When I was asked to review Jamie Bissonnette’s new cookbook, ‘The New Charcuterie Cookbook‘ I was an absolute yes. Jamie is the chef and owner of Toro NYC, and Coppa and Toro Boston. He is a James Beard Foundation Best Chef Northeast award winner and winner of the Cochon 555 nose-to-tail competition. Jamie has also been featured in The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and Bon Appetit and he was awarded the People’s Choice: Best New Chef award by Food & Wine magazine. He’s got some chops and he knows how to use them!
I’ve tried my hand at charcuterie and the resulting bacon and corned beef were simply the best I’ve ever had. A select group of bloggers were asked to join a ‘Book Tour’ and each of us will be featuring a different dish from Jamie’s book. I got to the list a bit late and knew I would not have time for curing something that had to hang for a long time so when I saw Chicken Wings with Honey and Za’atar I jumped at the chance. Even though after the fact I had a nagging question wondering how this was charcuterie I did notice that this dish was inspired by one Jamie’s mom had made for him as a kid and the deal was sealed.
I went shopping and found a huge bag of chicken wings from Costco and the spices I needed at Savory Spice Shop. I had a small amount of Za’atar in my cupboard and it was time to refresh it but it was the Urfa Pepper that sparked that trip. Also known as Isot pepper, this wonderful crushed chile from the Turkish town of Urfa is similar to Aleppo. Though called “red”, they actually are purplish black in color. They are picked and cut, dried in the sun by day, then wrapped and sweated at night for more than a week. This sweating process gives the chiles a rich, earthy flavor and smoky aroma and after using them admit they are an integral part of the flavor of this dish.
I thought I was ready but I had a curve ball come at me as soon as I was ready to start. Ah…now I see why this is included in a book about Charcuterie! All the recipes in the section with the wings are prepared in FAT! This recipe specifically calls for lard, duck fat or schmaltz which is rendered chicken fat. Thankfully I had some lard. Unfortunately there was NO way I was going to use my precious leaf lard for ONE pound of wings. I kept thinking, ‘Twenty-four of the most fabulous pie crusts ever OR a pound of chicken wings.’ It simply did not compute.
So I decided to use canola oil and a half cup of my precious lard; trying to keep in the spirit of charcuterie but without sacrificing a precious commodity. I’m sure Jamie must have a bazillion pounds of rendered fats available to him but for me they are a premium and not one I could easily source or would pay to use for such a small quantity. One thing to note? If you are like me and live at altitude you might want to cook your wings during this stage longer or increase the oven temp a bit. Your oven might say 200 degrees but it’s just not as hot and I erred in taking mine out at the time stated in the recipe. They required more time in the 2nd stage in a hot oven and in hindsight I would have preferred another hour on low heat during the first stage.
Now about that quantity. Something has to be awry here. One pound of chicken wings equated to about 8 wings. The recipe says it serves 4-6 people. Huh? That would be less than 2 apiece and that sadly has to be a misprint. I ignored the quantity and filled my cooking tray with as many wings as I could which turned out to be approximately 36 and not only was it a perfect fit but the 8 cups of oil covered them perfectly.
The sauce for the wings would have been enough for ten times the amount of wings suggested so I’ve modified it as well; cutting the quantity in half and it was perfect. Three pounds of wings and half the sauce. That being said I like just a bit drizzled on my wings, if you are a dunker or even a double dunker you might want to stick with the original quantity! Still, a drizzle or a lot, it’s a great sauce. The Za’atar and Urfa Pepper combined with honey are simply a fantastic combination.
This book is filled with great recipes for sausages, pate, homemade bacon, salami and more. It has some more interesting tidbits too; let me tell you Jamie is absolutely a snout to tail enthusiast! While I am eager to try making the Habanero and Maple Breakfast Sausages I’m going to let the more adventurous of you share with me your experiences with Offal and Head Cheese! If you’re ready to move beyond buying all of your meats pre-cured and pre-cut from the butcher; you must try this book.
From my own experience? Make the bacon. There is nothing finer than home cured bacon and it will set you on a path to want to do more…and more!