Servings: 8 servings
14 chicken wings (4 pounds)
1 beet, peeled and diced
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons red chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, freshly grated
⅓ cup five spice marinade (see tips)
⅓ cup grape molasses (see tips)
¼ cup fresh seedless grapes, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons Chinese brown sugar (or regular light brown sugar)
⅓ cup oyster sauce
3 tablespoons cooking wine (optional)
¼ teaspoon Bhut Jolokia Ghost Pepper Sauce (or any hot sauce), to taste
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
The day before...
Pat dry the chicken wings and place them in a large zip-top sealable bag. Cover with buttermilk, garlic powder and red chili powder. Mix well and make sure the meat is well coated. Seal the bag, place in a large shallow glass baking dish and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
The next day...
For the natural red food coloring: Place the diced beet in a small saucepan and cover with about 2 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 10-15 minutes. Strain the liquid and set the beet aside (and use it in another dish, a salad for example).
For the grapes: In a blender, add the fresh grapes and 1 cup beet juice. Blend until smooth.
Making sweet and spicy marinade:
In a mixing bowl, combine the minced garlic, ginger, five spice marinade, molasses, puréed grape and beet juice, brown sugar, oyster sauce, cooking wine, hot sauce and black pepper. Reserve half of it and transfer the rest into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down medium-low for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
In a small bowl, dissolve the arrowroot starch in ½ cup beet juice.
Bring the marinade back to a boil, then add the arrowroot liquid, stirring continuously. Return to a simmer and let cook for 5-6 minutes. Drizzle with sesame oil.
Marinating the chicken: Drain the chicken, removing and discarding as much buttermilk as possible. Cover with the reserved marinade. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes ahead of time to bring it back to room temperature before placing in the oven. Remove as much marinade as possible and discard it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grease a baking pan with oil. Add the chicken wings and transfer to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Open the oven, basting the meat with the thickened marinade. Flip the chicken wings and baste the other side. Close the oven and continue cooking 10 more minutes. Baste the meat one more time and pour the remaining marinade into a small dipping bowl. Remove the wings from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with a little salt.
Serve with the remaining marinade on the side.
I used Lee Kum Kee brand Selected Five Spice Marinade. You could replace it with hoisin sauce and 1 teaspoon five-spice powder (cinnamon, star anise, clove, fennel, Sichuan pepper).
You can find grape molasses in any Middle-Eastern market. If not, you could use regular dark molasses.
I used Bob's Red Mill Arrowroot starch. If you don't have find any, tapioca starch or cornstarch is a good thickening agent as well.
You can find All Spice Cafe online and discover their wide variety of hot sauces. I also recommend their chipotle tapenade, which tastes amazing.