Biting into what was supposed to be some of Denver's best fried chicken, I wished it away - another let-down. I wished it would have been brined. I wished the breading had some flavor, any flavor. I wished it was a tad saltier. I wished it had the guts not to have any breading at all aka Momofuku fried chicken. I wished I could close my eyes and exchange mediocrity for a mouthful of another one of David Chang's version of a dish that both breaks the rules and amazes the senses. Wishes don't always come true.
Last time I strongly wished something away and something else in return was on a trip to California. This was supposed to be relaxing. A weekend away - no kids, no husbands, no laptops- just my best friend and the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. The mandatory spa moment arrived. Instead of that blissful glance at warm fine sand, a breeze over my mostly naked body, and tan and ripped massage therapist, I found myself in a motel room with Magda, a short stockey middle-aged Polish lady, wearing too much eye shadow. Staring at old carpet, shielding my eyes from the bright neon on a massage table that rhythmically shook to the beat of the techno blaring outside, I prayed for ear plugs or temporary loss of hearing.
The Ace, a former motel all hip-ified, was buzzed to be the place to see and be-seen. And it was- for a swarm of Jersey Shore refugees who paid the small fee to get into the mister-equipped pool, where a DJ was spinning live six hours every day. Extra bonus by the pool: ping-pong tables. The alleged spa consisted of the dumpy-70's-wanna-be-cool lockers, ridiculous robes, and a waiting room the size of a closet equipped with a noisy table fan.
There I was, naked under a thin sheet, with Magda bearing down on me. No escaping for 60 long minutes. I closed my eyes and made my wish. I tuned Magda out and channeled my crush into the room: Robert Downey Junior. Slowly, the thump of the techno base seemed to ease up. As strong hands ran up my tense shoulders, I almost felt his breath, heard his whisper, smelled his skin. Eyes closed, gentle prayers that Magda keeps quiet, I let the stress melt away, smiled at myself, and made my own wish come true.
It didn't work quite the same with the fried chicken. So I made it. The first dish of the year at our house and first blog post of 2012. What's your wish? And how are you going to make it come true?
Momofuku's Dreamy Fried Chicken
Ingredients: one whole chicken; 4 cups lukewarm water; 1/2 cup salt; 1/2 cup sugar; 4 cups grapeseed or canola oil; octo vinaigrette (recipe below).
Break the chicken down into 6 pieces: 2 legs, 2 wings, 2 breast halves. Combine the water, salt, and sugar and brine the chicken in it for at least one hour and no more than six.
Set up a steamer on the stove and steam the chicken on medium heat covered nearly all the way for 40 minutes. Chill it in the refrigerator on a cooling rack for at least two hours or overnight and remove 30 minutes before frying.
Heat the oil to 375 degrees and be sure there is enough oil to submerge the chicken pieces, otherwise cook in batches. Fry it, turning it once until the skin is deep brown and crisp, about 6-8 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and drain. Toss with the vinaigrette and serve hot.
Octo Vinaigrette: combine 2 tablespoons minced ginger, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 cup light soy sauce, 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, 1 tablespoon sesame oil.
Make a wish! Make it Happen!