How to Make the Best Chicken Wings Ever (It’s Their Feet!)

What’s the best part of the chicken wing? If you answered “the white meat of the drumlet without a trace of collagen or tendon” then this is not the recipe for you. If you you think that boneless wings are a nifty innovation then this is not the recipe for you. But if you will fight me for the flats and enjoy chewing on the saucy ends where the gelatin and collagen are – then you need this recipe in your life and in your mouth.

The best chicken wings are the feet. There’s not much meat there, but it’s got the gelatainy crunchiness and the sticky sauce of the best part of the wing.

Also, for you budding alchemists out there – this recipe is known as “phoenix claws”. It’s a fairly popular item on dim sum menus. Happy year of the Rooster!

One of the things I love about the recipe is how cattywumpus it seems when you first do it. The big steps are all out of order. You fry them, then you soak them, then you braise them. This classic dim sum technique might seem a little kooky to those of us raised with western cooking techniques, but you can’t argue with the results.

This is a lot of work, but fortunately it’s one of those dishes that gets better with an overnight sit in the fridge.

Enough talk! More cook!

Braised Chicken Feet (Phoenix Claws)

Procs: 6 dim sum sized portions

Time: 1 hour of active cook time – 5 hours total with soaking

Difficulty: This is a bit of a project. Read the instructions before you start.

Equipment:

  • Dutch oven and fry thermometer – OR – deep fryer
  • Long tongs (NOT OPTIONAL)
  • Saucepan

Mats:

  • 1 lbs of chicken feet defrosted and cleaned
  • For the Fry
    • Salt
    • Water
    • Peanut Oil
  • For the Soak
    • 6 Whole Star Anise
    • 6 Whole Cloves
    • 4 Slices of Ginger (2 inches long, 1/4 inch thick)
    • 1 Cinnamon Stick
    • 6 Dry Bay Leaves
    • 1 Tbsp Salt
    • 1 Cup Boiling Water
    • 1 Quart Cold Water
    • 1/2 Cup Mirin
  • For the Braise
    • 2 Scallions
    • 1 Quart Chicken Stock
    • 1/2 cup Mirin
  • Finishing the Sauce
    • 3 Cloves of Garlic, grated or minced
    • 1 Serrano pepper, thinly sliced
    • Drizzle of Olive Oil
    • 1 Tbsp Sugar
    • 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
    • 1.5 Tsp Fish Sauce
    • 1 Tsp Corn Starch
    • 2 Tbsp of Cold Water
    • 2 Thinly Sliced Scallions (cut on bias) – garnish

Walkthrough

Prepare the Feet

  1. Trim the nails off the feet. Authoritatively cutting down just below the base of the nail is enough.
  2. Trim any nasty blemishes off the feet. Be careful because the skin is a bit tough and there’s not much wiggle room. Manicure the chicken feet, not your fingers.
  3. Put the feet in a big bowl with a big heaping spoonful of salt. Scrub the feet with the salt. Rinse with cold water two or three times until it runs clear.

img_5180Fry the Feet

Frying the feet first prepares the feet and the skin to absorb the flavors introduced in later steps.

  1. Make sure the feet are really dry. Squeeze them dry in a paper towel. Pat the surfaces dry. Put the feet not actively being fried on a cooling rack to air out a bit. The more dry the feet are, the less splatter there will be when you add the feet to the fry oil.
  2. Heat the oil to 350F. Line a mixing bowl with paper towels to absorb grease.
  3. Using tongs, place a few feet in to fry (I did 5 at a time in my 6 quart Dutch oven). Quickly put the lid partially on the pot – basically cover everything but the thermometer. It will sound like something has gone horribly wrong as the feet start sputtering and popping. This is fine. Everything is fine.
  4. After about 5 minutes the popping and sizzling will have stopped and the chicken feet will be ready for retrieval. Fish them out with the spider and put them in the waiting bowl.
  5. Repeat until all the feet are fried.
img_5183
Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble . . . . .

Soak the Feet

img_5173
Not Pictured: Mirin
  1. In a 4 quart saucepan pour in the anise, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, ginger, and salt. Add 1 cup of boiling water and stir until the salt is dissolved.
  2. Add the quart of very cold water, mirin, and the feet.
  3. Cover and put in the fridge to soak for 2 hours.
  4. Clean out the dutch oven.

img_5186Braise the Feet

  1. Drain the soaked chicken feet in a colander. Discard the brine.
  2. In the Dutch Oven combine the chicken stock, mirin, ginger, anise, and scallions. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce to a slow simmer and add the chicken feet. (The cold feet will help drop it to a simmer)
  4. Cover partially with a lid. Simmer for 2 hours or until the feet are tender. There will be a lot of evaporation and that’s okay.
  5. Retrieve the feet with the tongs and let them drain in a colander.
  6. Reserve 1 cup of the braising liquid.
  7. Wipe out the Dutch Oven.

img_5196Make the Sauce

  1. To the Dutch oven add a drizzle of olive oil and bring up to medium heat. When it’s hot add the pepper and garlic. Saute until it smells nice, about a minute.
  2. Add the reserved braising liquid, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar.
  3. Whisk together the corn starch and water into a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the sauce.
  4. Add the feet.
  5. Let the contents of the Dutch oven come to a simmer and reduce until the sauce is thickened and sticking to the feet. About 10 minutes.
  6. If keeping these for the next day, refrigerate the feet with their sauce. Reheat gently via steam or microwave (throw a damp paper towel over them).
  7. Garnish wish thinly sliced scallions. Sesame seeds would probably also be nice.

There is no genteel way to eat these.

img_5222
Omnomnomnom

ProTip: Do NOT pour used oil down your kitchen sink. This is not good for plumbing. You can save it for later use by straining it through cheesecloth and returning it to its home container (gently used fry oil actually works better than sparkly new fry oil). If you’re going to get rid of it, pour the cooled oil into a sealable container (like a milk jug). Firmly seal the mess and put it in your trash.

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