Tue Jan 13, 2015
I use January recipe testing as an excuse to have a chicken wing gorge-fest. Wings are among my favorite things to cook—variations are limitless—and eat, so with the Super Bowl as a seasonal excuse, I pretty much spend the entire month developing and sharing new wing ideas. Having covered the standard territory and then some, I'm forced into creative new wing ventures, which is great because it leads me to things like these spicy cumin wings
These were born out of my love for the cumin lamb noodles at Xi'an Famous Foods, which I previously adapted into a grill-able skewer form. I took that successful base recipe and reworked it to meet the unique challenges of wings.
Mainly I didn't want to use a wet marinade as I did with the skewers because that excess moisture would result in a flabby, rather than crispy wings, and that's not good eating in my book. So I separated the dry ingredients from the wet and began with a rub that relied heavily on cumin, but also added in ground szechuan peppercorns, salt, and baking powder, which assists in getting a crisp-skinned wing without frying.
I usually split my wings into drumettes and flats, but decided to keep them whole on a whim this particular day. So I placed my intact wings into a large bowl, sprinkled on the rub, and then tossed to coat them evenly.
To ensure maximum crispiness, I skewered the wings, stretching them out along the wooden stick to make sure as much skin would be exposed as possible to help create a consistently cooked and crunchy skin. I then let the wings sit in the fridge for 8 hours to let the exterior thoroughly dry out and give the baking powder time to do its magic.
As the wings rested, I had ample time to contemplate what to do with the sauce. I knew it needed soy sauce, sherry, and garlic to get the overall flavor profile I was aiming for, but I decided to take things a little further this time around.
For enhanced spiciness, I started the sauce off by slowly cooking red pepper flakes and garlic together in a bit of oil. To the infused oil, I added soy sauce, sherry, rice vinegar for a bit of tang, and a little sesame oil for that roasted sesame undertone. The sauce was certainly packed with flavor at this point, but I worried its thinness wouldn't effectively coat the wings later on, so I let the mixture simmer until it was thickened into a light glaze, which simultaneously concentrated its intensity.
When it was time to grill, I lit a full chimney of coals and then dumped it out on one side of the charcoal grate to make an indirect fire. Then I placed the wings on the cool side of the grill, covered, and let them cook until the skin crisped—about 40 minutes.
Due to the extra-heavy spice coating, these didn't reach the same crackling exterior as many of my other wing recipes. To get a little extra crunch out them, and flavor, I flipped them over to the hot side of the grill and let them cook until some light charring developed.
Then I flipped them back to the cool side of the grilled and brushed them all over with the glaze, which turned them from a dry earthy yellow to a glistening, attractive brown. Since the glaze was already pretty thick, I didn't have to let it cook down on the grill any longer, so removed the chicken and set them out for eating.
Man, were these wings something else. They packed enough heat to give my lips a little tingle, but not so much that it masked the cumin centerpiece. The sauce had a great salty and sour depth that achieved the same intoxicating flavor combination of that original influential dish, albeit in a bold and different balance that seemed more fitting for a wing. As much as I loved this recipe, I can see them being a challenge for those unfamiliar with the spicy cumin gospel. But hey, that's why there's a game day wing to fit just about every taste out there.
Spicy Cumin Wings
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 8 Hours
- Cook Time:
- 45 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 9 Hours
- 4 to 6 servings
- For the Chicken
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground szechuan peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 pounds chicken wings
- For the Sauce
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic, about 3 medium cloves
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- For the chicken: In a small bowl, mix together cumin, baking powder, ground szechuan peppercorns, and salt. Pat chicken wings dry with paper towels. Place wings in a large bowl and sprinkle with cumin mixture, tossing to coat evenly. Arrange wings in a single layer on wire rack placed over a baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.
- To make the sauce: Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in soy sauce, sherry, vinegar, and sesame oil. Bring to a boil and let simmer until sauce has thickened into a thin glaze, about 10 minutes. Set sauce 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 wings, skin side up, over cool side of grill, cover, and cook until skins are crisp and are starting to brown, about 40 minutes. If wings have not browned, transfer to hot side of grill and cook until browned, 30-60 seconds per side; move wings back to cool side of grill. Brush wings all over with glaze. Transfer wings to a platter and serve immediately.