Mina's Green Harissa Chicken Wings with Preserved Lemon DipFriday, December 12, 2014
Disclaimer: I received a product sample and compensation for this post. The opinions and text are all mine.
In my first take, I roasted the chicken wings and tossed them in a sauce made with the green harissa, butter, parsley and cilantro. Yummy and reminiscent of the way I've done a lot of other roasted wings. Not so photogenic though, I will admit, and I knew I could come up with something a little more creative. I eyed the tub of Greek yogurt sitting in the fridge and had an idea to use the harissa as a marinade for my wings instead of as the sauce. Moroccan flavors and yogurt work beautifully together, so the combo seemed a natural fit. I've also had great success grilling yogurt marinated chicken breast in the past, so I figured why not try wings. I whisked together some yogurt with the harissa to make a thick marinade and tossed a small batch of wings in it, reserving half of the same mixture to make a dipping sauce. A few hours later I was ready to cook. Or so I thought. As my son walked by and saw the yogurt coated wings he said, "That looks like buttermilk. Are you frying those?" And I paused for a moment, realizing he was right, and wondered why in the world I didn't think of it myself. I eyed a jug of peanut oil I had in the pantry and knew my soul wouldn't rest until I at least tried it. The rest is history, because fried wings always win.
I decided to take the dipping sauce in slightly different direction for my final recipe trial as well. I've had this huge jar of preserved Meyer lemons sitting in my fridge for a couple months. Preserved lemons are fresh lemons that have been cured in a salty brine. You can actually eat the rind once preserved, so I like to use Meyer lemons which are even softer and sweeter. They're really easy to make, the only hard part is waiting three weeks. I followed this recipe from The Kitchn. I've chopped them up for salads and stews, but other than that haven't really figured out how to best use them. It's one of those cooking projects everybody tells you to do, and then once it's done you're like - ok, now what? So the sauce ended up being a cool experiment using those lemons, which are often used in Moroccan recipes. You can buy preserved lemons in many upscale grocery stores, but I really suggest going ahead and trying your hand at making a batch while Meyer lemons come into season this month and through the winter!
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp Ras el Hanout spice blend*
2 tsp black pepper
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon and 2 tsp lemon juice
Prep Time: 15 min active; at least 2 hours marinating time
Cook Time: 30 min
Equipment Suggested: 8 cup capacity deep fryer or large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven pot; blender or food processor, candy/deep frying thermometer
Finally, stir in the chopped cilantro. I like to do this part separately so that the whole sauce doesn't turn green in the blender. If you're not a big cilantro fan, parsley or mint would work too. Chill the sauce until needed.
Last thing to do before you're ready to fry is get the flour seasoned to dredge the chicken. At this time I also preheat my oil in the Dutch oven (or deep fryer if you're using that...I miss mine!)
In keeping with the "plastic bags are easier" theme, I just mixed up the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and Ras El Hanout in a clean bag.
Toss the marinated chicken in the flour and shake up the bag so everything gets coated evenly. It's easier to do this in a couple batches to give the chicken enough room.
You want the oil to reach a temperature of 375°F before you drop in the wings. Use a candy thermometer that you can clip to the side of your pot, or a probe thermometer like the one I have below. That way you can monitor the oil temperature continuously while you fry and adjust the heat if necessary.
Of course, if you have a deep fryer your life is infinitely easier. I had to give mine up in the move and miss it dearly. Follow the manufacturer's directions for frying chicken.
When you're using an open pot or skillet to fry, a splatter screen is a great inexpensive investment as well. Besides preventing a mess on your stovetop, some are also made to absorb odors.
Chicken wings don't take long at all to fry when fully submerged in oil, 5 to 7 minutes depending on their size. Color is the best indicator, so look for the wings to turn a deep golden brown. If they are browning too fast the oil is probably too hot, and the meat might not cook all the way through on the inside. (If that ever happens, you can still save your wings - just finish baking them in the oven!)
Because cookware and ingredients vary so widely it's hard to provide an exact formula here. Frying is still a little bit intuitive no matter how good the recipe is. Just remember that you can always fry one chicken wing to test if you're unsure, and you'll become more comfortable with the process the more you do it. Just don't drop too many wings in the pot at once or it will bring the temperature of the oil down too much. Frying in oil that isn't hot enough is what results in greasy chicken because the breading absorbs too much oil instead of instantly creating a crispy seal around the meat. In between batches, let the oil come back up to temperature before adding more chicken.
When you remove the fried chicken, transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet and hit it with a very light pinch of salt.
Serve the fried chicken with that lemony yogurt dip you made, and plenty of green harissa on the side for some extra heat!
Thanks again to Mina for allowing me to feature her harissa in another recipe. It is always fun to challenge yourself to use a familiar ingredient in a brand new way!