Recipe Sleuth: The Source’s General Tso’s Chicken Wings

By: Kate Nerenberg

Not your average chicken wings. Photograph by Chris Leaman.

In the lounge at Wolfgang Puck’s Penn Quarter restaurant, the Source, General Tso’s chicken gets a gourmet upgrade from chef Scott Drewno. He offers wings—an unlikely finger-licking snack in such chic surroundings—glazed with the familiar-sounding sauce, but they bear no resemblance to the gloppy mess that most Chinese takeouts serve. Instead, the chicken sports a thin but crispy skin with a sauce that has hints of spice and vinegar.

The recipe, a collaboration between Drewno and Lee Hefter—Puck’s corporate chef—uses lots of Asian ingredients that Drewno says can all be found at H Mart (locations in Fairfax, Falls Church, and Wheaton). You’ll have the crispiest skin, advises Drewno, if you eat the wings right after they come out of the fryer.

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General Tso’s Chicken Wings

Makes 24 wings.


Marinate the wings:


24 chicken wings, whole
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced scallion
Pinch crushed red chili flakes
¼ cup peanut oil

Mix all ingredients except the chicken in a bowl. Marinate the wings in a sealed container or in a Ziploc bag for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Make the sauce:


¼ cup peanut oil
6 whole Thai-style dried chili pods
½ cup minced garlic
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup sambal oelek chili paste
¼ cup rice wine
2 cups rice vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce (Drewno uses Superior Light)
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Heat the peanut oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium-high for 1 minute. Add the chilies and let blacken. Add the garlic and sweat briefly. Stir in the sugar and chili paste. Add the rice wine, and reduce by half. Add the vinegar and soy sauce, and reduce by about a quarter. Stir in the sesame oil. Chill until ready to serve.

Assemble the wings:


Slurry made with equal parts cornstarch and water (about ½ cup of each)
Cilantro leaves for garnish
Scallions cut on a bias for garnish

Lightly dredge the wings in the slurry (it should have the consistency of heavy cream). In a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat, bring 2 inches of peanut oil to 375 degrees (or use a fryer heated to 350 degrees). Cook the wings in the oil, then drain on paper towels. In a wok or sauté pan, bring 2 cups of the sauce to a boil and turn off the heat. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the cornstarch/water slurry. Toss the wings in the sauce. Set on a plate and garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro and scallions slices.

 

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