As part of our digital detox, the boys are in charge of making dinner one night a week. Not only does the time in the kitchen keep their beautiful faces far away from the myriad of screens that compete for their attention, but the pre-cooking time spent planning their meal is a fun task for us to work on together.
To keep things simple, I’ve got them both cooking from the Mad Hungry series of books. With a tagline of ‘feeding men and boys,' I knew the food would be instantly appealing, and because there are two books in the series, each boy has ownership over their own set of recipes. The plan is that they choose something to make for dinner, and master the meal by cooking it three weeks in a row; once with me close by guiding them, once with me around the kitchen if they need the help, and once on their own. Thomas Keller stated that three tries was the best way to master a recipe and make it your own, so we’re going with that number for this experiment.
Last night, Jackson jumped into the kitchen for his first dinner. Feeling ambitious, he was eager to make two recipes from the original Mad Hungry book: crunchy sesame chicken wings and Italian fries. There were a few flaws in the plan that I recognized from the onset – two different cooking temperatures and times required – but I rolled with it in an effort to avoid discouraging him.
The chicken wings were flavourful, crunchy and unchallenging in their preparation, making them ideal for his eleven-year-old hands. I’m embarrassed to admit how quickly they disappeared off the tray, and would likely double the recipe next time around for my clan. The Italian fries took a little more work than Jackson expected – chopping, soaking, cheese grating, herbing (I think I just made up that word) – but he didn’t complain once, and asked to be left alone to work on them by himself. They were tasty, if not a little herbaceous, and we all had a good laugh around the table when I asked Jack how many herbs the recipe called for and he emphatically stated “2 cups.” I was a little skeptical, especially knowing that it was dried herbs he’d been working with, so I prodded him a little to see if maybe he misread the recipe. He was certain that’s what was called for, and quickly grabbed the cookbook “to prove it.” When I heard him laughing in the kitchen I knew he knew he was wrong, and he admitted that it was TWO TABLESPOONS he was supposed to use, not two cups.
Oh well. This is how we learn, right? Whether in life or in cooking, it’s the mistakes we make that hopefully guide us to figuring out the right way to do something. I’m fairly confident that he’ll forever check the quantities of any herbs he plans on adding to a dish. Either that, or he’ll skip the recipe altogether and just serve these baked chicken wings, which would be quite acceptable with the rest of us.
Crunchy Sesame Chicken Wings
Slightly adapted from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn
A snap to put together, these wings are perfect for a simple dinner, party snack, or pre-dinner appetizer. Don't hestiate to double the recipe if you have hungry boys in your house.
- 30 chicken wings (wing and drumette separated)
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Hot sauce and/or chili sauce, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, or coat the pan with a thin layer of oil.
Place the chicken wings in a large bowl. Add the eggs and toss to coat. In a small bowl, combine the sesame seeds, flour, panko, salt, cayenne, and garlic. Dip each wing into the sesame mixture to fully coat, pressing it into the chicken. Place the wings side by side on the prepare baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and cook the wings until they are golden brown and sizzling, another 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm with your favourite hot and/or chili sauce.