Monday, March 8, 2010
My Venture into Airplane Wings
Back in the 1980's, I was flying from south Asia to the U.S. on an airline I've flown many times. I don't want to negatively influence your opinion about this lovely airline so, for this particular post, I'm going to refer to it as Acme Air. To get back to the U.S., I had to connect in Europe before heading home. During this era, there were still a few airlines that permitted smoking during the flight. Some international airlines, including this one, bent over backwards to accommodate smokers since smoking was more commonplace than it is today. They always reserved a certain number of rows in the back of the aircraft for smokers. When needed, some of the last rows of non-smoking would suddenly become smoking if there were more smokers than average for a particular flight. On that segment, I happened to be in the last row of non-smoking and the airline needed additional rows for smokers so I was not amused to discover after I boarded that the smoking section had, at the last minute, grown to include my row of seats. And, for the cherry on the cake of my day, I was in… a middle seat. Good times.
We got belted in and, almost immediately, a Polish lady seated to my left started talking – and didn't shut up until the plane landed hours later. I'm guessing she had just come from a garlic-eating contest because her breath was so bad it could have melted plastic. She kept griping about not being able to light up a cigarette or get a glass of scotch until after we got in the air. I couldn't help her with those things but I really wanted to give her an onion to chew on to make her breath smell better. She told me her name but I can't remember it because 1) I didn't care, and 2) I was looking for something to slit my wrists with.
To get a breath of fresh air, I turned to the 400-year old lady to my right and said "hi." She looked up from reading the dinner menu and dryly said "No English." I was suspicious she was lying since the dinner menu was printed in English. Anyway, I was thankful to not have gabbers on both sides of me. I was kicking myself for not using the "No English" excuse when the Polish lady started talking to me. Since that flight, I have to admit that I've used the "No English" excuse on SEVERAL occasions. No more having to sound interested when somebody is telling me about their collection of dried egg shells or how they got so many scars.
Right before takeoff, the flight attendant approached our row and handed me a dry washcloth. I asked her what it was for and she pointed up and said, "There's a leak above your seat." She then turned and walked away. I leaned over toward the old lady and jokingly asked, "What? Are we expecting rain or something?" She just looked up and said, "NO ENGLISH!" Sigh.
After take-off, I felt something drip down on my head. I'm not sure what it was. It was probably something unimportant. You know, like, hydraulic fluid or something. Anyway, I held the washcloth above my head while the Polish lady was telling me her life story – and she was only up to age 3. When one arm got tired, I switched to other arm. After an hour of this, I was sick of constantly having one arm in the air so I just laid the wash cloth on the top of head and stared at the back of the seat in front of me while the Polish lady rambled on and on. Drip. Gab, gab, gab. Drip. Gab, gab, gab. Drip. Oy! Every so often, a flight attendant would take the wet wash cloth and carefully place a dry one back on top of my head.
When it was time to serve dinner, my mood improved considerably. The flight attendant asked if I wanted chicken or fish and I opted for the chicken. Guess what cut of chicken they served? Chicken wings! Yes, chicken wings! See what classy meals people get served in steerage? I'm sure the people in First Class were getting their choice of prime rib or cornish hen with beluga caviar on bellinis. Those of us in the Hooters section of the plane got wings and fish sticks. How does one gracefully eat chicken wings with tiny sets of silverware? I looked around and saw other people using their hands so I decided to do the same. Luckily, I had a damp washcloth resting on the top of my head which I could occasionally reach up and wipe my fingers on.
One bite into that chicken and I felt like I was in First Class. It was lemony but not too tart. It was garlicky but not like my neighbor's breath. It was moist. It was soft. I was succulent. It was GOOD! Unfortunately, they gave me only 2 wings. I sucked the meat off those puppies! I'm glad they only gave me two because I could have eaten a dozen.
When I got home, I tried and tried to recreate those WONDERFUL wings I got on Acme Air. After several attempts, I finally came up with a reasonable facsimile of their lemon-garlic chicken wings. You HAVE to try them! Oh, and by the way, the next time you complain about a bad flight you've had, trying being a non-smoker in the smoking section in a middle seat in Economy Class next to a woman with bad breath while you're being waterboarded by the airline! Enjoy – and happy flying!
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Lemon-Garlic Chicken Wings
2 1/2 lbs chicken wings, separated into flats and drumettes
2 tsp kosher salt (1 tsp table salt) or to taste
1 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
2 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 TBSP flour
1/3 c freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice from about 2 lemons)
2 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (I usually add 4!)
Pinch of kosher salt
Pepper to taste
1 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
Adjust your oven rack to the middle position. Set your oven to BROIL at 425F. If your oven does not allow you to specify a temperature for broiling, bake at 425F instead (the results will be different but still good). Make sure the oven door is closed while the broiler is preheating.
If needed, cut the wings to separate the tip, flat, and drumette sections. Discard the tips or freeze them for the next time you make chicken stock. My supermarket does not sell chicken wings that are already cut up for me. Therefore, I have to buy 3 pounds of chicken wings to end up with 2 1/2 pounds of useable wings since I use the tips for chicken stock later.
While the broiler is heating, add the chicken, salt, lemon pepper, olive oil, and flour to a medium bowl – tossing very thoroughly after the addition of each ingredient. Insert a rack into a foil-lined sheet pan. Place the wings on the rack in one layer, leaving at little room between the pieces.
Also while the broiler is heating, mince the garlic with a good pinch of kosher salt. Use the blade of the knife to really smash and pulverize the garlic – getting it to an almost paste-like consistency. Place the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and some pepper in a good size bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside. Later, you will be tossing the chicken in this bowl so make sure it is large enough.
Add the chicken to the oven and broil for 20 minutes (with the oven door closed). It's not going to get very brown but don't worry. After 20 minutes, flip the chicken and broil 20 minutes longer (with the oven door closed). Remove the wings from the oven and move the oven rack to the second-highest position. Turn up the heat to full broil (around 500F on many stoves) and close the oven door while you are getting the wings ready for the next phase.
Whisk the glaze then immediately add the hot wings and toss to coat. Wait about 10 seconds and toss again. Continue doing this for about 2 minutes or until most of the glaze has been absorbed by the wings. Using tongs, transfer the chicken back to the rack in the sheet pan. If there is any liquid or garlic left in the bowl, spoon it on top of the chicken. Place the sheet pan in the oven and broil about 5 minutes WITH THE OVEN DOOR OPEN. You want to get some color on those wings. Flip the wings over and broil about 5 minutes longer (with the oven door open). Transfer the wings to a serving dish and top with chopped parsley. Serve piping hot.
Posted by Cooking Ventures at 7:18 PM