Monday, January 27, 2014

Chicken Wing Magic


Wing magic. With harissa.
Up until about a year ago, I was mentally insane. Because I thought—and often said—that it wasn’t possible, or worthwhile, to make good chicken wings at home. “That’s why God invented sports bars!” I announced, on my way to ours, to order buffalo wings, “extra extra crispy with an extra side of celery.” Which I still love to do. But I was very, very wrong about the possibilities of my own oven. I have now spent a year mastering the at-home wing and, finally, they are even better than the ones at the sports bar. Sacre bleu! But true.

These are the roasted wings, with nothing on them yet. (Right?)
There are two secrets, and here they are: salt and time—plenty of both. Basically, you salt the wings heavily and let them sit in the fridge for a couple of hours—ideally overnight or, less ideally, for the 20 minutes it takes your oven to preheat. I usually strike a middle ground in the 4-6 hour range. Then you put the wings in the oven and you leave them there to roast for a full hour, turning them halfway through—but only because you are bored and excited than because they actually need turning. Then you either eat them as is, because they are perfect, or you sauce them in any number of classic or high-end wing-saucing styles. That’s it.

Are your proud of me for acknowledging the Super Bowl, even just obliquely?
What happens is this: the salt seasons the meat to the bone, and the long heat renders all of the fat so that a) there is not a speck of flab on the finished wing and b) the wings end up frying in their own melted fat, turning perfectly, magically crisp. It’s a magical kind of one-two—like how, when there’s a Monday holiday, not only do you get the day off, BUT ALSO the week is only four days long. Let me clarify, though: if you prefer wings that you’d more likely describe as “juicy,” where you are happily gnawing flaccid meat laced through with rubbery veins, these are not your wings. But if you like wings where the deeply golden meat pulls clean off the bones in crisp-chewy shreds, then this is your method, trust me.
BBQ. These are too sweet for me, but they are crowd-pleasers, especially when it comes to the younger set.
Although our friend Zaim maturely preferred the harissa ones.
But you need to take it seriously. Because if you do things to the wings before cooking them—marinate or glaze them, say, or do some other fancy thing because you don’t trust me here that simple is best—then that thing you did will get in the way of the fat melting, and the wings will never crisp properly and/or they will burn.
Ben and our friend Sahar. Unstill Life with Chicken Wings.
Okay? And you know I’m very live-and-let-live about everything, especially (with the possible exception of pizza toast) when it comes to recipes. You want to swap in pecans for walnuts, sub out cardamom for mace, use the sagging cabbage you already have instead of buying cauliflower? Great! But here: salt and time. The rest can come after. After, you can do whatever you like to the wings, and you’ll have created a versatile and delicious kind of a crunchy-perfect blank canvas for your favorite seasoning. I favor spicy: classic buffalo or harissa (see below) but the world is your wing.


Chicken Wing Magic
This recipe can be easily multiplied. I usually double it to feed 6 serious wing-eaters with a couple unserious children thrown in the mix.

3 pounds chicken wings
3 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)

Line a large rimmed pan with parchment paper (or the wings will stick). Arrange the chicken wings on the pan and salt them, first on one side and then on the other. Use all the salt. Cover the wings and refrigerate them for 4-6 hours (or, more ideally, overnight, or less ideally, for less time). Look at the gross picture down below to see about how spaced out the wings should be; if they're too crowded, they'll do more steaming than frying, so you should spread them onto a second pan.

Take the chicken out of the fridge and start heating your oven to 375. Put the chicken in the oven and roast for an hour until the wings are deeply golden, very crisp and frying in puddles of their own fat. I use small wings, but if yours are larger, they may take longer. If they are not browning for some reason, turn your oven up 25 degrees. I flip the wings halfway through the baking, but I think it’s just because I want to interact with them. That’s it. Then you'll sauce and serve, without putting them back in the oven.

