A Thanksgiving supper scene in this city can just as easily be Hopperesque as it can be Rockwellian. I’m not going to wear my yellow hat to the automat, but I am planning to eat alone in style, which means stuffing the bird and all that jazz. More precisely, I’ll be stuffing chicken wings with dumpling filling, then glazing and grilling the hell out of them till they bronze and begin sweating clear shiny juices into the dripping pan. It’s a single serving of the essence of Thanksgiving with a dash of sweet decadent melancholia, which goes great with a tall chilled glass of lager or hard cider.
Get out your sharpest knife and get to work on those middle wing joints. Sever the joints between the two bones and then cut the ligaments that attach the muscle to the bones. Twist and pull the thin bone (radius) out first and repeat for the larger bone (ulna). The deboned chicken wing now has a little pocket for the stuffing. Before we get on with more savagery, let the tortured wings marinate leisurely in a bath of wine, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, pepper, and whatever else suits your fancy, for at least one hour, preferably overnight.
As the wings are unwittingly chilling in the flavor bath, prepare the stuffing. I made a dumpling filling of hand-minced pork belly, garlic chive, Taiwanese cabbage (extra crisp), and shiitake mushroom. Hand mincing gives the filling the best texture, but it does take a lot of energy. It’s good stamina training, especially after deboning a pound of chicken wings. Alternatively, go off on your own stuffing journey with anything from the traditional bread, sausage, and herbs, to the more ancient mixtures of figs and nuts macerated in wine. But back to the dumpling filling: it’s a subtle skill that would take pages and pages to detail, with alterations depending on the many variations in ingredients. I can only give a few tips here, but the only real way to learn is to be in the kitchen lending a hand.
Once the filling is ready, with wing in one hand and teaspoon in the other, start stuffing. Pack it in with the spoon till the wing is plump as a baby’s cheek. Reserve some of the marinade for the chicken wings and drizzle in a few spoons of honey to make a glaze. Brush the stuffed wings with the glaze on both sides. Preheat the oven to 450°F and bake for 10 minutes, then switch to a low broil for a few minutes to caramelize the skin. Slather on some mustard or blackberry jam, and pour yourself a cold one.
This is not a recipe to be taken on lightly and I didn’t invent it as some masochistic exercise. The chicken wing dumpling is actually a typical snack found at Japanese bars, appearing on the menu as tebasaki gyoza (手羽先餃子). For all the talk about Thanksgiving, I actually associate the dish with the noisy, steamy, and tiny late-night noodle shops and izakayas in Tokyo, which is where I’ll be spending my vacation this year.
If you have any comments, suggestions, questions or. other tasty (or morbid) tidbits, contact DuanDuan at SnackBar.Kitchen@gmail.com.
Tebasaki Gyoza: Chicken Wing Dumplings
Video worth a million words:
Watching this guy cook is a pleasure. I defer to a master home cook who knows how to enjoy his beer and sake.