Hunger Management

Winging it with bourbon

A marinade of honey, bourbon, Dijon mustard and garlic for chicken wings hits the spot

There are times, when attending back-to-back meetings and pounding on the keyboard because a deadline is looming, that I want to hit the "pause" button in my life and take a minute to breathe.

Hygge, I need hygge in my life.

What is she on about, you must be asking.

I have been a little obsessed with this Danish word since a colleague brought it up at a meeting a couple of weeks ago.

Depending on where you look, it is pronounced hoo-gah or hue-ga and the surface meaning of it is "cosiness" and "contentment".

It is used to describe the act of cocooning that happens in the country, where winters are long and cold, and night sets in early in the day.

The Danish cosy up to a fire, drink mulled wine in warm lighting and spend time with family and friends.

It can be experienced outside of winter and, presumably, outside of Denmark.

This lifestyle seems almost impossible to attain, seeing as how we are running around at work, checking and clearing piles of e-mail, and dealing with matters big, small and just plain irritating.

But it is precisely because our lives are so frantic that hygge is important.

I now seek it when I can.

Instead of watching TV after dinner, fighting sleep and waking up unrested and cranky, I now prepare for bed at least an hour before I used to.

Doctors will tell you that reading in bed and checking Facebook is not the way to a good night's sleep, but I find it relaxes me and I am able to fall asleep more easily.

Dim lighting and Charlie Parker on the iPod help too.

On weekends, when I don't have appointments, I make it a point to stay home.

This is harder than you might think because I always feel like I should be somewhere doing something useful.

It takes effort to decide to do nothing and be at peace with that.

So instead of tearing around here and there, I sleep in, have a good breakfast I cook myself and settle into my comfortable armchair with a book or a riveting TV series to watch.

Sometimes I just listen to music and breathe. It is glorious.

There are days when I am so deep in hygge that I even take a nap, which I almost never do.

The worst thing to do on a hygge day is to fret over cooking.

  • MAKE IT YOURSELF: BOURBON HONEY CHICKEN WINGS

  • INGREDIENTS

    12 chicken drummettes

    12 chicken flats (mid-joint of a chicken wing)

    100ml bourbon

    100g honey

    150g Dijon mustard

    2 Tbs shoyu

    3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped

    Sliced scallions for garnish (optional)

  • METHOD

    1. Rinse the chicken under running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place them in a resealable bag or in a large plastic container with a cover.

    2. Place the bourbon, honey, mustard and shoyu into a mixing bowl, whisk to combine. Add the garlic. Pour the marinade into the bag or container and work it into the chicken with clean hands. Seal the bag or cover the container and refrigerate overnight.

    3. About 30 minutes before cooking, take the chicken out of the refrigerator. Line a large baking tray (I use the one that comes with the oven) with foil, shiny side up. Place a metal rack - the sort used for cooling cakes - on the tray. Line the chicken on the rack and let sit at room temperature. If the tray will not fit all the chicken, cook the wings in two or more batches.

    4. Strain the marinade into a small pot and discard the garlic.

    5. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. When the chicken has been sitting at room temperature for 30 minutes, place the tray in the oven and cook for 40 to 45 minutes, until the wings are golden brown. Let sit five minutes, transfer to a serving platter and scatter the chopped scallions, if using, over the wings.

    6. While the wings are cooking, bring the marinade to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let it reduce until it coats the back of a spoon. Watch the pot and do not let the marinade bubble over. Pour into a bowl and serve with the chicken wings.

    Serves six as a snack

So I keep things simple. For breakfast, I do a fry up - scrambled eggs, bacon or sausages I cook in the oven, some fresh cherry tomatoes, avocado if they ripen on command, and toast.

If I have been successful in sleeping in, then my breakfast is really at lunch time and I do not need to cook until dinner time.

In between, I snack on fruit and drink lots of tea.

Fixing dinner should not be complicated either.

To go full hygge, I make a tomato-cream sauce spiked with vodka, with cubed ham and lots of chopped flat-leaf parsley.

Sometimes I make pork porridge with century egg or a bowl of noodles with whatever vegetables and meat I have in the fridge.

It is still not cool enough for stew, but that will be on the menu when cooler weather comes.

My favourite hygge food, however, is chicken wings. I can think of nothing better than eating a pile of them and they are so easy to get right.

Just marinate them overnight, stick them in the oven and without any fuss or muss, dinner is ready.

After looking in despair at the abundance of booze I have amassed (the bottles stick around because I'm not much of a drinker), I decide to make a boozy marinade.

One of my favourite combinations is honey and bourbon, so that is the base I start with. Dijon mustard lends mellow heat and shoyu adds just enough saltiness.

After a couple of rounds of testing, I add garlic and it hits the spot. The marinade ingredients just need to be whisked together and rubbed into the chicken.

Instead of throwing out the marinade, I strain the garlic out of it and reduce the liquid over the stove top to get a dipping sauce.

Be sure to bring the marinade to a boil because raw chicken has been sitting in it.

If you are feeling the need to be healthy, have some carrot, daikon and cucumber sticks on hand. They are good on their own or dipped into the sauce.

The recipe serves six as a snack, for those who believe that hygge should be shared.

I am happy with my own company so I make a smaller batch.

There is contentment and pleasure in demolishing a platter of wings, licking my fingers and taking a load off.

When there is just a pile of bones left, I have a sip of beer, toast to hygge and resist the urge to check the e-mail.

www.facebook.com/tanhsuehyun

 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 06, 2016, with the headline 'Winging it with bourbon'. Print Edition | Subscribe