How is it already Monday? This weekend came and went in a rainy, cloudy blur. Somehow even though we are headed into the middle of October, the temperature refuses to chill out, even though I’ve completely swapped my closet (and my mind) into fall and winter mode. It was a warm, humid and windy weekend filled with football. A high school game on Friday night, a college football game on Saturday, and of course NFL (on TV) on Sunday. Typically, on a weekend bookended with so much SPORTS! I would choose to make a big pot of chili to eat throughout– but when the high is 75 and it won’t stop raining, that calls for something a little less hearty. Enter: the chicken wing.
I’ll admit I am a little perplexed by the ubiquitous love of the chicken wing. I know people who LOVE a boneless skinless chicken breast– who balk at the idea of eating a drumstick or a thigh–but who at the same time are somehow also obsessed with the small, bony, cave-man eating of the wing! It’s a ton of effort for not that much reward, and you end up with a tiny chicken wing graveyard on your plate at the end. But for some reason, we all love them.
The wings I prefer are of a savory variety. No overwhelming heat, no breaking out in a sweat on your forehead after your first bite. I’m not looking for pain when I eat. I’m looking for flavor. In college, we would devour the savory, soy-sauce based, meaty wings at our favorite local bar. We hilariously attempted to recreate the sauce once after a few drinks by mixing soy sauce and ketchup in our rental house kitchen (spoiler alert: that is not the secret recipe). I’ve since given up on attempting to make a copycat recipe, and focused on trying to make my own savory, not heat based, flavored wings at home.
These wings were inspired by a new condiment to grace the shelves at Trader Joes: Umami Stir-in Paste & Condiment. A little tube full of glutamates, it has tomato puree, red wine vinegar, parmesan cheese, mushroom powder, and other delicious flavor-packed foods all combined into one tube of awesome. I picked it up at the store on a whim, and I’ve tried it brushed over roasted salmon, which was delicious. But I think I knew all along it was actually destined for chicken wings.
I opted to bake the wings themselves. Even though frying is obviously the superior way to get a crisp wing (and not something I am opposed to on special occasions), I wanted something I could do at home on a Sunday afternoon for a snack or on a Friday afternoon for a group of friends without my kitchen smelling like the back of a McDonalds kitchen. A quick toss in some corn starch helps the crisping factor by drawing out moisture, and baking the wings on a wire rack helps prevent soggy wing bottoms. A blast of the broiler at the end gives them a little extra browning and flavor.
For the sauce, in addition to the umami paste, I added MORE soy, some honey for sweetness, a clove of garlic, some water, a pinch of cayenne for a whisper of heat, and butter for richness. A splash of red wine vinegar at the end brightened it up and it was just the right amount of sauce for 3 lbs of wings. A quick toss in a bowl to coat the wings, and served with some ranch dressing and crisp celery and we were in business.
3 lbs chicken wings, trimmed and separated into drumettes and wingettes
1/4 C cornstarch
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp Umami Paste
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tsp water
1 tbsp butter
2 tsp red wine vinegar
Set rack to middle position and pre-heat oven to 400F. Place a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil over a rimmed baking sheet and place a wire rack inside. Set aside. Put the cornstarch in a gallon ziplock bag, and add the wings. Seal the bag and give it a shake-and-bake toss until evenly coated. In a medium to large bowl (depend on how neat and tidy you are), add the vegetable oil. Pour the wings from the ziplock back into the bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss the wings to distribute oil, salt, and pepper evenly. Arrange wings on prepared baking sheet. Place in oven and cook at 400F for 40-45 minutes or until skin is brown and crisped. Turn the broiler to high and broil for 5 more minutes to really crisp up the skin.
While the wings are baking, make the sauce! In a small saucepan set over medium low heat, combine the umami paste, honey, soy sauce, garlic, cayenne pepper, water, and butter. Heat until the honey is dissolved and sauce has slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vinegar and give it a taste test. Season with additional vinegar, salt or pepper as needed.
Once the wings are done, remove from the oven and let cool slightly. In a large bowl, add the sauce. Add wings to bowl and toss to coat. Serve immediately with ranch dressing and some fresh crunchy celery!