Binging with Babish: Lemon Pepper Wet from Atlanta
“My boy hooked you up. He made you the lemon pepper joints, but these got the sauce on ’em.” “Oh snap…” “Lemon Pepper Wet?!” “Oh my god…” “Ay-ay ay yo, my nigga… put that down, man.” “Yes, you don’t normally do that.” “But my man, Sam, he hooked y’all up. Holla at him.” Hey, what’s up, guys? Welcome back to Binging with Babish, where this week we’re exploring the Atlantan lemon pepper wet which of course starts with the humble chicken wings. Sometimes these are already broken down but if they’re not, it’s a simple matter of cutting down the side of the skin, breaking up in the joint, exposing the space between the bones, that you can then separate with a knife Some folks enjoy eating the wing tips but if you don’t, save them because they’re excellent for stock being almost pure cartilage. Break down your wings and then it’s time to talk frying versus baking. Believe it or not, you can achieve just as crispy a skin baking the wings as you can with frying, thanks to a method developed by J. Kenji Lopez Alt. For every pound of wings combine one teaspoon each baking powder and Kosher salt and toss to combine. Baking powder lowers the temperature at which the Maillard reaction occurs so you end up getting better browning and crispier skin. One thing to note is that if you’re going to be using a seasoning like lemon pepper, like we’re going to be using, make sure that it doesn’t have too much salt in it, before evenly spacing the wings out on a rack in a rimmed baking sheet that we’re then going to place in the fridge overnight until they look like this. You can see that the skin is dried out which again is going to contribute to crispiness. Now it’s time to talk seasoning. If you live in a region where it’s hard to find lemon pepper seasoning, like, I don’t know, pretty much nowhere, you can still make your own. Simply zest three lemons, spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake on your oven’s lowest setting for anywhere between 45-70 minutes or until completely dried out. Use a food processor, spice grinder, or hand blender thingy to grind the lemon zest into a powder before combining with a little bit of garlic powder, a little bit of onion powder, a pinch or two of sugar, a pinch of celery salt certainly wouldn’t hurt, and just about as much freshly ground black pepper as your adorable little hands can muster. I’m very curious to see if freshly ground pepper is going to make a big difference in flavor, because otherwise it’s a whole lot of work to make something that you can get for, you know, like $2.99 at your local grocery store. Anyway, in the videos of “Lemon Pepper Wet” being made at American Deli, it looks like they’re using clarified butter. So we’re going to melt two sticks of butter over medium heat until the foam subsides and the fats have solidified, so that we can then strain them through fine mesh sieve and a cheesecloth. Now it’s time to start actually making wings. We’re going to bake our air dried wings for about 45 minutes at 450°F. We’re going to fry our wings, our normal wings, for about 10 minutes in oil heated to 375°F. Now, J.R. Crickets, the restaurant featured in the show Atlanta, uses a combination of lemon pepper seasoning and buffalo sauce, so to make a basic buffalo sauce simply whisk together two parts Frank’s RedHot to one part melted butter. Taste once for Rochester and once for Buffalo. While our wings are still very hot out of the oil, we’re going to toss them with the lemon pepper seasoning and then we’re going to add a little bit of buffalo sauce and toss to combine. Eating as soon as possible to retain maximum crunch and because I’m really super hungry. Now, the original menu name for these wings was “Fester Wings” because the chef disliked them so much, but I got to say, they’re pretty good. Now, let’s see how crunchy the oven wings turned out. If you don’t believe me just listen: Like little meaty pebbles These ones I’m going to prepare in the style of American Deli which calls for if the addition of clarified butter instead of Buffalo sauce after adding the spice mix. And between the two, I prefer these ones. You kind of lose the lemon pepper in the Buffalo sauce. Oops, I almost forgot the most important part: blue cheese dressing. Also, there was no discernible difference between store-bought and homemade lemon pepper, so only make it if you’re like in the wilderness, or something.