Bourbon Smoked Chicken Wings with ‘The Stag’ Hot Sauce

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The ‘Blue Cheese Chicken Wings’ at The Stag public house in London NW3 are so addictive they should come with a voucher to a rehab clinic once you’ve had your fill.

Creamy, cheesy and so hot, hot, hot, they are so more-ish I have often staged into the night holding my stomach after a belly-ful, yet craving more, more, more.

‘To die for’ doesn’t do them justice. I would happily be killed by them.

What’s their secret? Well, I can share it here. Well, almost. The Stag’s wings are cooked in ginormous proportions with professional kit, but this attempt comes pretty close to the experience – and all from the comfort of my own kitchen (with thanks to head chef Asher).

There are two key processes to their success – four, if you really want to go the extra mile them and add even more flavour, as I’ve done here. This recipe makes enough for 20-24 wings.

Stage 1: Brine

Stage 2: Smoke

Stage 3: Crisp

Stage 4: Sauce

Let’s take each in turn.

1. Make a brine by filing a large pot with 2 litres of water, then adding XX salt, XX Demerara sugar, 2 bay leaves, a few peppercorns and 4 cloves. Heat gently and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Allow to cool completely.

Cut the chicken wings into two by slicing through the ‘knee’. Add the wings to the brine and put a plate or bowl on top of them to ensure they’re completely submerged. Leave to brine for at least three hours.

When the time is up, drain away the brine and rinse the wings in cold water. Pat them dry.

2. Prepare the smoker by adding 2 tbsp of Bourbon oak-smoked wood chips to the bottom of the pan. (For how to do this, please read this post.)

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Place the chicken wings on the rack in a single layer and close the lid. Put the smoker onto a medium heat and smoke for around 45 mins-1 hour until the wings are tender and there’s no pink left in the meat.

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3. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Transfer the wings (still on the rack) to the oven and bake for 10-15 mins to crisp up the skin.

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4. While all this is going on, make The Stag cheesy hot sauce, (note: this recipe is a scaled down and tweaked version of the real deal).

A key ingredient is xanthan gum – a substance made from fermented corn starch and a bacteria found in cabbage. This is a thickening and binding agent that pulls together and binds the fats in the butter and cheese so you have a smooth sauce. It isn’t exactly easy to get hold of, so Google it to find suppliers.

100g hot sauce (the Stag uses ‘Franks’ brand, but I used Encona Hot Pepper, which was great)
30g butter
20g Stilton cheese
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp freshly picked thyme leaves
0.1 g Xanthan gum powder

1. In a small pan, melt the butter and add the onion and cook for 10 mins until translucent.

2. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for a further 5 mins.

3. Add the hot sauce and bring the mixture to a simmer.

4. Crumble in the Stilton and stir through the Xanthan gum powder. Cook for around 5 mins until the sauce starts to bind together.

5. Allow to cool a little, transfer to a food processor and whiz into a smooth sauce.

FINALLY…Remove the wings from the oven and allow them to cool a little. Transfer them to a bowl and smother with cheesy hot sauce and lightly toss.

Serve with potato salad or coleslaw – and a finger bowl with plenty of kitchen towel: for this takes finger lickin’ good to the next level.

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