And then:
Some saucing options. I find that something like ½ cup of whatever will sauce 3 pounds of wings without drowning them—but by all means scale it up, if that’s your thing. Methodwise, what you want to do is put the hot wings in a large lightweight bowl with the sauce of your choosing, so that you can flip them around restaurant style, coating the wings lightly but thoroughly. All of these are good.
  • Classic Buffalo. ¼ cup of butter and ¼ cup of Frank’s Original Red Hot, melted together. Serve with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks, if you like. (Edited to add: I now melt the butter in a tiny pot and whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of flour and then the Frank's. It makes a creamier, clingier sauce.)
  • BBQ. ½ cup of bottled barbecue sauce. (I know!)
  • Harissa. ¼ cup of harissa mixed with the juice of ½ a lemon. Top with cilantro leaves.
  • Miso-Citrus. 2 tablespoons of white miso stirred together first with 1 tablespoon of hot water and then with the juice and grated zest of ½ a tangerine or orange. Top with slivered scallions.
  • Lime-Butter. ¼ cup melted butter, mixed with the juice and grated zest of 1 lime, 1 clove of minced garlic, a handful of chopped cilantro, salt to taste, and 1 (optional) teaspoon of sugar or honey.
  • Chimichurri. ½ cup of finely chopped parsley mixed with ¼ cup each white vinegar and olive oil, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of chopped capers, salt to taste, and an optional whiff of anchovies or fish sauce.
  • The Ginger Vinaigrette from here.




(I stuck these two gross pictures down here.)

49 comments:

  1. These look pretty great--will have to give them a try! If you don't mind a little extra hassle, this recipe from Kenji Lopez-Alt will produce wings that taste exactly like they came from the deep fryer at your local sports bar: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/02/the-best-buffalo-wings-oven-fried-wings-recipe.html. The baking soda does amazing things to the skin. But I am usually too lazy (not to mention pressed for fridge space) to toss and spread out the wings overnight, so I look forward to trying your method!

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  2. Paula9:30 AM

    Scrolling down and coming across that beautiful child I thought, "Wow! Birdie has changed so much!" and I was studying her face to note all the changes. Because it's Zaim. I'm not one of your brighter readers.

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  3. Allyson9:34 AM

    These look so good. Our favorite local wing place closed down, so I might be making these for the Superbowl this year.

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  4. I can't wait to try these! And you so perfectly described the kind of wings I hate. Rubbery veins--shudder.

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  5. Anonymous3:01 PM

    Yum! I live abroad where there are no Buffalo Wings to be had. I make them as you said but first coat them in olive oil, then fresh-squeezed lemon juice, then salt and pepper. Cook, turn, cook. Finish off with Texas Pete Hot Sauce that I bring with me from the USA + make blue cheese dipping dressing. Will have to make some wings this weekend!!!

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  6. Anonymous4:10 PM

    Awwww - is Birdy wearing a hand-me-down shirt from Ben? I remember when she used to be pictured in his little onesies!

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    Replies
    1. That's actually our friend Sahar! But she got a haircut that matches Birdy's. Thank you for remembering, though! xo

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    2. Those beautiful children do look an awful lot like your beautiful children!

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  7. Anonymous12:19 AM

    Not to sound like a chicken-wing-ignoramus, but you do these w/the skin on, right?

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  8. Wasn't there something on FB about "martini hair"? This recipe might have finally convinced me to make wings at home. I don't want to sauce them, though. Just roasted would be fine w/ me.

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    Replies
    1. Julia, that was an old Birdyism from here: http://benandbirdy.blogspot.com/2011/05/mmm-sauce.html

      xo

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  9. Yay! I remember trying to convince you on a blog, oh so long ago, that you really could make delicious wings at home without resorting to deep frying!

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    Replies
    1. OMG, I totally remember that too! : )

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  10. Anonymous2:14 PM

    Thanks, these look great, and easy...but, did you complete the Clean program? How was it? Life-changing?

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  11. I don't eat meat, but I'm studying your sauce options for potential on other vehicles.

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    Replies
    1. I saw some very appealing Cauliflower Wings!

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  12. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Question, how do you transport these to a party... Would throwing in a crockpot be a sin?

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    Replies
    1. good question!

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    2. Hi! Sorry for the delay. And, ugh. This is tricky because the crockpot is really going to un-crisp them. Don't get me wrong--they'll still be delicious. But not crisp. I think, ideally, you would transport them still on the baking sheet (you could crowd them all onto one) then reheat them for 20 minutes when you get there, then sauce them. Is that too awkward, though?

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  13. so... we host every year... last year i made these (with drumsticks!)~ http://torriesessions.blogspot.com/2013/02/eat-your-heart-out.html... but since we're not hosting this year... i was going to take the easy way out and buy... but not anymore! making these! (my son was disappointed when i told him we were going to buy them, but this will make him happy :)) ps... meant to follow you after reading your christmas gift idea post (via dinner, a love story), but was so busy christmas shopping (like a mad woman), i forgot! will add your blog now!

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    Replies
    1. reporting back... these were INCREDIBLE. even better than the ones at the sports bar... just like you said.

