by Ben Miller
Unlike Spencer, I had the good sense to not let anything resembling a vegetable near by Super Bowl spread (and yes, that included celery and carrots for wings). Instead, I picked up a gallon of peanut oil, which I used to make my own french fries and chicken wings (both buffalo and Old Bay). I also snagged two pounds of stew meat, which I used to make chili.
Unfortunately, due to voracious appetites, the food at our non-exclusive party disappeared too fast to be photographed, so you’ll have to excuse the lack of pictures.
Overall, I’d probably rank the fries as my favorite thing, followed by the Old Bay wings and then the chili. The Buffalo wings were good too, but I used a jarred sauce for that, so I don’t count that as much as my own creation. The french fry and wing recipes and comments are after the jump. I’ll post the chili later.
One of the tricks to deep frying something is getting your oil ready. This is actually more complicated than just pouring it in a pot and heating it. That is because fresh oil has not broken down enough to interact with the water that is the predominant ingredient in the chemical makeup of almost all foods. Here’s how Russ Parsons from How to Read a French Fry explains it:
When a piece of food is dropped into hot oil, the heat evaporates any moisture on the outside of the food. Since the food is surrounded by oil, the moisture forms a very thin barrier between the oil and what is being fried. Fresh oil can’t penetrate that barrier.
Fortunately, some of the by-products of the breakdown of oil are chemical compounds called soaps. … The chemical soaps in the frying process penetrate the water barrier and bring the oil into direct contact with the food being cooked, allowing both browning and thorough cooking.
In other words, once you get the oil hot enough, be prepared to either re-fry the first few things you put in there, or just throw them out entirely.
Because of this, I decided to make the french fries first. This worked out well because the recipe actually cals for frying them twice.
Homemade French Fries
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated ($), though you really don’t need a recipe
- Candy thermometer
- Dutch oven or large pot that is wide enough to give you a fair amount of cooking area and deep enough so you don’t burn yourself
- A brown paper bag
- A large bowl
- Ice cubes
- As many potatoes as you want (I used Russett, I’ve heard they taste different depending on what you use, but I can’t verify this)
- A lot of peanut oil (I bought a gallon and probably used 75 percent of it
- Bacon grease (optional)
- Cut the potatoes into whatever size you want (bigger ones will just take longer to fry). You will probably want them all in a uniform size though so that you don’t overcook some and undercook others.
- Rinse the cut potatoes thoroughly for a few minutes under running water. Place them in a large bowl, cover with cold water and ice cubes. Place in fridge for at least 30 minutes. This step is important so that you don’t overcook them when you fry them. Keeping the center cold will give you that nice blend of a crispy outside and soft interior.
- Meanwhile, pour the oil in your dutch oven or pot and head it to 350 degrees. This actually will take some time, so be prepared. You can also add the bacon grease here if you are using it. I did, but that’s only because I happened to have a little extra from the chili.
- Take the fries out of the bowl and dry them thoroughly. Place them (carefully) in the oil. Fry them for about 8 minutes until they change colors (this will take longer at first). Then remove them with a spoon or something that won’t take the oil too and place in a paper bag.
- Let the fries rest in the paper bag for at least 10 minutes, then place them back in the oil for another quick fry — another minute or two. Place on plates lined with paper towels, serve and enjoy.
Chicken Wings Two Ways
Now that your oil should be broken down, you are ready to make your chicken wings. Normally, I would have attempted to make my own sauce, but frankly, the demands of chili, fries, and wings made that kind of difficult.
- As many chicken wings as you want (keep in mind each wing is two pieces to fry)
- Salt and Pepper
- Old Bay
- Wing Sauce (you can really use so many different things here. The grocery store has some pre-bottled ones, I used Williams & Sonoma last year and liked it. This year I used Frank’s, it was pretty good, though not as hot.
The only difference on the wing type comes at the end so follow these until the final step.
- Wash the chicken wings and then cut up the tips. Halve the wings at the joint and wrap in paper towels to dry.
- Make sure the oil heat gets up to 375. The temperature drops when you add something, so it needs to be hot at first. You’re also going to want to heat your oven to around 200 degrees and place a sheet with paper towels on them to keep your cooked wings warm.
- Season the wings with salt and pepper and then dredge in flour. Carefully place them in the oil. Fry for about 10 minutes (again longer for the first batch if your oil is fresh). When they are done, remove them with a slotted spoon and place on the sheet in the oven.
- When all the wings are fried, you can then choose your sauce.
- For Buffalo wings: Follow the directions on the bottle if you are using it. Heat it up, and then pour it over the wings in a bowl. Shake to coat and serve.
- For Old Bay wings: Sprinkle Old Bay on both sides of the wings. Be careful. Old Bay can be very salty so you want enough so that it tastes good, but don’t overdo it.
Again, you can really make the sauce whatever you want. I’d imagine something that combined Uncle Brutha’s hot sauce would be delicious. As far as I can tell anything that uses vinegar, Tabasco or other hot sauce, some cayenne pepper, and a few other ingredients will probably do the trick.