The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - CATHY BAR­ROW

Way back in the early 1980s, I came up with a chicken wing recipe.

It started as a re­frig­er­a­tor-clear­ing ex­er­cise, us­ing a lit­tle of this and that from jars. The first batch was ter­rific, and be­cause I had, lit­er­ally, taken a lit­tle of this and a lit­tle of that, I was un­able to repli­cate what I had done.

It took some ex­per­i­ment­ing to cob­ble to­gether an­other batch as de­li­cious as the first; af­ter sam­pling sev­eral dozen wings, who could re­mem­ber? From that day for­ward, I had my wing recipe.

The Wing Years, as I like to call them, fol­lowed — when I ar­rived at ev­ery party with a foil-cov­ered bak­ing sheet and a zip-top bag of wings in my se­cret spicy mari­nade. I popped them in the oven and stood by with tongs, ready to flip them over on their way to a sticky, sweet, ir­re­sistible snack food.

The wings had de­voted fans. I joked that I had to hold back one piece in the kitchen or they would all be de­voured by the time I re­moved my oven mitts and put down the tongs.

When I set out to re-cre­ate the recipe for Wash­ing­ton Post read­ers, I stum­bled. It turns out the denizens of my re­frig­er­a­tor door have changed.

Where Chi­nese chili sauce with gar­lic was a stan­dard in my ‘80s kitchen, today it is Korean gochu­jang. Soy sauce has stepped aside for tamari. I had only Tabasco and Frank’s Hot Sauce then, but now there are a dozen bot­tles of hot sauce, some veg­e­tal, some in­cen­di­ary. The world had changed, but my wing recipe hadn’t, un­til now. The up­dated recipe is com­plex, sweet, spicy, tingly and dead sim­ple.

But peo­ple love their wings. To that end, the parts have been broiled, baked, bat­tered, dunked in sauce, dry-rubbed and Korean-spiced. Gro­cery stores have taken to of­fer­ing wing bars, where a se­lec­tion bathed in var­i­ous sauces and styles may be pur­chased by the pound.

Resist these of­fer­ings as over­cooked and un­der­whelm­ing and make this recipe in­stead. Pour all the in­gre­di­ents in a bag, add the chicken, mar­i­nate, roast. If you want to eye­ball the amounts in­stead of mea­sur­ing, I won’t tell.

The stick­i­est ques­tion re­mains: drumettes or flats? Each wing has three parts: the ves­ti­gial, ined­i­ble tip, the drumette, so named for its re­sem­blance to the drum­stick, and the flat, the two-boned cen­tre sec­tion.

One friend’s daugh­ter went through a “wing phase” and shame­lessly asked servers for drumettes only. They com­plied.

Other wing eaters, ac­cord­ing to a Red­dit thread about which is bet­ter, pre­fer the flat for its easy eat­ing. (It’s pos­si­ble to pull the meat from the bones with one swift, toothy mo­tion.) Serve all drumettes or give equal time to drumettes and flats. It doesn’t mat­ter; ev­ery piece will be de­voured.

The last im­por­tant bits of ad­vice I have: line the bak­ing sheet with a dou­ble layer of foil, be­cause roast­ing these wings makes one caramelized, crazy sticky mess. Don’t use dis­pos­able bak­ing pans, be­cause they aren’t sturdy enough to carry the weight of all these wings. And, while we could de­bate the mer­its of fried wings over oven-roasted ones, which would you rather clean up af­ter?

Dou­ble or triple the recipe to serve a crowd. And pre­pare to bring these wings to ev­ery fu­ture get-to­gether.

Ir­re­sistible Wings

This recipe be­gan as an ex­per­i­ment, emp­ty­ing the last bits from jars and bot­tles lan­guish­ing in the re­frig­er­a­tor, and ended a fam­ily favourite. Mar­i­nat­ing these wings plumps the meat and cloaks ev­ery nook and cranny with a rich, in­dul­gent, com­plex, sweet and spicy glaze.

Choose all drumettes, the part of the chicken wing that re­sem­bles the drum­stick, or a com­bi­na­tion of flats and drumettes.

It is pos­si­ble to dou­ble or triple the recipe, but take care not to crowd the bak­ing sheet when roast­ing. Lin­ing the bak­ing sheet with foil is no joke. The mess is real.

MAKE AHEAD: The wings need to mar­i­nate in the re­frig­er­a­tor for at least four hours, and up to eight hours. If the tim­ing is in­con­ve­nient, re­move the chicken from the mari­nade ahead and place the wings di­rectly on the bak­ing sheet; re­frig­er­ate un­til ready to roast.

Black bean chili sauce is avail­able at some su­per­mar­kets, as well as at Asian mar­kets.


1/3 cup ketchup 1/3 cup hoisin sauce ¼ cup low-sodium tamari or soy sauce ¼ cup light brown sugar 2 ta­ble­spoons gochu­jang (Korean pep­per paste) 2 tbsp Di­jon mus­tard 2 tbsp black bean chili sauce (see head­note) 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil 2 tbsp un­sea­soned rice wine vine­gar 2 tbsp sorghum or mo­lasses 3 pounds chicken wings (all drumettes or a com­bi­na­tion of drumettes and flats)

Com­bine the ketchup, hoisin, tamari or soy sauce, brown sugar, gochu­jang, mus­tard, black bean chili sauce, sesame oil, vine­gar and sorghum or mo­lasses in a 1-gal­lon (750-gram) zip-top bag.

Add the chicken and seal, press­ing out as much air as pos­si­ble. Mas­sage to dis­trib­ute the mari­nade in­gre­di­ents and coat the wings (through the bag). Re­frig­er­ate for at least four, and up to eight, hours.

Pre­heat the oven to 400 de­grees. Line a rimmed bak­ing sheet with two lay­ers of alu­minum foil.

Ar­range the wings in a sin­gle layer on the bak­ing sheet; dis­card any left­over mari­nade. Roast for 20 min­utes, then use tongs to turn the wings over; roast for an­other 20 min­utes. They will be sticky and caramelized and ir­re­sistible. Serve warm. (In­gre­di­ents are too vari­able for a mean­ing­ful analysis.)

From colum­nist and cook­book author Cathy Bar­row.


Ir­re­sistible Wings: an up­dated ver­sion of an old favourite.

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