Winging It

For some reason, I had a hankering for some wings today, so on my way back from the ceramics studio I stopped to pick up some decent-quality wings, along with celery (I potted and brought in a garden plant of cutting celery as an herb, but needed fat stalks) and some good local blue cheese. Now it’s worth saying that I’ve never made wings in the classic manner before, but it didn’t seem to be too hard. And since I’d gone all day without sitting in front of this damned appliance, I wasn’t about to break that streak by looking up recipes or anything dumb like that. I just got started. And the result? Pretty fantastic.

To start, because it adds texture and really keeps chicken skin from sticking to a pan, I tossed everything in flour seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. I browned all the pieces very well on both sides, then removed them to a larger pan where they all fit and poured off the extra fat, adding just a bit to the new pan so they’d keep sizzling. I whisked up a sauce: two kinds of vinegar (homemade red wine and the monk’s apricot) plus sriracha, wine, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and a little tomato paste. I poured this in, covered the pan, giving it some good shakes to coat everything, and let it steam on low.

While that commingled, I took some blue cheese and stick-blended it in a jar with some yogurt and a pinch of salt. I like to use pint or quart jars for this sort of operation, depending on the amount of liquid, because the blender just fits into the wide mouth and there’s no spattering at all. Into this thick white sauce I folded some finely sliced celery. And then I tossed the wings some more, making sure they were all well-coated with the by now thick and highly aromatic sauce. I also quickly sautéed some pak choi in a bit of the chicken fat, AND made a salad so there was plenty of vegetative counterweight to this indulgent trough of bar food.

I don’t know how close I got to anybody’s idea of the proper way one is supposed to make wings. I do know that if I was at all close, then wings are really a variation on escabeche, which is a technique I’ve been using for wings and thighs for a while now because it’s great. If not, then that’s somebody else’s problem. These elated the wing aficionado in this family (not me, obviously) and none survived. And I do agree strongly with Michael Pollan’s assertion that it is OK to eat junk or comfort food (from time to time) if you make it for yourself from scratch. The ingredients that went into this were high-quality, mostly local, and sustainably raised or produced. There were excellent vegetables in attendance, which were also fully polished off. Justification is easy, isn’t it?

It also gave me an excuse to use two new pieces recently pulled from the kiln: a bowl (one of eight to replace a set I sold) and a serving dish that came out pretty well. I needed to make some; this is my third one, and it’s nice to have after so many small plates. Sometimes you just want to put everything on a platter and let everyone have at it. I already want more wings.

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  1. December 22

    I was just seeing a program about wings yesterday – I think you got darn close to the classic recipe from the Anchor Bar in Buffalo with your “take” on wings. I don’t even call this junk food – it’s just food, and good.

  2. December 22

    First, I really love the plate the wings are on. Second, the wings look very good- I really hate the really greasy deep-fried type, and love customizing the sauce to one’s whim/ingredients on hand. We did a rice vinegar/plum sauce variation once that was good.

  3. December 22

    Nothing containing sriracha can ever be junk! BTW, you are fully allowed to eat wings without having eat vegetables. Sometimes you just have to be naughty. (Yeah, I know I’m the last one to talk since I always write about “vegetable guilt” and create salads accordingly.)

  4. Peter
    December 22

    Zoomie: It’s not junk, but it has an alluringly guilty pleasure aura about it.

    Christine: Yeah, greasy ain’t sexy. But those Asian flavors are.

    Rachel: I was going for the simultaneous creation and elimination of guilt.

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