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  14. casio1:46 PM

    I have salted chicken wings in my fridge right now. I almost "chickened" out when the 3lb package looked so gross. Wish me luck.

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  15. This looks delicious! And pics of raw chicken are gross.

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  16. Question: I don't have room in my fridge for a cookie sheet. Could I toss the wings with salt in a bowl, put the bowl in the fridge to sit, and then put the wings on the cookie sheet just before I put them in the oven? Or is the fact that they are spread out on the cookie sheet somehow crucial to the process? Thanks, they sound great!

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    Replies
    1. I think that that should work fine. Please report back!

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    2. These turned out just great, having lived in my fridge in a big bowl all day. Totally delish, even my chicken-bone-phobic 12 year old liked them. My only wrinkle: wings stuck badly to the tin foil. Next time I'd oil the foil (or the pan, and skip the foil).

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    3. PS. in a bowl, UNCOVERED. Figured some of the moisture the salt pulled out needed to evaporate.

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  17. Anonymous7:31 AM

    This looks great. I have never made CWs. RE: sauce - do I toss a half of cup of sauce on them once they come out of the oven and then serve immediately? You don't put them back in the oven after you sauce them right? Thanks

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    Replies
    1. That's right--it's sauce and serve. . .

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  18. I think mine are too crowded and I am going to be very forward and post a photo on your wall to see if you will offer advice.

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  19. Anonymous4:58 PM

    They have been baking away for over an hour and I've cranked up the oven to 425 to achieve browning. Thickened some Trader Joe's Soy Teryaki marinade for the girl who likes Thai sweet chili wings (could not decide how to do that) and have BBQ sauce for the rest. Wish me well!

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  20. Janet9:14 PM

    Made these tonight - 3 lbs plain and 3 lbs Trader Joe's BBQ. Yum! I don't understand football at all but I do appreciate football food and these fit the bill perfectly. I salted them and then piled them up in a covered 9x13 cake pan due to space issues and that worked fine, for anyone wondering. Thank you Catherine!

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  21. I made these last night...and they turned out great. First time too. Thanks for a great post.

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  22. The wings were a total hit. When I went to buy them (and a bottle of sauce), our Whole Foods had the free sample people in the aisle, including a local man who makes barbecue sauce. I bought a bottle, but he also gave my kids, ages 2 and 5, wings to eat - In The Store! Can you imagine trying to shop while your preschoolers nosh a saucy wing? They looked utterly ridiculous by the time we got to the checkout. There wasn't a napkin in sight, but grins all around.

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  23. amazing!!!

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  24. These were so, so good. Thank you!

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  25. These are awesome. Do you think the method would work as well with a whole chicken?

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  26. We made these for the SuperBowl, and Catherine, they were amazing! They would rival any wings I've ever had. My family preferred them plain with Ranch for dipping. We will definitely be doing this again!

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  27. Anonymous9:47 AM

    Thank you for the recipe as they were super easy and super delicious. 5 people polished off 4 lbs of wings, which was great except our hosts had planned dinner and then no one was hungry! :)

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  28. Thank you for these! Made them for the Super Bowl. Kids made them AND loved them!

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  29. Anonymous9:00 PM

    I was also wondering if you think it will work for chicken drumsticks? Tried the wing recipe and loved it!

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  30. Best. Wings. Ever. We've made these 3 times this week and we're all still yearning for more. We use the bottled Frank's Wing Sauce and add a little blue cheese dressing on the side - heaven!

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  31. Harry's tailor
    222 Narai hotel silom rd. Bangrak bangkok 10500 Thailand

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  32. Ack, I just realized that I bought whole wings, and it looks like yours are already segmented into the baby drumstick-y part and the other two-bone-y part. Do you think I need to separate them like yours, and cut off the wing tip? Hmmmm.

    -Loren

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  33. Help! Every time we cook wings we set off the fire alarms in our house. Last time we had people knocking on our door to see if we were ok! Will the parchment paper help this? Any other suggestions?

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  34. Patricia in Canada2:02 PM

    Newman! Long time reader, first time commenter. My husband made these and thank the gods because he has always lamented how it is impossible to bake chicken wings and have them taste like the grossly disgusting fried restaurant wings...until now. Thanks for your humour and recipes. Your butternut squash gratin is one of my holiday go-to's. Keep up the great work.

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  35. Lizzie6:33 AM

    Love chicken wings and spicy wings, especially made by Asian recipes, but I can never learn how to cook them, can cook chicken wings only in Wingeria game... Even if I do everything according to recipe, I always fail at the end :((

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