Oh glory of glories, my favorite month of the year has arrived—Wing Month! And 2019 is not just any old wing month either, the way the calendar works out, we'll be getting one additional wing recipe this year, plus I'll be hitting a big milestone birthday in the middle of all the delectable chicken awesomeness. I've been working on wing recipes all year long to be able to share my favorite as we head into prime party food season, and we're starting off extra strong with these incredible and unique za'atar-spiced wings.
If you're not familiar with za'atar, getting acquainted with it should definitely be on your to-do list for this year. This Middle Eastern spice mixture is made up of dried thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac to create an herbal flavor with a nice lemony touch and a slight roasted and nutty flavor. It's especially good on pita, but it's pretty versatile and I thought it would make for an excellent chicken wing. I mainly used za'atar here (adding in a little more sumac because my store-bought version was lacking that spice) plus hot paprika for a bit of heat and cumin to add an earthy undertone.
I also added a tablespoon of baking powder to the spice mixture before coating the wing in it. This special ingredient helps create a crispy and textured skin on the chicken during grilling, giving it a final consistancy that isn't far off from fried wings.
Once I had my three pounds of wings seasoned, I set them on a wire rack set in a baking sheet and placed the entire thing in the fridge overnight. Along with the baking powder, air drying the wings like this will further aid in getting a cracking skin and is step you should not skip if your looking to make the best of the best grilled wings.
A theme you'll notice in this year's Wing Month is dipping sauces. I realized most of my past recipes didn't include dips, even though they're so synonymous with wings. This is probably because I personally forgo dipping sauce, especially with the usual Buffalo wings that I prefer without anything added. I was missing out though on a whole additional level of flavoring and probably went a little extreme with included a dip in just about every new wing recipe this year. For these za'atar wings, I put together a bright and lemony yogurt-based sauce with a touch of mint that I thought would compliment the spices used in the wings well.
I also put together a finishing sauce for the chicken itself, combining olive oil with garlic and lemon juice. I thought this would round out the Middle Eastern flavor profile and would really make these wings pop in the end.
To grill the wings, I set-up a two-zone fire with all of the coals arranged on one side of the charcoal grate. I then put the grill grate in place, set the wings on the cool side of the grill, and covered, situating the air vent over the wings so the heat and smoke would pass over the chicken before exiting the grill. For me, grilling the chicken in this indirect manner with a hot fire has always resulted in a cooking time that clocks in at 45 minutes, and things were no different here.
At that mark, the wings were well browned and the skin was totally crisp to the touch. So I transferred the chicken to a bowl, added in the finishing sauce, and tossed to coat. I then arranged the wings on a platter and set them out for consumption with the dipping sauce.
I'm going to guess you've probably have never had wings quite like these before. The za'atar made them really unique, but it was the entire spectrum of flavors together that elevated them to some of the my favorite wings of the year. Along with the earthy and herbal crust that had a nice bite of garlic and citrus brightness, the meat had a light smokiness that was a great compliment. A little dip in the yogurt sauce added a cooling creaminess and extra layers of complexity to the flavors already established on the chicken. These za'atar wings represent a strong start to what will be an extra-packed, and extra-delicious Wing Month that is only going to get better!
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Inactive 8 Hours
- Cook 45 Minutes
- Total 9 Hours
- For the Dipping Sauce
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon sumac
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh mint
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher salt
- For the Wings
- 2 tablespoons za'atar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon hot paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 3 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
- To make the dipping sauce: In a medium bowl, mix together yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, sumac, lemon zest, and mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, and up to three days, to chill and let flavors meld.
- To make the wings: In a small bowl, mix together za'atar, baking powder, salt, hot paprika, and cumin. 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.
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, 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 lemon juice mixture and toss to thoroughly coat wings. Transfer wings to a platter and serve immediately with dipping sauce.