A Taste of India

The United States isn’t the only country where chicken wings are consumed. Thanks to my friend Divya and her husband David, I had the privilege of sampling wings how they’re prepared 8,453 miles away, from the comfort of my apartment on the Eastern Seaboard.

Last weekend, Divya’s parents were in town visiting from India. To celebrate, Divya and David threw them a cocktail party with Indian Hors d’Oeuvres. One of these goodies just happened to be the Keralan Wings pictured above.

Seasoned with toasted cumin, red and black pepper, these wings hail from the city of Cochin, Kerala, a former Portuguese colony near the southern tip of India. The region of Kerala, and the rest of southern India, has brilliant and varied cooking not widely available in the U.S., that features seafood, coconut chutney, unique breads and too many things to begin to list. These wings are not a traditional dish, but adapted from those served at The Brunton Boatyard.

I was unable to attend the party, but Divya and David were kind enough to make me a doggie bag of 14 wings.

I put the foil wrapped wings in the oven for 20 minutes at 450 degrees. As they began to cook, crackling sounds and the smell of toasted cumin slowly filled up my kitchen. When the timer went off, I carefully placed them on a plate one by one.

The turmeric, paprika, and pimento spices gave the wings a unique yellow color.

They had a wonderful smokey flavor and the meat fell off the bone, making them extremely easy to eat. I finished off the plate within minutes. They were pleasantly unlike any wing I’ve ever tried, so I thought it’d be nice to share David’s recipe with all of you. Enjoy!

Chicken wings
Black Pepper
Red pepper, Cayenne or Indian
Toasted Cumin — SEE NOTE
Smoked paprika
Spanish Pimenton — Optional
Whole lemon, finely minced
Lemon juice
White Vinegar
White wine, or beer
Scotch Bonnet/Habanero hot sauce, or your favorite — Optional
Vegetable Oil

(All ingredients to taste)

Separate upper/lower wings (if broiling) with kitchen shears or a knife, discard tips if attached, place in large mixing bowl.  Coat well with salt and dry spices.  The primary flavorings here, along with salt, are cumin and the peppers — turmeric and paprika (and pimenton) serve primarily to add color.  Coat with generous amount of peeled ginger and garlic pureed in a food processor (think lots — huge stalk[s] of ginger and a couple heads of garlic for a large batch).  Puree a whole lemon in processor, add.  Transfer wings to a large Ziploc, work in batches if you have a lot of wings or a less than massive bowl

Add a relatively small amount of lemon juice, white vinegar and white wine (or dash of beer or water) to the mixing bowl to collect remaining flavor.  Just enough to help the dry and aromatic ingredients of what is an essentially dry marinade to circulate.  Add dash of vegetable oil, and a generous amount of hot sauce of your choice to round out the heat, if desired.  Pour all liquid over wings and seal, marinate for eight to 24 hours.  Turn the bag occasionally to insure marinade is evenly distributed

To Broil:  Place two even rows of wings in a 8″x12″ baking dish.  Make sure some marinade solids are on each wing.  Brush with a small amount of additional oil, if you want, to give the wings some additional sizzle, and sprinkle with small amount of sugar to get some char.  Place on the oven rack immediately under a hot broiler, about three inches clearance.  Broil for approximately 10 minutes, until they just start to blacken.  Flip wings with tongs, being somewhat careful to displace as little crust as possible, and repeat dressing step described above.  Broil for another 10 minutes, then leave in a medium oven (350 degrees) for an additional 10 minutes to thoroughly tenderize and cook through

To Grill:  Leave the upper and lower wing portions connected.  Charcoal is always the superior way to grill; if using any lighter fluid or E-Z start briquettes let any petroleum burn completely off before you grill, and reduce to medium/hot embers.  Proceed as per broiling, char slightly on both sides, and try grilling with a closed lid — the goal is to impart as much smoke flavor as possible, without retaining any of petrol.  If you have enough grill space, move wings off the direct fire once charred to get 10 minutes of indirect heat elsewhere on the grill.  Otherwise, finish in medium oven for a few minutes

NOTE, TOASTED CUMIN:  You may be able to buy, but in theory, toasted cumin’s smokiness fades in about two weeks.  To make it yourself, pour whole cumin seeds into a hot skillet.  Stir seeds off and on as they darken from greenish brown to dark brown.  Transfer to a small food processor (smaller ones concentrate the blade power by confining the seeds to a small space), and grind to a powder — detach the lid when you’ve just pulverized hot toasted cumin, and and watch/smell the cumin smoke fill your kitchen — or use a coffee or pepper grinder.  You still face the freshness issue, but it’s too good not to have in your cupboard, fresh, or not so.  Indispensable for Mexican, Southwestern food, and more.

2011 Wing Count: 840
Sauce: Keralan Wings
Rating: 4 Tums

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