Who doesn’t love a crispy delicious chicken wing! Chicken wings are one of America’s most popular foods for good reasons. They’re crispy, spicy, and fun to eat! Inspired by the awesome Asian flavored wings at Pok Pok in Portland and MọPHọ in New Orleans, this is an Instructable for a chicken wing with a twist. A chicken wing that is still worthy of the best finger food at any tailgate party but also suited for the center of the plate of a fine dining meal. These wings aren’t fried, they’re grilled. And get this…no bones!! The bones have been replaced with a home made Thai flavored sausage!
Although most of this is waiting time, I suggest you start 4-6 hours before you want to serve the wings or even the night before. This is not required but the flavor will be better and the wings will be easier to handle for cooking.
Step 1: Ingredients
12 large chicken wings
½ cup water
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp granulated sugar
Oil for grilling
6 skin on chicken thighs (about 3 pounds with bones and 2 ½ without)
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp kaffir lime leaf, chopped fine, or zest of 2 limes
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp chopped ginger
4 stalks lemongrass, tender part only, chopped fine, or zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp crushed chili flake
2 Thai or Serrano chili, chopped fine
¾ cup water
¼ cup fish sauce
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup honey
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 limes, juice only
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 tbsp sliced scallions
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Step 2: Debone and Marinate the Wings
The first step is to get your chicken wings de-boned. This may seem like a challenge but just like everything else it gets easier with practice. The more I did the faster it went. The chicken skin is fairly resilient but you do want to be careful not to tear it since the skin is going to act like the casing for our sausage. Don't worry if some of them tear as they are still usable, just a little more challenging to stuff. A few of mine were torn before I even took them out of the package.
The meat of the wing is connected to the bone by tendons which are attached at the end of the bone only. Occasionally you will find some skin attached to the bones along the middle but in general once you get those tendons separated the meat will slide right down and off the bone.
Starting at the top with the drumette, use the tip of a small knife to cut around the bone to separate the meat. Our hands are the best tools we have so don’t be afraid to feel around. Once I find the tendons I like to slip my knife under and cut out away from me. This is safer and less risk of doing damage to the skin. Once the meat is loose, I like to push down on the meat to slide it down the bone.
The next step is removing the drumette bone. You may be able to do this just by twisting and pulling or you may need to use a knife. As you can see in the pictures I use a combination of loosening with the knife, pushing the meat down the bone, and then twisting the bone or cutting it out.
After you finish with the drumette you move to the lower part of the wing and repeat the process. Just remember this part of the wing has two bones, but they come out very easy. Once you remove them you will be left with the wing tip. I like to leave it attached. It’s easier to stuff because of the closed end, and it’s more fun visually to keep the look of the wing. By the way, save those bones for use later. I freeze them and use them for soup when I have enough.
As you complete this process and work your way down, you likely will have turned the wing inside out. This is how you want it and if it didn’t happen naturally go ahead and turn the wing inside out so the skin is on the inside. You want this because you are going to marinate the wings and this will allow the meat better exposure to the marinade.
For the marinade/brine simply whisk all of the ingredients together until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour this mixture over the wings and mix to coat evenly. Cover the bowl and set these in the refrigerator while you work on the stuffing. This will add flavor and help the wings stay moist as the salt will eventually draw moisture into the meat.
Step 3: Make the Sausage
This sausage is so delicious that it can stand alone but when paired with the wing it is over the top!
If you are pinched for time, or just want to make things easier, you could buy a ready made raw sausage to use in place of this one. You’ll need about 2 ½ pounds for one dozen wings.
I do the chicken wings first so they have time to absorb the marinade while I prepare the sausage. I used bone-in chicken thighs with the skin on. Boneless would be fine but I couldn’t find any boneless thighs that still had the skin on. So I took out the bones and added them to the soup pile from when I deboned the wings. You need a certain amount of fat to make a moist sausage, at least 80% meat to 20% fat. You have a few choices when using poultry as the main meat for your sausage. You can use lean meat and add pork fat in the form of bacon for example. Or you can use the skin and fat that is already on the thigh. This meant one less thing to buy for me and I didn’t want to introduce any other flavors or protein. I let the chicken be the star! Proportionally the thigh with the skin and fat is already perfect as is and if you handle it properly the results will be awesome!
One of the basic rules of sausage making is to keep the meat and fat very cold during grinding. If it gets too warm the fat will start to melt and smear into the meat. This can result in a mealy and dry sausage.
Take the thighs and cut them into 1-2 inch squares. Place the ,meat on a pan and put it in the freezer. You also want to put your meat grinder parts in there as well. I don’t make a lot of sausage but if I did I would get myself a dedicated grinder. For now, the grinder for my KitchenAid mixer works fine. I used the 3/8” die. The attachment comes with two dies, this is the coarser of the two. I like the texture I get by using the coarser die and for poultry I think this reduces the risk of overworking the meat and melting the fat as poultry fat tends to melt at a lower temperature than pork.
You’ll want to leave the meat in the freezer until it is very cold and just starts to firm up a bit but isn’t frozen. This took about an hour for me.
While you are waiting for the meat to get cold you can prep the herbs and seasonings so they are ready to go.
