Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Wing's the Thing

Chicken wings are not meant for tea parties. Greasy, saucy and sloppy, they are a guilty pleasure, best served with a handy roll of paper towels. They must be mouth-watering from the git-go, brown and succulent, and require a dipping sauce to suck all the juicy goodness from the bone.

They are one of those foods that I eat only in restaurants, mostly due to the fear of frying factor - I’d rather not subject my kitchen light fixtures to airborne grease. My husband agrees - but he believes that fried wings are the only way to go. If you don’t see scorch marks on the ceiling, the cook obviously hasn’t put forth sufficient effort. If the wings are to be worthy, the cook must brave the shrapnel-spitting cauldron of boiling oil. As if that isn’t intimidating enough, our two daughters can detect a speck of ground black pepper at three hundred paces, while my husband and I like our food with some kick. This leads to a house divided, sort of like what we witnessed this week when Congress voted on healthcare reform.

My goal with a home-cooked chicken wing recipe was to find a relatively clean cooking method and a family-friendly spice level. After giving it some thought, I developed a strategy of roasting wings in a spicy warm tandoori sauce that my girls love. High-heat oven roasting (a technique endorsed by Pam Anderson at Three Many Cooks) browns the wings and keeps them juicy inside. The tandoori marinade is a winner - my family set upon these wings with the same ferocity as a GOP strategist on a yellow-dog Democrat.

And for the grown-ups who like to kick it up, I created a spicy Tikka Masala sauce to serve alongside. The wings are fine without the dip, but they make a pretty picture together - ochre wings and rosy sauce.

Roasted Tandoori Chicken Wings with
Tikka Masala Dipping Sauce

4 pounds chicken wings, tips clipped


2 cups non-fat plain yogurt

8 cloves garlic, peeled

4-inch piece ginger, peeled

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 ¼ tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. salt

Juice of 1 lime

Place marinade ingredients in food processor and puree. Place chicken wings in a shallow container and pour marinade over the wings. Let marinate at least 4 hours. Pull the chicken from the marinade and place on foil-lined baking sheets sprayed with canola spray. Bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Start with skin side down and flip halfway through roasting.

Tikka Masala Dip

1 small onion

2-inch piece ginger

5 cloves garlic

3 tbsp. butter

¼ tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. garam masala

½ tsp. cumin

¼ tsp. cayenne

¼ cup cashews, ground in the food processor (optional)

1 (14.5 oz.) can crushed tomatoes

1 tsp. sugar

Salt to taste, if needed

½ cup half n half (or more)

1. In the food processor, blitz together the onion, ginger and garlic to make a paste. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat and add onion-ginger-garlic paste. Cook gently, then add spices and stir for about a minute. Add ground cashews, then tomatoes and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. When cooked through, add half-n-half to arrive at taste and texture you desire.

2. Serve wings with tikka masala dip alongside. And lots of napkins.

A note on clean-up for these and other wings: don’t even bother with the cheap single-ply paper towels, for wing clean-up, go to the auto parts store and get what the mechanics call shop towels and industrial strength soap. You can thank me later.

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