When I first published my post on fresh Lemongrass several weeks ago, one of my readers and fellow-bloggers, Madam Weebles, left a comment recalling her first experience with a dish of Lemongrass Chicken. Other than saying how much she liked it, she didn’t describe the dish in much detail but she inspired me to try an experiment paring the two. As I am still wifeless until a few days from now, I decided to do an appetizer sort of composition rather than a main course plate and so, on this occasion, I am just going to use the wings…
- 12 Chicken Wings, middle sections only;
- 2 slices Ginger;
- 2 – 4” sections of fresh Lemongrass;
- 2 tbsp. Sugar;
- 3 tbsp. Dark Soy Sauce;
- 1 tbsp. finely shredded Ginger;
- 1 tbsp. Lemongrass Paste;
- 1 tbsp. Lime juice;
- 2 stalks of Scallion (green part only), cut in 3” shreds;
For the lemongrass paste, you could grind some of the fresh stuff yourself, or else use a commercial product. For this experiment, I will be trying out the Lemongrass-in-a-tube I purchased a while ago.
Heat 2 cups of water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Give the lemongrass a good whack with the flat edge of a knife to partially crush it and then add the pieces to the water along with the sugar, the ginger and the soy sauce. Allow this simmer for a good thirty minutes or so until the water is infused with the flavors of the ginger and lemongrass.
While the pot is simmering, use the tip of a sharp knife and prick the wings all over to help them absorb flavors. At the end of the simmering time, add the wings and turn up the heat. As soon as the water begins to boil, immediately cover and remove the pan from the heat. Let it sit until it cools to room temperature. At this point, you can proceed directly to the next step, or else put the pot in the fridge until you are ready for the final cooking. Doing this is not strictly necessary, but allowing the wings to sit in the cooking fluid for as long as possible will allow more flavor to penetrate the flesh.
When you are ready to cook, drain the wings, discarding the ginger and lemongrass, and pat them dry with a paper towel. Then, heat your wok over a moderately hot flame and add a tablespoon or two of oil. When the oil is hot, add the wings and sauté until they are nicely browned, sprinkling with the pepper as you do so.
Once the wings are done, move them up the sides of the pan and add the shredded ginger. Let them brown ever so slightly and add the lemongrass paste and the lime juice. As soon as you smell the aroma, toss the wings back into the mix and stir until they are glazed and the lime juice has largely evaporated. Add the shredded scallion, reserving about a quarter of it for garnish, and toss a few more times until the scallion is wilted. Plate and garnish with the remaining scallion shreds before serving.
Well, this experiment, I have to say, was a revelation on a couple of different levels…
When I first tasted the result I was slightly disappointed as I was expecting a bit of a taste ‘jolt’ from the lemongrass. That didn’t happen actually, but, after I set aside my preconceptions and approached the taste test with a little more objectivity, I found a fresh appreciation for the result.
First of all, the wings had a succulence and tenderness that I haven’t often experienced and I can see that the pre-poaching (which I haven’t tried with wings before) is well worth the effort. Secondly, the actual taste was lovely and subtle… the lemongrass flavor was apparent, but it existed more of a background and didn’t dominate the natural taste of the chicken but, rather, enhanced it quite nicely. I was expecting something very different from the process as a whole but, instead, ended up with an unanticipated and very pleasant success…
Anyway, there are some tweaks I would like to make here (possibly deep-frying the wings briefly rather than sautéing before adding the other flavoring ingredients), but one of the interesting things that came out of this experiment was a result of the poaching…
Although I planned to cook the wings on the same day I poached them, I ended up letting them chill in the poaching liquid overnight. If you look closely, you can see, as I did the following day, that the resultant stock has formed a thick jelly. This is something I usually only see after cooking stocks for a very long time, and generally only when I use good marrow bones and pork skin… Accordingly, this experiment was, I said above, something of a revelation, and a process I mean to experiment with further.
From the dozen chicken wings (and only the middle portions at that), I achieved a cup of lovely thick stock using only two cups of water. This batch, flavored as it is with lemongrass, would probably make a great base for a Thai style sour shrimp soup (and I may use it for that in the next few days), but I hope you will keep following along as I investigate the technique in future experiments…