Chicken Wings, Four Flavors

If memory serves me right, yesterday was the Big Game.

We decided to head over to Toms River to watch the game with Lisa’s folks. Knowing that the folks were doing South Beach, I happily volunteered to make wings – that way, we knew we would have something fun we could eat. And anyway, I was feeling rather chef-ish.

I had big plans.

I also had stuff around the house to take care of before I could start cooking. By the time I had run to the store to get, well, the wings and a few other items, I had about an hour to prepare them before we left.

Hmmmm…an hour to prepare four kinds of wings…

Now…Chef John, show us your culinary skills and prepare for us a variety of wings worthy of a Super Bowl party!!!

* cue the ‘Backdraft’ music! *

* cue the campy Chairman with the yellow pepper obsession! *

Yes, I was having an Iron Chef moment. I don’t have them very often, mainly because I am very sllllloooowwwwww in the kitchen. But I was pressed for time, and inspiration took a hold of me. After an hour, I had four kinds of chicken wings ready to go!

Well, ready to be baked, anyway. They were in a cooler, being marinated. You see, borrowing a method from a recipe for wings that my mom had tried (and they were fabulous), I decided to bake the wings (at 500 degrees), not fry them. They still come out great that way, and it’s a little healthier as well. But to do this method, you need to marinate the wings first. Letting them marinate overnight would be optimal, but even the 1-2 hours they received worked well enough.

So…what were the four flavors of wings?

Flavor #1: Classic Buffalo Wings

Marinade: hot sauce, Tobasco and a little water
Sauce: butter and hot sauce

Very straighforward. I don’t like to tinker with a flavor combination that works so well like butter and hot sauce. Keep it simple.

Flavor #2: Indian Style Wings

Marinade: tomato sauce, milk, garam masala and hot madras curry powder
Sauce: tomato sauce, milk and tikka masala paste

If I wasn’t making them for folks on a diet, I would have used cream instead of milk. And yes, I used a can of tomato sauce, which is sacrilege in an Italian kitchen, because I didn’t want gravy that had too much flavor. I wanted the garam masala, curry powder and tikka masala paste to be the stars of the show.

Flavor #3: Chinese Style Wings

Marinade: soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, Chinese five spice, crushed garlic and grated ginger
Sauce: hot black bean paste, soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, sesame oil and whole wheat flour to thicken

I really wanted a hoisin-flavored wing sauce, but I was avoiding sugar, so I went with hot black bean paste. I love using the black vinegar; it gives a nice sourness (think hot and sour soup) to the mixture.

Flavor #4: Thai Style Wings

Marinade: fish sauce, coconut milk, Sriracha hot sauce, crushed garlic and grated ginger
Sauce: fish sauce, coconut milk and Sriracha hot sauce
Lemongrass for garnish

This one seemed to get the most compliments. It came out like a Thai curry, and the coconut milk supplied enough sweetness. If I wasn’t restricted, I would have used a little brown sugar. I forgot to add a bit of lime juice, but the end result came out fine.

But John, you may be asking, how about some measurements? If I could, I would: I didn’t use any measuring spoons or cups for these wings. These are more like guidelines than strict ingredient portions. As with the Pot of Gravy recipe, let your tastebuds be your guide.

And how did I do? Lisa loved them. My in-laws liked them alot. And I was pretty happy with the results. My only lingering question: how would Rosajin scholar Masaaki Hirano have rated my wings? Hmmmmm…

– John
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