For the Big Game — Chicken Wings Of A Different Sort
San Francisco Chef Sylvan Mishima Brackett fondly remembers his mother cooking up a pan of chicken drumettes with sake, shoyu, and a copious amount of orange marmalade.
The resulting thick, sticky, sweet glaze would coat every inch of the tender drumettes that were savored hot or room temperature on New Year’s Day.
It wasn’t necessarily a classic component of the traditional Japanese New Year meal known as osechi. But in his family, it sure made for good eating on that day or any busy weeknight.
Me? I think it would score big-time on Super Bowl Sunday.
I mean, why pay homage to Buffalo, NY with been-there, done-that, fiery red-sauced wings when you can support the home team by indulging in a version from a bona fide San Francisco Mission District chef instead? That’s got to make for good juju, right?
Brackett will be the first to point out that this is the one recipe in the book that he doesn’t actually serve at Rintaro, his izakaya-style restaurant that opened in 2014. But since everyone who’s ever had them has been smitten, he says, it would be a crime not to showcase it in the book. It’s one of more than 70 recipes included, and definitely one of the simplest.
Born in Kyoto to a Japanese mother and American father, Bracket was raised in Northern California and for years was the creative director at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse. Melding the inherent precision of Japanese cuisine with the exactitude practiced at California’s farm-to-table mecca, his are recipes that aren’t built on shortcuts but on the proper ways he believes they should be done.
Anyone who marvels at Japanese techniques will appreciate the photo-by-photo directions on how to break down a whole kanpachi, roll-cut a daikon in one continuous long sheet, or cut up a whole chicken leg into distinct parts for yakitori. He even advises to rinse rice vigorously with cold water five to seven times until it absolutely runs clear before cooking.
Rintaro makes the juiciest gyoza around, and you’ll find the 3-page recipe for “Gyoza with ‘Wings,’ ” including how to pour water mixed with potato starch and flour over the gyoza to create the lacy, crispy web of batter that holds them all together. You’ll learn how to cure your own steelhead roe to serve over rice (“Ikura Don”), how to make your own noodles for “Udon ‘Carbonara,’ ” and from-scratch mochi for “Mochi-Wrapped Strawberries.”
These drumettes take only one pan and little more than half an hour to make. In the end, you will have chicken wings that are truly finger-licking great.
If you use marmalade that has some nice sizeable pieces of rind in it like I did, it’s almost like hitting the jackpot when you come across a morsel clinging to a wing you’re just about to bite into.
Celery and carrot sticks with blue cheese dressing might be the usual accompaniments for Buffalo wings. With these, either plain cucumber slices or ones that have been quick-pickled would be ideal.
Or nudge these from snack to meal by serving with bowls of fluffy steamed rice and stir-fried greens.
Whatever you do, be sure to have plenty of beer on hand, along with all the red and gold you can muster.
Shoyu and Marmalade Chicken Drumettes (Tebamoto No Shoyu Mamaredo)
(Makes 4 servings)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or other neutral oil
16 chicken drumettes (about 1 pound)
1 cup cooking sake
1/2 cup usukuchi (light-colored) shoyu
4 garlic cloves, grated
1 cup orange marmalade
Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the drumettes and fry, turning, until browned on both sides, about 7 minutes. Pour in the sake and shoyu, then add the garlic and marmalade and stir to coat the chicken wings. Turn down the heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally at the start, then more frequently as the glaze thickens to prevent scorching, until the sauce thickens to a glaze and the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
From “Rintaro” by Sylvan Mishima Brackett with Jessica Battilana
More: Dining at Rintaro