Most of the ingredients should be easy to find in an Asian market. The kaffir leaves may be hard to find fresh but you may be able to find them frozen. They add this wonderful aromatic flavor and aroma to the sausage. I am lucky enough to have my own tree! If you can pick them fresh choose the younger more tender leaves. If you can’t get them feel free to substitute with the zest of 2 limes as instructed in the ingredient list. Save those limes for later when you make the glaze.
The lemongrass should be easy to find but could be replaced with the zest of two lemons, but it will be hard to match the flavor. You only want the tender part of the stalk so cut off the dark green parts and remove the tough outer layers. Chop the lemongrass as fine as you can or else it will be tough.
The remaining ingredients and their preparation is straight forward as noted in the ingredient list.
I get the seasonings ready in a bowl large enough to hold the ground meat. Then when the meat is cold I feed it into the grinder straight into that bowl.
Now you want to add the fish sauce and cold water and mix everything just until they are well combined. You don’t want to overwork the meat or you will risk the same faults as if the meat gets too warm passing through the grinder. I used my hands but I must admit it was almost painfully cold! Feel free to use a spoon!
Now the fun part, you get to have your first taste. Before you fill the wings you’ll want to fry up a small patty of sausage and adjust the seasoning. Normally I would cook a smaller piece than the one in the photo but the photographer/wife wanted a snack! Maybe you need some salt or want to add some extra chili or garlic. Now is the time to season to your taste.
At this point you may put the sausage in the refrigerator and finish with the next step as much as 12 hours later. I like to fill the wings at this point and then let them rest as I will describe later.
Step 4: Stuffing the Wings
Now that the filling is ready and the wings are marinated it’s time to put the two together. Take the wings out of the fridge. You’ll first want to turn them inside out from what they are now. It’s time to get the meat on the inside and the skin on the outside again.
Now filling them with the sausage is fairly easy. I like to gently wrap my hand around the top of the opening in the wing and using my free hand simply place sausage into the opening, pushing it down into the body of the wing. You want to have them fairly full but not bursting. I like to leave a little sausage exposed at the top. The meat will contract when it cooks so if the wings are overstuffed they risk tearing and losing some juice. This is just a word of caution as it happened to me on a few and they were still delicious!
You will most likely have some extra sausage depending on the size of your wings. You can freeze it and use it at a later time or you can do what I did which is cook it up like a burger. Delicious!
At this point you’ll want to cover the wings and leave them in the fridge for 4-6 hours or even overnight. This will result in a few things. First, the flavors in the sausage will bloom, mellow, and marry resulting in better tasting wings! Also the sausage will firm up, making for better texture and easier handling on the grill.
Step 5: Grilling the Wings
If I had my choice a wood fire or natural wood briquettes would be my first choice for grilling the wings. I live in an apartment complex that doesn’t allow this, so I had to use the onsite gas grills. They worked great but the wood would add that extra layer of flavor.
Before you start, drizzle a little bit of vegetable oil on both sides of the wings to keep them from sticking to the grill. Canola oil worked fine for me. You’ll want to grill these over a low to medium heat. If you can, use an indirect cooking method in which you push most of the coals to one side or for gas grills leave one side of the burners medium-hot and the other low.
The wings won’t get crispy like they do in a fryer but cooking them slower will allow the skin to render some of that fat and result in a better texture. Keeping the wings over the cooler part of the fire will also help reduce flair ups from dripping fat.
I cooked the wings for about 10 minutes per side for a total cooking time of twenty minutes. Don’t be afraid to check them occasionally and move them around as needed for even cooking. They should feel firm to the touch when they are cooked through. To be safe, you may want to check the internal temperature. It should be 165°F.
The goal is a nice brown color, with a little bit of char!
Just a reminder on food safety, make sure you use a clean pan for the cooked wings. You don’t want to mix raw and cooked poultry! That’s a no-no!
Step 6: Making the Glaze
The wings are delicious as they are but the glaze adds a nice contrast to the spicy sausage and makes them even better and more fun to eat!
If it’s convenient, start the glaze when you are about 2/3 through the cooking process for the wings. It’s simple. Add all of the ingredients to a pan large enough to hold the wings and bring to a simmer. Be careful not to turn the heat too high until the sugar dissolves or it could burn. Once the mixture is simmering, you’ll want to reduce the mixture until it is thick and shiny. This will take about 6-8 minutes but don’t be worried if it takes longer. Once you reach that sticky consistency, turn off the heat and put in the wings. Toss them around gently to coat and you’re almost to the finish line!
Step 7: It's Time to Eat!
Now the best part! Getting to taste them! These wings fire on all cylinders…salty, sweet, spicy, sour, and smoky. If I am feeding a group I like to keep the service simple and rustic. Place the wings on a weathered pan for everyone to grab from. A simple sprinkling of fresh cilantro, scallions, and toasted sesame seeds are an optional finishing touch.
Now let's take it one step further as promised.Wings aren’t just a finger food!! You can also make a beautiful presentation for a nice dinner with family and friends. Your guests will be amazed to see how you elevated the humble chicken wing to a fork and knife dinner worthy of any fine dining restaurant! Total cost is only about $20 for the main ingredient and that's enough to feed 4-6 people!!
I like to serve them on their own or make a more substantial meal with simple sides like steamed rice and a cold cucumber salad. If you have any leftover, try slicing them up just like a sausage and making some fried rice!