Feed A Crowd: Zesty Baked Chicken Wings

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Last week we had a big crowd gather at a friend’s house to watch an epic sports ball field competition. They call it American Football. The Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers were going to have at it on the artificial turf of CenturyLink Field, so the least I could do was contribute a very sports ball-ish food item. Chili, meatballs, pizza and a hot cheesy dip were already spoken for, so I decided to fill in the big missing blank: chicken wings.

Chicken wings are one of those weirdly gross food items that I can’t help but like. Whether they are Buffalo or tangy or Korean-style, wings are a sinful food that you should eat no more than a few times a year. When I first moved to New York City at the tender age of 23, I discovered an Atomic Wings joint a couple of blocks from my apartment, conveniently located between the 53rd/Lex subway station and my place. I’d never really eaten chicken wings until that one day when the alluring spicy, unfamiliar smell lured me in, and then I got hooked. Let’s just say I’m thankful for the metabolism my foolish youth afforded me then, because in that first six months I ate far too many dinners consisting of a 10-piece Buffalo Wings box washed down with Snapple or Yoohoo (two other NYC discoveries). I no longer drink Snapple (“too fruity”) or Yoohoo, but once in awhile I’ll have me some chicken wings.

I didn’t want to fry them—greasy and messy. So I looked up Alton Brown‘s method, which I recall having seen on his show before. His method for crispy baked wings is to steam them, then lay them on a cookie sheet and dry them in the refrigerator uncovered for an hour. The less moisture on the chicken, the crispier they’ll get. I had no time to steam them, so I just placed them on a cookie sheet and dried them in the fridge for a few hours.

As for the spices, I used a cheat. I have a giant tub of Tom Douglas’ Rub With Love Salmon that I used as a base. This stuff sells in little jars at all of his restaurants, but at Costco you can get a huge tub much more economically. Even though it’s supposed to be for salmon (and damn, it’s awesome on salmon!), its few ingredients are: brown sugar, smoked paprika, kosher salt, black pepper, and thyme. An excellent start to a chicken wing rub. I added in all sorts of other stuff, baked it and served it with blue cheese dressing. It was gone before the end of the second quarter.

Zesty Baked Chicken Wings

4 pounds of chicken wings
4 packed tablespoons Rub With Love Salmon
1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Olive oil

Remove the tips of the wings and separate the wings at the joint. Lay them out on a single layer on a cookie sheet, and place uncovered in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and make sure rack is in the center of the oven.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Place chicken wings in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Mix wings, making sure they all have an even coating of oil. Sprinkle rub mixture all over the wings, and mix around to coat evenly.

Line a cookie sheet with foil, and place an oven-safe wire rack on top. Lay the wings on the rack with the skin side down.

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Bake for 20 minutes, then turn wings so that skin side is up. Bake another 25-30 minutes, until skin looks crispy and slightly blackened.

Remove from oven, and serve with your favorite blue cheese dressing.

They were finger-lickin’ good! I may even turn up that little kick and add more Cayenne or chili powder next time. Next time being another sports ball field competition.

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