A sweet and salty Asian miso marinade is the key to the best smoked wings you've ever eaten.
While today there is no disputing that fiery Buffalo Chicken Wings rule, there are literally thousands of flavor variations out there just waiting for us to devour. Among my favorites is one that I created for a grilling competition a few years ago, a smoked wing featuring an Asian-inspired marinade that deftly balances sweet, salty, and savory flavors. I'm happy to say that it won the competition.
This grilled wing recipe leans heavily on miso paste, a traditional Japanese ingredient rich in umami, the Japanese word for delicious savory flavor. Miso is made from fermented soy beans, grains, and a mold called koji. Many grocery stores carry miso, but if yours doesn't, it's worth hitting the Asian market for it. Look for it in the refrigerated or produce section. Although there are hundreds of types of miso with each producer putting its own twist on the production process and flavor profile, in general, this thick grainy paste comes in three colors and flavors. White miso consists mostly of rice with a small percentage of soybeans. It has a mild flavor and a hint of sweetness. Yellow miso ranges from yellow to tan, and it is fuller and richer tasting, thanks to plenty of barley used to make it. Red miso is cordovan in color, sometimes even close to black. It is heavy on soy, ferments the longest, and is the most intense and salty.
If you haven't used miso before, you will find many uses for it, and it lasts for many months in the fridge. Use it in marinades (it is salty), soups, in salad dressings, sauces, stocks, on veggies, in mayo, and in savory pasta sauces. The most basic use is miso soup: miso mixed with hot water. Wherever you use it, it will become your secret weapon flavor booster.
Smoked Miso Wings Recipe
This is a great smoked wing featuring an Asian-inspired marinade that deftly balances sweet, salty, and savory flavors.
Course. Appetizer. Snack.
Cuisine. Japanese. Asian. American.
Makes. 6 to 8 servings
Takes. 15 minutes of prep. 2 hours to marinate. 1.5 hours to smoke.
Serve with. Japanese beer such as Kirin or Sapporo.
3 pounds chicken wings
1 cup white or yellow miso paste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)
About the rice vinegar. This is less strong, about 4% acetic acid, than most commercial white vinegars or even cider vinegar, which are often 6% or more. Most good groceries sell it as either plain or seasoned. Get the plain. If you must use white vinegar or cider vinegar, add a couple of tablespoons more water.
About the mirin. Mirin is a mild, slightly sweet very mild white rice wine. It is usually in the international section of good groceries. If you can't find it, sake will do or a dryish white wine like chenin blanc or American riesling (not late harvest).
About the sesame oil. There is no substitute for this amazing aromatic extract from toasted sesame seed. If you see clear or yellow sesame oil, keep looking. The toasted stuff is dark amber to brown. It is also stocked by better groceries.
About the sesame seeds. Sometimes you can buy toasted sesame seeds, but most of the time they aren't toasted. Even if they are toasted, toasting them again just before serving, as described below, brings out the oils and aromas.
1) Using a sharp chef's knife or kitchen shears, separate the wings at the two joints to create drummettes, wingettes, and tips. Freeze the tips for making chicken stock.
2) Combine the miso paste, rice wine vinegar, mirin, honey, ginger, sesame oil, and water in a mixing bowl and blend well to combine.
3) Place the wings in a large re-sealable freezer bag and add the marinade. Seal the bag while removing as much air as possible. Use fingers to work the wings inside the bag to ensure that they are evenly covered with the marinade.
4) Refrigerate the wings for a minimum of two hours, overnight is better.
5) Prepare a smoker or a grill for 2-zone indirect cooking. Adjust the smoker or grill to bring the temperature to about 225°F in the indirect zone and place 2 to 3 chunks of your favorite smoking wood on the fire.
6) Once the smoker or grill is ready, remove the wings from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.
7) Place the wings on the main cooking grate in the indirect heat. Allow the wings to smoke for approximately 1.5 hours until they are tender and have reached a minimum internal temperature of 160°F on an instant read thermometer such as the ThermoWorks ThermoPop.
8) While the wings are cooking, pour the sesame seeds into a dry frying pan and turn the heat to medium. Let them sit there and toast until the get fragrant and golden brown, about 30 to 60 seconds. Remove them quickly so they don't burn.
9) Remove the wings from the smoker and garnish with the toasted sesame seeds and cilantro before serving.
"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!"Julia Child