For our next installment of Wing Month we'll see how I learned to stop worrying and love the marinade. See, I'm fan of crispy wings, and once I picked up the baking powder trick from Kenji at Serious Eats for getting extra-crunchy skinned wings on the grill, I've used that method and haven't looked back. The only problem with doing that is that it has limited my flavoring options to dry components before cooking and then the introduction of wet components only in the finishing glaze, leaving me unable to use marinades as an alternative. Out of the five recipes that will comprise this Wing Month though, three use a marinade, representing a change of pace for me, but the results spoke for themselves, like in these souvlaki-flavor wings.
I avoided marinades because the introduction of excess liquid usually equates to soft, flabby skin, which I find a bit disappointing on chicken, wings especially. A Greek souvlaki marinade in particular had me questioning whether it would really lead to soggy skin because it's mainly made out of oil, which, when cooked over the high heat of the grill, could actually help crisp up the exterior. So I went forth with my experiment with cautious optimism, making the souvlaki marinade I developed years ago that starts with an extra-virgin olive oil base with lemon juice and red wine vinegar for the acids, along with garlic, oregano, red onion, and black pepper as additional seasonings.
One nice thing with this marinade is that I didn't have to wait as long to cook the wings as I do in my usual recipes. My standard method requires at least eight hours of air drying in the fridge for optimal results, but the marinade—especially an acidic one like this,—is much quicker. I only let these wings sit in the marinade for a couple hours prior to grilling.
That still offered plenty of downtime, which I used to make tzatziki for dipping. Dips are the other trend you'll find in Wing Month 2019, and to me, tzatziki is one of the best there is—a batch of tzatziki and warm pita is a common snack in my house. This sauce begins with a Greek yogurt base and is flavored with grated cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, and dill.
Awhile back, the good folks at Wildwood Grilling sent me a care package bursting at the seams with their beautiful grilling planks to try out. So having them on hand, I thought the woodsiness they impart would be a good pairing with the flavors of the souvlaki marinade, so decided to make use of them here. Prior to grilling, I always soak my planks for an hour to water log them, helping them smolder and release smoke, rather the burn, on the grill.
To get the planks smoking first, I placed them directly over the coals, utilizing a two-zone fire. Once I saw small wisps of smoke being emitted, I flipped the planks over and moved them to the cool side of the grill.
I then placed the chicken on the planks, covered the grill, and waited. The wings certainly looked "wet" when I placed them on the planks, so I had a sinking feeling that I might get some tasty chicken, but be left with disappointingly flabby skin in the end.
After 45 minutes though I was greeted by chicken that was beautifully browned and a skin that had a nice crispness to it—albeit not as crisp as when using baking powder and air drying. My spirits were immediately lifted and I couldn't wait to dig in.
Things were even better in the taste. The marinade imparted the familiar souvlaki flavor that I love with a great citrus brightness that was especially excellent on the wings, all which melded with the oregano, onion, and garlic to form a distinctly Greek flavor. As if all of that wasn't enough, it's always a pleasure to be able to eat the cool and tangy tzatziki, which contrasted with hot wings to round out the entire experience. I had also warmed some pita on the grill that I placed the wings atop of, so when the chicken was gone, I had some extra tasty pita to keep eating the dip with, which made it feel like this was a recipe that kept on giving.
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Inactive 2 Hours
- Cook 45 Minutes
- Total 3 Hours
- For the Tzatziki
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/2 English cucumber, peeled and grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
- 3/4 teaspoons finely minced fresh dill
- Kosher salt
- For the Wings
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup finely chopped red onion (about 1 small)
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Greek oregano
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
- 2 wood grilling planks, soaked for 1 hour prior to use
- To make the tzatziki: Mix together yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and dill in a medium bowl. Season with salt. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using.
- To make the wings: In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, onion, lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, and garlic. Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Place wings in a large resealable bag and pour in marinade. Seal bag, removing as much air a possible, and toss to evenly distribute marinade. Place bag in refrigerator for 2 hours to overnight.
- 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 grilling grate. Place planks over hot side of the grill until they start to char and smoke. Flip planks over and move to cool side of grill and arrange wings on top of planks. Cover grill and cook until wings have lightly browned and crisped, about 45 minutes.
- Remove planks from grill and let chicken cool slightly. Serve immediately with tzatziki for dipping.