The first time I tried chicken wings was in high school one memorable evening at Europe Gryo in Kent, our local college town. I grew up in a vegetarian household and though I fairly regularly ate meat outside my home (suburban Ohio in the early nineties was not a hotbed of vegetarian culture and I'll confess that sometimes I just didn't want to be that different from other kids), there were definite holes in my carnivorous exploration. So the scene is spring break, junior year. Very late at night and I was with my soon-to-be-boyfriend and a mutual good friend. Europe Gyro is a take out place that serves decent gyros and hot wings. Boys being boys, they ordered super-extra-spicy wings and I sat there looking on in disbelief as they downed the whole batch, at least two dozen if memory serves. My experimentation with carnivory was new enough that the bones pretty much ruled out the wings for my palate, and my brief taste that night didn't change my mind. But the adolescent buzz of working my way towards this new boy and the subsequent make-out session in my parents' living room at 3 in the morning made the evening memorable.
So all that to say that I never really considered chicken wings an appealing option to eat for dinner. They're so often flabby, greasy and unappealing, drenched in some highly processed sauce from mystery ingredients. But then I made them at home. Made from Misty Knoll Farms chicken wings, very roughly following Lynn Rosetto Kasper's recipe for Mahogany Glazed Chicken Wings, they are something worthy of note. Roasted instead of fried, they are crisp, brown and totally yummy.
When I say roughly following the recipe, what I mean is that will I glance at the recipe (or maybe not) and start shaking some soy sauce, gluten free hoisin sauce, maple syrup, and cider vinegar into a bowl and then add a healthy couple of tablespoons of dry rub from our last go at pulled pork. So rough really means rough here but her recipe was the real inspiration for this when I started making them, so she still gets the credit. What I really think is the secret is the combination of salty and sweet, with a little spice from that dry rub and then the long baking in the oven.
I prick the skin of the wings with my knife and then place the wings on a cooling rack set over a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. The intent is that some of the fat will render and drip into the baking sheet, and you end up with non-flabby wings. And they're really lovely, I have to say. We ate them as a meal by themselves with a salad of lettuce from the garden dressed with oil and vinegar. They were good enough that we needed a walk after dinner to make me feel like we'd earned them. I'll admit that I probably could have eaten the whole batch, just like Mike and Ryan did 15 years ago.