Wings are, in many ways, the perfect food. Crispy and juicy when done right, they offer the messy, almost carnal satisfaction of eating with your hands, of failing to care that your face is smeared with sauce and grease. Not a pretty experience, and all the better for it.
Much as I love classic Buffalo wings, I wanted to serve a different iteration alongside Elusive Brewing and Hop Burns & Black’s collaboration smoked porter, Aztec Challenge. Brewed with smoked cherry wood malt, pequin chiles, and scotch bonnet peppers, its kindled heat is tempered by a rich, almost sticky sweetness.
These wings respond in turn. Their sauce riffs on a Sam Sifton recipe for baked Trini-Chinese chicken, and combines Caribbean flavours - potent scotch bonnet hot sauce, the brightness of lime juice - with Chinese ingredients like oyster sauce, soya sauce, and anise-scented five-spice powder.
The wings themselves, made using J. Kenji López-Alt’s tried-and- true double-fry method, are shatteringly crisp underneath that slick of sauce. Sweet, spicy, and umami-laced, they’re just what this beer deserves.
Serves two as an appetiser, one as a main
For the wings:
1.5 litres rapeseed oil
500g chicken wings, the juiciest and fattest you can find, cut into flats and drumettes (tips removed)
For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, minced
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
3 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs dark brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbs soya sauce
2 tsp scotch bonnet-based hot sauce (try Dalston Chillis' version)
1 spring onion, white parts discarded, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
You’ll be frying the wings twice; for the first fry, add the oil and prepared wings to a deep, heavy-bottomed pan and place over medium-high heat. Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature; you’ll want to raise the heat to between 107-121 degrees C. Cook the wings, stirring and flipping occasionally, until tender and just cooked through, but not golden on the outside, roughly 15-20 minutes.
Remove with tongs or a spider-style strainer to a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack and lined with paper towels. Let rest an hour at room temperature or covered in the fridge overnight.
When ready to do your second fry, heat the oil to 205 degrees C and remove your chicken from the fridge. While it’s heating up, prep the sauce: place a small saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the garlic and ginger and stir frequently until the raw flavour and aroma has dissipated and the mixture is starting to brown, 3-5 minutes. Next, add the five-spice powder and stir quickly to toast before adding the oyster sauce, dark brown sugar, lime juice, soya sauce, and hot sauce. Turn heat to low and cook until just warmed through, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Once the oil is at temperature, carefully add the chicken pieces with tongs to avoid splattering. Stir to make sure they’re not sticking to each other or the bottom of the pot. Cook, keeping the oil temperature ideally between 190-200 degrees (it will drop when the wings are added) for roughly 10 minutes, or until the wings are crispy and golden. Remove from the oil to the wire rack and let rest for a moment.
Pour your sauce into a large bowl and add the wings. Toss well until all pieces are well coated. Serve in a bowl, topped with sliced spring onion and toasted sesame seeds.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a bottle of our Elusive collab Aztec Challenge while you can.