Pigskins and puppies

So I don’t care about football. At all. I’ve been known to refer to a certain Sunday as “the Stupid Bowl.” The Puppy Bowl, on the other hand, is a delight in the wasteland of cable TV. My friends say that fuzzy baby animals are my kryptonite, and I can’t really argue. I have a tendency to dissolve into uncontrollable gibberish. It’s pretty disgusting.

The chicken wings I made for yesterday’s Super/Stupid/Puppy Bowl party, however? Not disgusting at all. (See what I did there?)

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Buffalo wing–deep-fried, drenched in syrupy sauce, with the obligatory dunk in a pool of drippy blue cheese goo. But the notion of chicken wings themselves is actually quite appealing. I like the idea of a finger food that’s based on protein, not carbs. And there’s something satisfyingly primal about picking up a bone and tearing off nuggets of meat with your teeth. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

This was the first time I’d ever made wings, and I knew I wanted something subtle. On Saturday, I thought back to the Chinese restaurant meal I’d had the night before, and started dreaming up a marinade of soy, ginger, garlic, and scallions. Problem was, I didn’t really have a recipe picked out to riff on. So I did what I usually do: I grabbed a little of this, a bit of that, tossed everything in a glass measuring cup, and crossed my fingers.

When I initially tasted the resulting mixture, I thought I’d blown it. The marinade was too salty, too sweet, too brassy. But when it was tossed with a huge mound of wings and left to mingle overnight, something delightful happened. The wings turned out just right, gingery and garlicky, lightly glazed with honey and soy. They were perfect for nomming while we watched puppies romp across a tiny football field in HD. Pwetty fuddy widdle bebbehs bawwwwwww.

See? Kryptonite.

Soy-Ginger Chicken Wings (serves 10-12)

About 4 1/2 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes (Alton Brown will show you how)

1 2-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

4 scallions, minced

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp honey

Pinch of cayenne pepper or crushed red chili

Put chicken wings into a gallon zip-top freezer bag. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl, and mix thoroughly. Pour marinade over the wings and seal the top of the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Squish the chicken wings around inside the bag, until everything is evenly coated with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

When you’re ready to cook the wings, preheat the oven to 450ºF and put a rack in the top position. Line two baking sheets or roasting pans with aluminum foil and spray the foil with cooking spray (trust me on this). Lay out the chicken wings in a single layer on the baking sheets, skin side down. If there’s any marinade left in the bag, pour it over the chicken. Bake the wings on the top rack for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is opaque and lightly browned on top. Turn the wings skin side up and turn on the broiler. Return chicken to the oven and broil about 6 minutes, or until thoroughly browned and delicious-looking. (This will generate a small amount of smoke, which may cause you or those around you to believe that your stove is on fire. Don’t worry, it’s not.)

Remove the wings from the oven and resist the urge to eat them right away–you’ll burn yourself. Let them sit until they’re cool enough to handle. Serve with soy sauce for dipping.

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