They say that when something is bothering you, it’s best to get it off your chest. Tell a friend, put it down on paper– somehow, some way, just let it out. It’s a great idea, but I can tell you with certainty that it’s totally ineffective when it comes to food cravings. As I mentioned last week, I have been longing for hot wings for months now, and putting it in writing only served to intensify the need. Clearly, the only thing for it was to cook up a batch and eat my feelings.
Honestly, I don’t know why I let the wing craving go on for as long as I did. Once I got down to it, these were just the easiest things to make, and better than any of the take-out wing options in my neighborhood. This is at least partially because, when I make them at home, I can eat them straight out of the oven instead of letting them get cold and soggy on the walk home. But making wings in-house has a number of other advantages: it’s way cheaper than buying them from a restaurant, you can choose your cooking method, you can cook them to your desired level of crispiness, and you can sauce them to your liking.
For me, the most important factor in making the perfect wing is crispiness. The problem I have with most takeout wings is the fact that they are either breaded (the coating gets soggy so quickly) or have sat around for so long that any shred of crunch has faded by the time I dig into them. An oven-roasted wing, on the other hand, is textural perfection; the fat renders while the wings cook, keeping the meat nice and tender, while the skin crisps up beautifully. Cooking the wings on a foil-lined baking sheet, then flipping them over onto a clean piece of foil halfway through cooking, lets both sides get nice and crisp and prevents the wings from swimming around in their own fat. (So you can almost call them healthy.)
Only slightly less important than the crunch factor is the perfect wing sauce. This one was inspired by my favorite wings in the Boston area, available at Publick House in Brookline. Theirs are coated in an absurdly heavy layer of Sriracha-based sauce, which is equal parts scrumptious and painfully spicy. Alex and I order them nearly every time we visit Publick House, but for my own version, I wanted to cut down on the burn juuuust a tad. A 1:2 ratio of Sriracha to buffalo sauce did the trick for me, though your sauce will obviously vary based on which buffalo sauce you choose. I usually pick one in the medium-heat range, but that’s just me.
Now let’s talk process! Unless you have a particularly sharp knife at home, you might want to consider asking a butcher to break down the wings for you. The wings in the pre-packaged trays at the supermarket are usually still whole, so if they’re like this when you get home, you’ll need to find your sharpest knife, find the joint between the wingette and drumette, and cut the wing in two at that point. It’s not hard once you get the hang of it, but with a dull knife, or when you’re pressed for time, it’s probably not worth the effort.
Once your wings are separated, pat them dry with paper towels and arrange them on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray or a thin layer of cooking oil. Sprinkle them with dried herbs (I used an Italian seasoning blend, which appeared to be mostly basil and marjoram), and cook in a hot oven for about 30 minutes.
After that, the tops will be golden and crisp, and you’ll be tempted to dig in right away– but be patient! Flip the wings over–preferably onto a clean sheet of foil– and cook for another 15 minutes, letting the bottom sides get equally crispy and brown.
Once the wings are perfectly done, remove them from the oven and immediately transfer them to a large bowl, along with the hot sauce. If the bowl has a lid, slap it on; otherwise cover the bowl with a plate, hold it on tightly, and shake vigorously to coat the wings with sauce. And, just like that, you have the best, spiciest, exactly-to-your-specifications wings you could possibly want. And just like that, your months-long craving is finally satisfied.
Apologies for the dearth of photos in this week’s post. I’m sure you can understand that I was too busy shoving wings in my face to play with the camera… and I’m also fairly confident that you don’t want to see my photos of raw chicken.
Buffalo Sriracha Wings
about 1 lb. chicken wings, wing tips removed, separated into wingettes and drumettes
about 2 tsp Italian seasoning or other dried herbs
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup buffalo sauce
1/8 cup Sriracha
carrot sticks, celery, and Ranch or blue cheese dressing, to serve
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil, and coat foil with cooking spray or a thin layer of cooking oil.
In a large bowl, combine buffalo sauce and Sriracha; taste and adjust the proportions to your liking.
Arrange wings on baking sheet in a single layer; sprinkle with herbs, salt, and pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven, and carefully remove foil, wings and all, from the sheet. Line the baking sheet with a fresh piece of foil, and, using tongs, transfer the wings to the new sheet of foil, skin side down. Bake for a further 15 minutes, until the wings are golden and crisp all over.
Remove wings from oven and transfer to the bowl of sauce. Cover the bowl with a lid or a dinner plate, and shake to coat. Serve immediately with carrots, celery, and your favorite creamy dressing.