the mixture:

IMG_0281

And then pass through a sieve:

IMG_0282

And the result is this amazingness:

IMG_0286

Taste it. Glorious. (Again, the consistency is up to you.)

The Wings

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

Remove the marinade from the fridge a briefly heat up a dutch oven, oil and wings on the stove. Serious eats says to cook until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees but I “winged” it:

IMG_0287

 

Place in oven for ~50 minutes covered. And here is the after pic:

IMG_0288

Remove and dry over paper towels for a hour:

IMG_0289

Frying

The final stretch now. Heat up a pot of oil and fry your wings in batches for around 3 minutes (until crispy) and remove onto a bed of tissue to soak extra oil.

Dig in! Eat hot!

Plating of Butter Chicken Wings

Photo-3 Photo-4 ButterChicken Butterchick

Post Game Analysis

  • Eat warm and with plenty of gravy (and tissues)
  • I used a bit too much coriander and the taste came through a bit too strong
  • Something sweet or sour to accompany the wings would be great to cut the richness (like pickles)