So, if you search for "Momofuku Fried Chicken with Octo Vin" on Google, the first page directs you to eight different food blogs all with their own take on David Chang's recipe, which can be found here.
One of those front page food blogs is Ellie of Almost Bourdain. I've already told the story about how Ellie's post on the Momofuku Crack Pie was what started me on my Momofuku journey. I haven't specifically mentioned that it wasn't only Ellie's beautiful rendition of the crack pie that inspired me, but also the post on Ginger Scallion Noodles and some incredible photos of David's fried chicken with octo vin.
Although all of the blogs and the photos in the Momofuku cookbook look gorgeous and all the reviews are very positive, my paranoia about deep frying kept me from trying this recipe initially. The only problem was the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try it.
I tried just making the Octo Vin first. Chang says it very good on grilled or fried meats and I was intrigued by that. A vinaigrette for meat? Chang also says that you should "work your knife skills" during preparation, aiming for small, even pieces of garlic and ginger. Well, as you can see in the pictures above, my knife skills kind of suck. I am going to attribute part of the blame to a knife in desperate need of sharpening though. Luckily, I didn't notice an acrid sting from my large chunks of garlic nor was there a too-spicy blast from the ginger, but there was a little bit a fibrous texture.
The vinaigrette was lovely and flavourful. I tried it over some Momofuku chicken confit, but I didn't think that the taste of the octo vin worked with the bacon-infused juicy chicken. I didn't have any other grilled or fried meat at that stage, so I popped the octo vin in the fridge.
Try as I might, I couldn't get the fried chicken out of my mind. Like many other bloggers, I love a piece of perfectly fried chicken. They are pretty rare. Too often they are soggy and greasy but occasionally there will be one and mmmm... I love chicken karaage for this reason. I've never had greasy or soggy chicken karaage. I've even made a tasty version myself, so it was only my fear of frying holding me back. In the end, curiosity won out.
Chang has very detailed instructions for his fried chicken. There are three stages. First you brine the chicken then you steam the chicken and then you fry the chicken. Between the steaming and the frying you rest the chicken and allow it to dry out completely.
I used two chicken legs which I deboned and then cut in half, since it was only going to be me trying it. This is what the chicken looked like after being brined, steamed, and refrigerated on a rack overnight.
Now for the scary frying part. Chang says to use a deep skillet so that the chicken can be submerged. I used a saucepan to try and strike a balance between not using too much oil and to give my oil plenty of bubbling room. I have a candy/frying thermometer which I had acquired since the last time I tried to fry something and I found that being able to see and control the heat of the oil increased my frying confidence.
Unfortunately, the combination of my poor knife skills and my poor photography skills do not do the finished product of fried chicken and octo vin justice. It's yum!!!! I ate the two chicken legs cooked in the Momofuku fashion and then dug around in the freezer looking for my stash of frozen grilled chicken which I use in salads for my lunch. The octo vin even tasted awesome on defrosted grilled chicken. I ate so much I started feeling ill, but it was so hard to stop!
The full recipe of both Octo Vin and the Momofuku Fried Chicken can be found here. If you're a fan of fried chicken, I urge you to try it yourself.