Food Bloggin' with Chef Patrick Whittaker: Caramel Chicken Wings

I know you dig the way I sw-sw-switch my style

     I’m currently in my kitchen twerking and singing “Get your braise on, get your braise on” in the style of the incomparable Missy Elliot.  Why, you ask? One, I’m a dork. Two, this recipe for Caramel chicken wings is lit, fam!  Pressure cooking the chicken wings prior to frying couples a fall-of-the-bone tenderness with a crisp exterior that's sure to Level Up your wing game. This recipe will easily steal the show at your next bottle share or game day feast, and with a little prep a head of time, you can fry these up with time to spare on the day of your event. 

  On a recent trip to Portland I encountered the iconic north-western fusion of Thai-style Ga Kho chicken and pub-staple chicken wing.  Deceptively simple, these wings are a total flavor bomb that hit every corner of sweet, salty, spicy, and savory. Trust me when I tell you they are as good [and insanely addictive] as they sound.  It’s a no brainer why these are an institution in a city with one of the most vibrant dining scenes in the country.


Caramel Chicken Wings

 “Close your eyes, hit play on your favorite Washed Out track, and take a whiff. Do you know what that smell is? It’s Portland.  And a lot of fish sauce.  But mostly it’s Portland.”

 “Close your eyes, hit play on your favorite Washed Out track, and take a whiff. Do you know what that smell is? It’s Portland.  And a lot of fish sauce.  But mostly it’s Portland.”

the sauce

  • ½ Cup white sugar
  • 2/3 Cup water, boiling
  • 1/4 Cup Fish sauce

The Braise

  • 2 lb Chicken wings
  • 1/4 Cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 qt Chicken stock
  • 2 Limes, zested
  • 1 Stalk lemongrass, quartered
  • 1 Piece ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tb Sambal (South East Asian chili paste)
  • 6 Cloves garlic, crushed

The wings

  • 2 Cups cornstarch
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)

The Garnish

  • ¼ Cup peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 Bunch cilantro
  • 1 Bunch mint


Making the Sauce

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil - a kettle works best. Reserve for a later step.

  • In a medium sauce pan, add sugar.  Heat the sugar over medium-high heat until it begins to melt and caramelize.  Do not walk away from your pan at this step,  sugar has a tendency to burn!

PRO TIP:  Use caution at the next step -- the sugar will be very hot!  Use a long handled spoon to stir at the next step!

  • Once the sugar has caramelized and has become a lump free liquid, begin adding the water in small amounts, mixing with a long handled spoon or whisk until the sugar has dissolved.

PRO TIPTime for real talk, ya’ll.  Fish sauce has a rather distinct aroma, and at this stage of the recipe things are going to get…pungent.  It’s unavoidable, but damn, I guarantee you it’s worth the trouble.  Just do yourself and your friends a solid and prep this ahead of time, and open a window!  The sauce will hold for up to two weeks and can be reheated when you're ready to enjoy.

  • Add your fish sauce to the pan and simmer on high for two minutes.  At this stage the caramel should coat the back of a spoon.

  • Reserve half of your sauce to toss your finished wings.

Crafting the Braise

  • Put half of the wing sauce in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the rice wine vinegar and sambal and whisk to combine.  Add the mixture to your pressure cooker.

  • At this stage add the aromatics; lemongrass, ginger, garlic, kafir lime leaves, and the stems of one bunch of cilantro, reserving the leaves as garnish.
  • Add 1 quart of chicken stock.  Using a wooden spoon mix to combine.

  • Add the chicken wings and cook for 40 minutes or until tender. 
  • Alternatively, if you do not own a pressure cooker you can braise wings in a 350˚ oven for approximately 2 hours, or until tender.

  • Once the wings have finished cooking, remove from the braising liquid and place on a sheet tray to cool.  Once the wings have cooled, refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours -- overnight is best.

Frying the Wings

  • In a large pot, heat two inches of oil to 400˚ degrees.

  • Add corn starch to a large mixing bowl.  Gently coat your wings in a thin, even layer of corn starch, shaking off the excess, and place on a clean sheet tray.  Fry the wings in small batches until golden brown and crispy, approximately 1-2 minutes per wing.

Finishing your wing sauce and plating

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine your reserved wing sauce with the juice and zest of one lime.

  • Add your fried chicken wings to the mixing bowl.  Gently toss the wings to coat evenly.
  • Plate your chicken wings in a bowl and garnish with hand torn mint and cilantro leaves. 


     Enjoy these caramel chicken wings with a pour of Mxyzptlk!  Layers of rich, caramel-y sweet dulce de leche coupled with the roasted earthiness of Cuban espresso beans, spicy cassia bark, and robust rum barrel character create a nuanced and complex flavor profile that is complimented by the sweet and savory nature of this dish.  Enjoying these two tasty treats together just might cause a ripple effect across all dimensions -- enjoy responsibly!

Eat Well, Drink Craft.

Pat Whittaker

Posted on October 11, 2017 .