One thing I noticed about Miami is that all the restaurants have some form of tacos on the menu - fish tacos, short rib tacos, carnitas tacos - something that you never see in Ireland! With a bee in my bonnet to make more exciting tacos than I have in the past, including making my own flour tortillas from scratch, I invested in a new recipe book - “Tacos”, by Alex Stupak & Jordan Rothman.
The book is inspiring but this is the first one that jumped out at me was the Chicken Wing Tacos. Confit chicken wings, deboned and grilled in a vinegary, hot Salsa Macha, served with celery hearts, blue cheese and peanuts and topped with more Salsa Macha and Crema Mexicana - they are sublime!
The prep work for the wings is arduous, but it can be done the day before, and even the Salsas can be made up to a week beforehand. This of course makes cooking on the night a breeze, especially if you're having a bit of a Taco Party…
Chicken Wing Tacos
12 Arbol Chiles
120ml Vegetable Oil
90g Raw, Shelled, Unsalted Peanuts
2 tbsp Sesame Seeds
4 Garlic Cloves, peeled
1 Can of Chipotle Chile
240ml Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp Maldon Sea Salt
2 tbsp Honey
500ml Double/Heavy Cream
60ml Cultured Buttermilk
36 Chicken Wings
Maldon Sea Salt
15 Garlic Cloves
1.5kg Lard (basically a lot of lard to confit the chicken), melted
1 Celery Heart, sliced lengthwise
180g Roasted Salted Peanuts, roughly chopped
120g Blue Cheese, crumbled
2 Limes, cut into 6 wedges each
1 Quantity of Flour Tortillas (Home-made tastes best)
Makes about 12 tacos, 3 chicken wings in each taco
Up to a week beforehand - Make the Salsa Macha
Remove the stems from the arbol chiles and shake the seeds out. Discard the seeds and put the chiles to one side.
Put a saucepan over a medium heat and add the vegetable oil, peanuts, sesame seeds and garlic cloves. Cook and stir until the peanuts and sesame seeds are golden and the garlic cloves begin to brown. Usually takes about 5-10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the arbol chiles and the can of chipotle chiles. It will spit like hell so be careful. Put to one side to infuse and cool - around 10-20 minutes.
When cool, blend the chile mixture together with the vinegar, salt and honey in a liquidizer until really smooth. Cool again and transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.
At least 48 hours beforehand - Make the Crema Mexicana
Warm the cream in a saucepan over a medium heat until it is just warm. Remove from the heat and stir in the buttermilk. Pour into a container with a tight fitting lid and cover. Let the cream ferment for 48 hours. The result will be a slightly thickened, tangy and soured condiment for these and many other tacos.
The day before - Prep & Confit the chicken wings
Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
Remove the tips and drumsticks from the chicken wings. This takes longer than you’d imagine so give yourself up to an hour to do this. (I freeze and keep the tips and wings for making gravies and stocks)
Put one layer of wings on the bottom of a Le Cruset/Dutch Oven. Season liberally with salt and sprinkle some of the garlic cloves on top. Repeat the wings layer, salt and garlic until all the wings have been nestled neatly in the dutch oven. Pour the melted lard over the wings, making sure they are all covered and then put a lid on the pot. Cook in the oven for 90 minutes, turn the oven off and leave the pot in the oven for another 30 minutes.
Remove the pot from the oven and leave to rest for an hour undisturbed.
Working in batches, gently remove the wings from the pot using tongs and rest them on a board. Then gently, using your fingers, remove the bones in the wings by gently pulling/pushing them out. This works best when the wings are warm but not to hot to handle. Place the deboned wings, skin side up, neatly on a baking tray that can be put under the grill when you are cooking them. Cover the tray with cling film and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them the next day.
on the day:
Cooking the Wings
Remove the wings from the fridge and bring to room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat the grill/broiler to high. Put approximately one-third of the Salsa Macha into a bowl and brush the chicken wings with the Salsa. Place under the grill for about 3-5 minutes until they sizzle and brown (but not burn) allowing the Salsa to bake into them.
Assemble the Tacos
Place some celery hearts and 2-3 chicken wings on a taco, sprinkle with blue cheese and peanuts and top with the some of the remaining Salsa Macha and the Crema Mexicana.