What to Eat While Rooting Against the No Nightshade Ambassador
A love/hate relationship is the only rational way to deal with Tom Brady.
You love the fact that he just keeps winning. Never mind the sanctity of the journey, the spirit of the game, the chase, the quest, the process: rings really do count for something. You also just hate the fact that he just keeps winning.
You love his competitive spirit, willing his squad to dominance again. And again. And you hate his competitive spirit, the occasional venomous determination that crosses his face, the fact that he then stomps on your Bills or your Packers as he laps the record books. You hate this and occasionally wonder what else gets manipulated beyond the pressure of a football.
You love the fact that he is redefining what a man in his 40s can accomplish in a game dominated by youth. You love his perfect wife and his perfect tow-headed life and maybe you take a look at your own life and maybe—just maybe—you hate him for that otherworldly net-worth perfection too.
You love the fact that he seems to be a generally decent guy, generally respected by his peers. But you hate the Red Hat, and the fact that, generally, he isn’t held to account for that.
I bring an odd nutritional dimension to this love/hate equation: Tom Brady is one of the rare people out there on the record as trying to stay away from nightshade vegetables. I love the fact that he’s given this idea some credibility and traction.
But I hate the fact that his personal chef Allen Campbell says that nightshades cause inflammation. It may be a true statement for Tom Brady. It appears to be a true statement for me. But I think that’s oversimplifying a complex phenomenon to sell a lifestyle brand. For most people nightshades probably prevent inflammation. It’s just not true for everybody. We need science more than we need TB12.
In the spirit of loving and hating Tom Brady—and inevitably rooting against him in the Super Bowl—I have a few recipes to share. Because I’m guessing that while Tom Brady might occasionally eat a free-range, heritage-bred, chicken breast that’s been hand reared from an egg nurtured by Allen Campbell himself, he probably doesn’t get to enjoy chicken wings. All that fatty skin, all that dark meat, all those nightshade infused sauces.
But wait: You can make your own wings with three fabulously unique nightshade free glazes. This experiment was first inspired by a Food52 recipe. There are four uncommon ingredients in play: Grains of Paradise, Indian long pepper, and umemboshi plum vinegar. The first two bring the heat in the glazes. Nightshire Sauce brings depth, complexity, and umami to the BBQ glaze. (Making a batch is a full evening in the kitchen all by itself. But it’s worth it.)
But it’s my personal opinion that the umemboshi plum vinegar in the brine that elevated this recipe over the top. In my book it’s always cool to improvise and substitute, and I know that other vinegars will suffice (apple cider is perfect) but do make the effort and get some umemboshi! I’ve found it in the ethnic section of some very conventional grocery stores, but you may have to visit an Asian grocer. (If you’ve never been, you can thank me later.) You probably don’t have Indian long pepper or Grains of Paradise either. You can substitute by “stacking” fresh and dried ginger and different colored peppercorns to achieve a comparable boost in flavor intensity.
Alright now: load up the halftime table and go Chiefs!
THE WINNING FORMULA
The key to this recipe is the brine. If you’re new to brining, dissolving the salt and sugar can be a challenge in cold water. You either have to be patient and have a good whisk game, or you can heat up 1 cup of water to make your solution. (One virtue of impatience is you can add the ground pepper while you’re at it, and the heat will release more deep pepper flavor.) Once the salt and sugar are dissolved add the other ingredients, then toss in a few ice cubes to reduce the temperature. But hold back the last couple of cups of water until after the chicken is in the brine.
For maximum brine efficiency you’ll want a deep bottomed container—I prefer glass or stainless over plastic. Add the chicken, then the brine concentrate, finally adding enough water to cover the chicken. And do this last part gently so all of the chunky flavor bits don’t just wind up floating to the bottom. Put in the fridge for around 90 minutes.
Whether you use garlic or ginger in the brine depends partly on the glaze. Either works fine for all three, but I prefer ginger with the Ginger Lime and Tamarind Chutney, and garlic with the BBQ glaze.
- 4 cups cold water
- 1/4 cup Kosher salt (2 tablespoons if using regular salt)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup ume plum vinegar
- 2 tablespoon fresh ground ginger or freshly pressed garlic (depending on which glaze you’re using)
- 1 tablespoon green pepper
- 1 tablespoon white pepper
- 2-3 pounds chicken wings
GINGER LIME GLAZE
- 3/4 cup Rose’s lime juice
- (or 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice plus 1/4 cup honey)
- 3/4 cup water
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1/2 tsp lime zest
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon Grains of Paradise (increase fresh and dried ginger by 1/3 if you don’t have it)
- 1 teaspoon Indian long pepper (use a heaping teaspoon combination of black and one of white, green, or pink if you don’t have it)
- 2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
- 3/4 cups jaggery or palm sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon black salt or Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
NO NIGHTSHADE BBQ GLAZE
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoon tamarind
- 1/4 cup Nightshire Sauce
- 1 tablespoons non-white sugar (demerara, jaggery, plain old brown)
- 1 tablespoon bourbon or scotch
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Indian long pepper or Grains of Paradise
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked pepper
- 1 generous teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 shallot minced
MAKING YOUR GLAZES
1You’ll need a small saucepan for each glaze. Everything goes in the same small pan, then bring to a boil. You’ll be boiling for around half an hour, and it’s really important not to lose track of the end game. Reducing the sauce to a glaze can quickly lead to a carbon-blacked pan of sadness.
2Cooking down the glaze to get the right consistency means boiling furiously for somewhere in the neighborhood of a half an hour. Because you’re coating wings, you’ll want a glaze that approaches the viscosity of syrup.
3The danger zones are at the beginning and end of the process. At the beginning it’s likely to froth up, and possibly spill over onto your stovetop. If you’re not paying attention during the end game, it can zoom past caramelized and make a nasty mess.
4You’ll know you’re approaching done when the bubbles start to get suddenly larger. Turn down the heat and dip a spoon and watch the sheeting action as the cooling glaze flows down the spoon. If you missed the precise consistency, you can always carefully add back a little water. And remember that viscosity will also vary by temperature.
NOW BAKE THE WINGS…
1Set your oven to 425.
2Remove the wings from the brine and transfer them to a plate. (Do not dump the brine!) You don’t need to pat them dry, but give them a light shake as you transfer them. Leave them for about 5 minutes, then pour off the brine that has accumulated on the plate.
3Drain the brine through a fine metal strainer. You’ll capture close to a quarter cup of ginger or garlic and pepper—way too much flavor to waste. Snap the strainer against the rim of the bowl repeatedly to remove as much water as possible. (Depending on the capacity of your strainer you may need to repeat this procedure and empty the pepper/ginger on top of the chicken plate. Tip out any excess brine from the bowl and plate, then transfer the wings back to the bowl with the reserved pepper and ginger. Mix with your hands so the spicing coats the outside of the wings. Transfer to a lightly oiled metal baking sheet.
4Bake for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, until the skin starts turning a golden brown. Start keeping an eye on the bottom of the wings at around 15 minutes. How fast they cook will depend on your oven, your pan, and how close the wings are to each other, and they can blacken on the bottom before you know it. About two thirds of the way towards golden, remove the wings and flip them with a spatula. You’ll want a metal spatula with a good edge, as some of the wings will stick more than others, and you don’t want the skin peeling away from the meat until you’re ready to eat. Return the wings to the oven for another 10 to 20 minutes, checking regularly.
5Check your glazes. Chop a handful or two of cilantro.
6Remove wings from oven. While still hot remove to a bowl and toss with the glaze. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve from this bowl, or transfer to something a little more festive.