I may seem delicate, with my ginger-infused biscuits and meyer lemon streusel muffins, and you know what? Maybe I am. But boy, do I love a good chicken wing. Whether battered and fried or sauced and crisped, great wings have become something of an interest. The crunchy skin and juicy meat, the sheer mess of it all, allures me.
I make wings on the rarest of occasions, so I get quite picky about which recipes to try. Last time, I made David Chang’s Momofuku wings. They might have been the best chicken wings I’ve ever made. But they also were the most work-intensive wings I’ve ever made, requiring all manner of pots and pans and way too much time. Frankly, they were too complex to post.
Back to the drawing board I went, in search of savory, juicy, flavorful wings without so much effort. I found one from none other than Cathy Barrow, aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow, a core member and anchor of the DC Food52 crowd and one of my favorite new friends. Cathy has a fantastic blog, and is also at the helm of Charcutepalooza, a yearlong charcuterie-making project. Needless to say, she’s a force.
Cathy’s recipe for party wings reminded me of things I cooked in college. Chicken, marinated in brown sauce, simply baked until crisp outside and tender within. A simple, no-fuss recipe. Of course, one look at Cathy’s recipe and I realized this actually was nothing like my dorm room fare. I didn’t have any fermented black beans in my college fridge. And in fact, I didn’t when I made these, either. I don’t think they suffered, but I guess I won’t know until I’ve tried to make them with the beans.
I wanted a spicy wing, and sriracha was a welcome addition here. While I worried that the flavor would be a bit muddled given how many ingredients are called for, they really weren’t at all. The horseradish and mustard come together to balance the sweetness of the molasses, hoisin, and brown sugar (which I reduced, since I omitted the beans), and the garlic and sesame oil give a strong undercurrent to the marinade. The bake-and-baste method is so easy, it seems almost like a fluke when perfectly moist, crispy wings emerge from the oven. That’s Cathy for you – always hitting it out of the park. D proclaimed these the best wings she’d ever had.
In the next couple weeks, I hope to make the Charcutepalooza founder proud; I’m planning to make my own corned beef. Supposedly a very easy task, though I have a keen ability to mess up even easy things. Wish me luck; assuming all goes well, I’ll have a recipe for ya’ soon.
Adapted from Cathy Barrow
6 pounds chicken wings
1/4 cup fermented black beans (I omitted these)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar (I cut to 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup molasses
2/3 cups hoisin
1/4 cup horseradish
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons sriracha
How’s this for an easy recipe? Cut the wings into three parts, reserving the tip for stock.
Combine all the other ingredients in a deep bowl or (easy!) a plastic bag. Add chicken wings. Marinate for several hours (I left them in there for two or three days).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (a must, since the sauce sticks to everything) and arrange wings in a single layer, drizzling some of the sauce overtop. I stopped adding sauce when there was a small pool around the wings but they weren’t drowning.
Bake the wings for about 45 minutes, basting and flipping them halfway through. Serve hot or at room temperature.