22 April 2012

Maple Harissa Chicken Wings

This post should have been a cookbook review.

But it's not.

A few months ago I received a gorgeous-looking book about Moroccan cooking.  Then I read it.


Let's ignore the writing style that oozes braggadocious smarm and reeks of self-satisfaction.

Let's ignore little gems like telling the reader if they want to use this cookbook they should get a scale that weighs in fractions of a gram (since getting the book I've checked every kitchenware department I've come across and cannot find one that measures such minutiae...one gram, not a problem...less than that, I'd have to special order it in.

Aye, there's the rub.

Every cookbook review I do includes several recipes reviews, with each recipe blindly followed, you'd think I were a sheep crossed with a Disney-prodded lemming.  There's no question that the book had a lot of recipes...the question was which recipes intrigued me enough to try them?

Apparently each recipe I found interesting required me prepping ingredients at least a month in advance, or scouring my local shops for ingredients they hadn't heard of.   And those ingredients I could find made me balk at the pricetag.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm all for authenticity, but this book really made it clear to me that this book--and many others are really written for those in major metropolitan areas (and yes, I do live in a CMA of more than half a million people...but that's not big enough to carry some of these ingredients).  Home cooks who would like to try these recipes who don't have easy access to more exotic ingredients would have to order them in or try and make do with what they have, not really knowing what the called-for herbs and spices really taste like.

Needless to say...the book is still untested...and probably will remain so.

In the meanwhile...the book did trigger something.

Although his harissa recipe called for spices I couldn't find, the idea of harissa grabbed me.  After looking up other recipes and playing with the flavours, another idea grabbed me.  

Maple-harissa chicken wings: the smokiness of the spices matched maple syrup's smokiness.  Sweet and hot are generally a good combination.  It's a spicier version of honey-garlic and a smokier version of sweet thai chilli.

The wings also gave me an opportunity to try out Alton Brown's chicken wing preparation technique I saw ages ago --essentially render the fat first by steaming the wings and then roast the wings on a cookie rack.  It's a bit labour intensive but the end result isn't too bad.

The sauce is sweet, hot and smoky.  It may be too hot for some, and if you find it so, add a bit of roasted pepper or tomato paste to the pan with the maple syrup and balance flavours to taste.  

Maple Harissa Chicken Wings

Yield 750g/1.5lbs

750g (1.5lbs) chicken wings, split into drummettes and wings

For the sauce
For the Harissa
0.5tsp (2.5ml) coriander seeds
0.5tsp (2.5ml) caraway seeds
0.25tsp (1.25) cumin seeds
2dspn (20ml/4tsp) lemon juice
5 dried chillies, soaked in boiling water for 45 minutes
2 garlic cloves
0.25tsp (1.25ml) salt
1Tbsp (15ml) olive oil

3Tbsp Maple Syrup (to taste)
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
1-2 tsp (5-10ml) tomato paste or minced roasted red peppers (optional, to taste)


Preheat the oven to 225C/425F. Lay a tea towel or a double layer of paper towels on a baking sheet. Set a cooling rack over top the towels and set aside.

To cook the chicken wings, set about 2-3cm (approximately 1") of water to boil in a large pot. Lay the wings in a steamer basket and set in the pot. Lid the pot and let steam over medium heat for about 10 minutes.Remove the wings from the basket, place on the cooling rack, and pat dry. Let the wings cool. Remove the towels and line the tray with tin foil. Roast for 40 minutes, turning the wings once.

Start the sauce while the wings are roasting.  Toast the coriander, caraway and cumin in a dry pan, over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the seeds have darkened and have released their aromas, remove the pan from the hob and tip the spices onto a plate to cool (five-10 minutes). Grind to a paste the toasted spices with the rehydrated chillies, garlic, salt, olive oil and lemon juice.

In a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, mix the harissa with the maple syrup. Taste the sauce--if it is too spicy for you, you can temper its zing by adding some tomato paste or finely chopped roasted red pepper. Balance flavours to taste.

When the wings are done roasting tip them into a bowl and pour the sauce over top. Toss the wings so they are evenly coated.

  • If you don't want to make your own harissa, use about three-four tablespoons of bought sauce.
  • You don't have to cook the wings in above-prescribed manner--if you prefer to bake or fry the wings, please do.

I'm a quill for hire!


K and S said...

sounds and looks wonderful!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Rigidity will lose me every time. A cookbook should be about cooking not the law of the land.
Your wings look great.

David Head said...

This looks very yummy. The info here it very easy to read I can't wait try this out. Thanks for sharing.

Caterers in Manchester