Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Growing up, my brother and I used to make jokes about sprouting feathers, because we ate so much chicken.  In summer, it was barbecued, in winter it was roasted, and anytime at all it could be fried or souped.   It makes sense - my mom loves all things chicken, almost as much as she likes bacon, and chicken was an inexpensive option, especially when you add in multiple kids, friends, and extended family. 

I'm thankful she passed on the love of our feathered friends to me; I love chicken.  Red Beard, however, isn't thankful at all because he thinks chicken is boring, but don't worry; I'm doing great on my campaign to change his mind.  In fact, this last weekend, I think I may have made some amazing headway on that!

For Super Bowl Sunday, I made some lovely, spicy chicken wings - braised down, not fried - in a thick, gooey barbecue-style sauce that would be great on anything from pulled pork to short ribs.  Be warned - while these wings and this sauce aren't in-your-face fiery, they do have a mellow, building heat that will open your sinuses for days.  

Don't panic when you see the array of spices in the rub - I know, it seems like a lot, and a large variety.  It may also seem expensive.  I promise, with some smart shopping, it isn't.  I am in love with these little envelopes, always available at Winco and to a lesser degree at Savemart:

Handy Dandy!
World Market also has an amazing variety of spices, in the same type of packaging.  Wherever you find them, they range from approximately 68¢ up to just under $2, and they last forever; they've got enough in each envelope to use again and again.  So far, from one packet of cumin, I've made a triple batch of chili (hunting season), these wings, and I've got more than half left.  You've got the option of investing in refillable $1.99 jars while you're at World Market, or just keep your spice envelopes in a plastic container in your pantry (I have a plastic container with an attached lid, that's supposed to be for recipe cards). 

On a side note, I love World Market.  LOVE.  The food section, the wine section, the kitchen toys, the dishes ... then there's that bathroom stuff and the wrapping paper, and the decorator items.  And the Christmas stuff!  So much fun.  It's like a less expensive version of Pier One Imports (my second love, but mostly I'm only allowed to window shop).  Anyway; back to the food...

Preheat the oven to 400º F.

I bought the frozen "party wings" chicken wing pieces but you can get whatever you prefer, just aim for 2 to 3 pounds.  I would recommend using pieces vs. whole wings, and reserve the wing tips (which hardly have any meat anyway) to use later for chicken stock.  You are all making your own chicken stock from scratch, right?  Hee hee hee.

Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry (I pretty much always rinse off meat).  

Chicken.  So nasty raw; so yummy cooked.

Then wash your hands.  This is going to be a theme today because it's raw chicken, chock a bock full of nasty germs that you really don't want to spread around.

Start assembling your spices.  There's 10 altogether, and the list is not in the order they're shown in the picture because I just can't tell the difference between all the funny greeny-brown ones from a picture, without being able to sniff them:

Not as expensive as it looks.
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Granulated Garlic
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/2 Tbl dried Oregano
  • 1/2 Tbl Cumin
  • 1/2 Tbl Coriander
  • 1 Tbl Chili Powder (I used a mild Spanish variety)
  • 1 Tbl Salt (Kosher or Sea salt please, none of that iodized stuff that tastes funny)
  • 1 Tbl Black Pepper (recipes like this is why I keep the pre-ground pepper on hand)
Whisk them together with a fork (or a whisk, but I didn't feel like pulling one out).  Mix well.

I like the colors.

Add your spices to your chicken bits (just put your chicken in a bowl first vs the colander you rinsed it in, or it's going to get messy..)

Starting to get un-boring...

Start tossing everything about!  And if you're one of those people who's squeamish about handling raw meat - so sorry, but you're going to have to get your hands dirty.  Get in there and work the spices into the chicken, pressing the rub into the meat.

Now go wash your hands again.
Assemble a baking rack inside a sheet pan, and spray the entire thing with Pam non-stick cooking spray.  This is less about the chicken sticking to the rack, and more about having to scrub spicy bits off of the pan later.  Pam cuts down on my scrubbing dishes time, so I love it.  

We hate to scrub!  We hate to scrub!

Arrange the chicken pieces on the rack and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.  Or, if you're like me and you forgot to defrost your chicken wings and they are still a teeny bit frozen in the middle, bake them for 30 to 45 minutes.  Wash your hands before you touch the oven handle. 

Ready for the oven!
While those are roasting away, it's time to talk sauce.  These wings would probably be fine just rubbed and roasted, but the we aren't going for fine.  We're going for fantastical and amazing.  

Yes, I know my orange & lemon are naked.  I've got to use them up somewhere.
You'll need some of your spices again - the chili powder, cinnamon, and salt and pepper; plus some chili flakes.  In addition, we're adding orange and lemon juices, onions and garlic, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup, and Tobasco to kick a bottled barbecue sauce into high gear.  I don't know why there's honey in the picture; little bastard must have sneaked out of the cupboard when I wasn't looking.  Bad honey!  No cookie!

Mince and saute 4 garlic cloves and about 1/3 of an onion.  When it's just starting to brown, add a 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and let them start to bloom and release their heat.

Add a cup of whatever barbecue sauce you like.  I am in love with the spicier varieties of Sweet Baby Ray's, but really, use what you've got.  You're going to be adding so much other yummy stuff that the barbecue sauce is really just a background note and it adds much needed volume. 

Add a cup of orange juice, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, as much Tobasco as you think you'll like (I used one teaspoon), a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and a 1/4 cup of maple syrup (real, bled-from-a-tree maple syrup, not the "pancake syrup" that is just cooked-down sugar). 

Stir to combine and begin adding your spices - 1 teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and a 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and ground black pepper.  Stir to combine.  Let the sauce reduce on medium low heat for 10 minutes - you'll notice it starts to get nice and thick and syrupy; just stir it often to keep it from burning.  

Check on your wings.  They should be roasting nicely and starting to drip onto their pan.  

When your wings are roasted, arrange them in (mostly) a single layer in a baking dish.  Again, spray the dish with Pam!  No one wants to scrub off the sauce mess later.

Sorry, I'm out of caption ideas right now. 

Pour all of that lovely sauce you made down over your wings.  

And they're off for a swim!
Now, if you're freezing this dish, or taking it across town to your mom's house for Super Bowl (or wherever), stop here.  Cover them with foil and you're done until you're about 30 minutes away from serving them.  If you're freezing, just be sure to double wrap, and then defrost completely before baking.

Sigh.  It's just so gorgeous.

When you decide you're ready to eat them, pop them into a 400º F oven for about 30 to 45 minutes.  The sauce will start to bubble, the wings will cook until the meat is almost falling off the bone, and all the flavors will get married and live happily ever after.

So hot.  So spicy.  So fantastical.

Serve them with Blue Cheese dressing (check out the post Sacre Bleu for the dressing details).  Or serve them by themselves.  Or hoard them all for yourself and don't serve them at all and forget everything you ever learned about sharing.

Get the handy printable version of this recipe over at Tasty Kitchen!

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