July 19, 2007

No Frying, No Cheap Hot Sauce

Having grown up in a town that was just shy of nutso about chicken wings – or buffalo wings, as they are often referred to by some – I have always had a fondness for a tasty wing.

Unfortunately, many bars and a good bunch of restaurants view wings as afterthoughts, over-frying them, using from what I can tell almost no seasoning, and then dousing them in surplus-style "hot sauce" or "tangy BBQ sauce" -- runny, bitingly spicy, often tasteless dressings that will likely be masked in part by the blue cheese or ranch dressings served along with the wings that said customers will proceed to dunk their wings in.

A pure travesty, I say.

We had never made wings at home until nearly two years ago, when I came across a wing recipe in Food & Wine from the monotoned “celebrity chef” Tyler Florence (who, I know, I know, has officially jumped the shark – or perhaps red snapper or bluefin tuna – with his new Applebees gig) that sounded too good and too easy not to try.

I believe Tyler displayed his remarkably diverse vocabulary in describing these wings as “delicious,” and, I have to report, he was correct. They are pretty close to the perfect chicken wing.

First, they are simple to make. Baking, no frying them in a big vat of just-waiting-to-scald-your-skin oil.

Second, they have the intense spiciness of red curry paste (but don't punish your lips by leaving them dry and burning for two hours after you've finished eating), countered by the welcome tang of lime juice and zest.

And, third… well, there is no third. That’s about it. Easy and "delicious." ‘Nuff said.

Red Curry-Lime Wings

- 4 pounds of chicken wings
- Few drizzles of extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 4-6 tbs of butter (you can stick to the lower end and the result is still “delicious”)
- 1 tablespoon of red curry paste (most decent grocery stores carry this now)
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- Grated zest and juice of one lime
- 1 teaspoon (maybe a tad more) soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees

Toss the wings in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Bake the wings in the oven for about 40 minutes. [NOTE: An important tactic here is to use a quality nonstick baking pan and to check on the wings every 15 minutes to make sure they aren’t sticking. Otherwise, when the wings are done, you’ll be trying to pry them from the pan, which, if you're like me, leads to bouts of cursing and slamming of various cooking utensils!]

While the wings bake, mix together the remaining ingredients (butter through soy sauce). Do yourself a favor and soften the butter beforehand.

When the wings are done, mix the wings and curry paste-lime mixture in a big bowl. [NOTE: I’d recommend against using your hands. That curry has a way of finding any little nicks on your fingers and inflicting some serious ouchies.]

FINAL NOTE: I have yet to see 4-pound bags of wings. If you’re going to do 3 pounds, you really don’t need to adjust the amount of sauce. If you’re going with closer to, say, 6 pounds, just add a little more of each of the sauce ingredients. The key, in my opinion, is ensuring you have enough curry paste, butter, and lime juice/zest.

FINAL, FINAL NOTE: If you can afford it, try to find local or sustainably raised chickens. Whole Foods carries Bell & Evans' antiobiotic-free, horomone-free wings, but, unfortunately, they aren't cheap.

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