Thu Jan 17, 2019
Do you know that amazing feeling when you keep trying something, but just can't get it right, then all of a sudden, you got it? Well, that was the exact reaction these jalapeño wings elicited in me when I made them over the summer. Jalapeño wings have been a recipe I've been trying to lock down for many, many years, but could never get it quite right. My folly ended up being focusing on using only a jalapeño hot sauce when I really needed to broaden my horizons—it took jalapeños in three different forms to make these wings as stellar as they could be!
The first incarnation of jalapeño was chipotle powder. Chipotles are smoked and dried jalapeños, which gives them both an intensely smoky and enhanced spiciness. A little goes a long way of this stuff, so for the dry seasoning, I only started with small amount of chipotle powder and built up a complimentary flavor profile around it using cumin and oregano with some brown sugar to add a little contrast to the heat.
After adding a tablespoon of baking powder to the spices—the baking powder helps create a crisp and textured skin—I patted the wings dry with paper towels and tossed them with the seasoning.
I then arranged the wings on a wire rack set in a sheet pan and placed the entire thing in the fridge overnight. If you're a follower of the Meatwave, you already know the combo of baking powder and air drying is what it takes to get super crunchy and crackling skin on the grill, resulting in a wing very similar to those that have been fried.
In my previous recipes for jalapeño wings, I was using my own homemade hot sauce. I figured my recipe for the sauce may not have been that hot (pun intended) due to the less than stellar results I was experiencing with it. So this time around I picked up a bottle of Cholula's Green Pepper sauce, which is actually a mixture of jalapeño and poblano and is quite tasty. To make the finishing glaze, I used the entire bottle of hot sauce and combined it with butter, honey, and lime juice, which resulted in a rich, bright, and fruity sauce that packed a nice punch if heat as well.
The third wave of jalapeños came by way of the fresh fruit. I decided to make a garnish to finish the wings off that combined diced jalapeños with cilantro and garlic. I figured this would add another flavor component that could only enhance the final product above my previous attempts.
As long as I follow my tried and true wing method, I can always expect to have well browned and excellently crisped wings after 45 minutes of cooking over indirect high heat on the grill. The oven is also an option here, but you do get a little hint of smokiness from a charcoal fire that would be missed if cooked in the oven.
Once the wings were done, I transferred them to a large bowl and added in the glaze. The light green color of the sauce meant you couldn't really tell these wings were coated in jalapeño, and that was also one driving force behind the creation of a garnish—to give the wings some green color.
Which the garnish did nicely, but how it, and all the other components, came together is what made these wings one of my favorite things I cooked last year. They looked seemingly simple, but were layered with so much flavor from the smoky chipotle to tangy glaze to fresh garnish, all adding their own distinct layer of heat to create a wing that delivered a pleasing burn that didn't cross a line into a territory where they would be too spicy for most folks. When I first set out to make jalapeño wings, this was how I imagined them tasting, and while it took me a long time to realize my vision, the work and wait probably just made them all the more delicious and satisfying in the end.
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 8 Hours
- Cook Time:
- 45 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 9 Hours
- 4-6 servings
- For the Wings
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 3 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
- For the Sauce
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup jalapeño hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice from 1 lime
- For the Garnish
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh jalapeño
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh garlic
- To make the wings: In a small bowl, mix together baking powder, salt, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, and chipotle chili powder. Place wings in a large bowl, pat dry with paper towels, and sprinkle in spice mixture. Toss until wings are liberally and evenly seasoned. Arrange wings in a single layer on wire rack set inside a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, leaving a little space between each wing. Place baking sheet with wings in refrigerator for 8 hours to overnight.
- To make the sauce: In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in hot sauce, honey, and lime juice. Remove from heat and set aside.
- To make the garnish: In a small bowl, mix together cilantro, jalapeño, and garlic. Set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place the wings skin side up over the cool side of the grill, cover, and cook until skins are crisp and and browned, about 45 minutes.
- Transfer wings to a large bowl. Add in sauce and toss to thoroughly coat wings. Transfer wings to a platter and top with garnish to taste. Serve immediately.