Make perfect chicken wings every time

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image taken by Bill approximately three seconds before I told him to stop taking photos already and let me eat!

As soon as it’s fall, I start craving food that matters. Not just the Pinterest-worthy picnic sandwiches I attempt to make all summer or a good pasta salad I can nibble on for days, but the kind of hearty food that makes your soul warmed and happy. And when it’s not yet November and not yet chilly, that doesn’t leave a ton of options. But there is one. A food perfect for football, fun to make, easy to do outside when the days are still comfortable, and just generally ideal for every kind of get-together you can imagine: The chicken wing. Fall is perfect for really, really good chicken wings.

As the regular sort of Americans who look forward to college football (go Dawgs!), crisp autumn mornings, and bouquets of newly sharpened pencils,* the idea of adding some chicken wings into culinary rotation sounded downright logical as soon as Mark Bittman suggested it.

Not long ago, he waxed poetic about chicken wings in his (beloved) New York Times food column. For him, fall (and the return of football season) isn’t just about fuzzy sweaters and wooly socks, it’s about chicken wings. Perfect chicken wings made on the grill. So, as happens when we’re reading Mark Bittman, we spent last Saturday devouring his article and then, nearly immediately, we were ready to devour everything he described. Luckily, the ingredients for wings are pretty easy to pull together and don’t require a ton of foresight.

But as the grill heated up and began to approximate the temperature of the still-sweltering midday sun, I began to question our decision. We’ve long made wings in the oven. Or on the stove-top. They’ve always been perfectly fantastic. Is there any reason we’re standing over a hot grill when it’s a thousand degrees outside and we could be cooling off at the beach instead? Is there any reason we’re not just ordering wings from Buffalo Wild Wings, where I can also get those really addictive and surely horrible for you mini corndogs?** In fact, besides being highly impressionable Bittman fans, is there any reason we’re doing any of this at all?

So I started grumbling, and Bill started cooking. We’re a good match like this, because when I get dissuaded from the a recipe mid-project, he keeps going. And when he thinks it would be super fun to go the county fair and look at all the pigs and the sheep and the cakes, I decide that what we really need to do is enter one. (A cake, not a pig or a sheep.) This makes for fun — and tasty — days in our family.

And around the time I’d started settling on what kind of cake I’d enter into the county fair and exactly how we should decorate it, Bill presented me with a plate of the most delicious wings I’ve ever tasted in my life. They weren’t anything like what you get at a wing-centric restaurant. They bore no resemblance to the wings I’ve made before. They looked, for all the world, like what God was thinking of when he first invented the chicken wing. They looked absolutely perfect.

Thank you, Big Green Egg and Mark Bittman.

The wings were easy enough on the grill and we served them with a chipotle lime sauce that was a cinch to pull together. In the event the picture didn’t get your mouth watering (the picture of the actual wings as made by us, real people, who don’t have the photographic know-how to make them mouth-droolingly beautiful with any photographic know-how tricks, or the culinary know-how to make it look all food-perfect in that awesome chef way, but as regular people taking pictures of just really good food), the recipe sure should.

Mark Bittman’s Delicious Grilled Wings with Chipotle Lime Sauce 
(with slight alternations to make the whole thing easier)

You’ll need:
3 pounds of chicken wings (we found them for a great price at Whole Foods of all places)
Olive oil
3T chopped chipotles in adobo (you’ll find these in the can, we like these the best)
3T lime juice
1T minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste>

Toss the wings with a little olive oil before you get everything going. This helps keep them from sticking, and that will make your life easier.

Get your grill going. You’re going to want your rack about four to six inches from the heat. You want the grill to be moderately hot, and you’re going to split it into two sides: a side that’s going to be cool and a side that’s going to be hot. The cooler side (where you’ll have as little fire as possible) will be used for indirect cooking.

While the grill heats up, mix 1/3 cup olive oil, the chipotles (and some of their tasty sauce), lime juice, and garlic in a large bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.

When the grill is ready, start the wings on the cool side. Cover the grill and cook them for about fifteen or twenty minutes or until they’re cooked through, turning them once or twice.

When the wings are done, put them into the bowl of sauce and get them good and covered. Put them back on the grill – but this time, the hot side – and cook them uncovered, turning as needed, until they’re brown on both sides.


Ta-da! Done and delish.

We like to hang on to the leftover sauce for dipping purposes (if you have too much, it’s also great for tacos or even huevos rancheros), and we found the wings were delicious when served with a kale Greek salad. The feta was a nice counterpoint to the spiciness, and the kale provided enough healthy crunch that we didn’t feel bad about stuffing our faces with vast amounts of wings.***

Truly, between the two of us, we killed 24 wings. And then made them again yesterday. And immediately killed all of those.

I like these chicken wings for dinner. I like them for lunch. I would eat them for breakfast if they were offered. They’re pretty delicious leftover, cold, and straight out of the refrigerator. They’re fantastic packed up in a lunch pail the next day. They are crispy on the outside (in a way the refrigerator doesn’t ruin) and incredibly moist on the inside. It’s like the best of the frying pan and the oven all in one. And the sauce was just fantastic, too. A nice, sweet heat that kept me going back for more.

My weight in chicken wings later, I can tell you one thing for certain: We’ll be making more this weekend. You should, too. It’s the perfect way to welcome fall and, with it, football.

So when it’s suddenly Superbowl Sunday, and your family realizes it just can’t survive without another helping of wings, know that we’re right there with you, standing over our grills in the middle of the snowstorm, mittens and hats stalwart against the wind, unfazed by the blinding blizzard, turning our wings on the grill until they are perfect for this family-friendly feast. And until then, we can all just be glad Mark Bittman reminded us how completely delicious a good chicken wing is.

Tell me: What’s your favorite food to welcome fall?

* Every autumn should also include a mandatory screening of You’ve Got Mail. I spent  a decade on the Upper West Side, and let me tell you. They captured the feel of fall in New York perfectly. Nora Ephron (who was also a self-diagnosed foodie) was a gift to our time.
** Don’t kill my happiness.
*** One day I will pretend to be lady-like. That day is not today. Or as long as I’m capable of eating wings.