On Memorial Day last year I devised a rib recipe that was crafted to show off the complex flavors of dried chilies by using a variety of different types. That turned out so well and I was left wondering, why I haven't done a wing recipe that does the same thing? Well, I didn't wait long to jump on that idea and my last offering for Wing Month 2024 does just that with these chili-lime wings.
This recipe used three varieties of chilies that have pretty distinct characteristics. First were anchos, which have a slighty sweet raisin-like flavor with very little heat. Next came guajillos with their fruity heat. Finally I used chipotles, which have a really pronounce heat and smokiness. The recipe started with the powdered versions of each of these, but it often can be easier to purchase them as whole peppers, which is what I prefer to do anyway. If you go that route, the peppers should be toasted until fragarent in a cast iron skillet on the stove, then stemmed and seeded before being ground into a fine powder.
While the peppers were the focal point here, I needed to round out the seasoning and I did so with standard bearers for recipes with a Mexican tilt. This included garlic powder, Mexican oregano, cumin, and dark brown sugar. Once I had the seasoning together, I added a tablespoon of it in the baking powder and salt combo that's used in most of my wing recipes.
The baking powder is what helps create a texture skin, which is great for getting sauces to cling well to the wings. What really gets my grilled wings crispy though is air drying them overnight. So once I coated the wings in the seasoning, I set them on a wire rack and placed the whole thing in the fridge until the next day. The loss of surface moisture that occurs during this time means that the skins start to brown and crisp faster when introduced to heat.
During this resting period is usually when I like to put together any finishing sauce for the wings. In that rib recipe that worked out so well, I also applied a layer of chili seasoning in the end too and wanted to emulate that here. So I made a sauce that started with the common butter base, to which I added most of the remaining chili seasoning along with a fair amount of lime juice, a little honey for a background sweetness, and cilantro for a fresh component. This sauce wasn't one that really tasted great on its own, but I felt pretty confident it was going to add the right flavors I was after once applied to the grilled wings.
It takes about 45 minutes over indirect high-heat for wings to effectively crisp up. That may sound like a long time, but wings also have a lot of fat and connective tissue, so the fat helps keep them juicy during that time, while it also takes a long cook to break down the gristly bites so the meat easily pulls off the bones. After the wings were done grilling, they were looking especially good with a dark brown hue that was delivered thanks to the sugar that caramelized during baking.
All that was left now was to transfer the wings to a bowl, add in the sauce, and toss to coat. After plating them up I felt like these needed greenery to make them look more attractive, so sprinkled on some additional fresh cilantro.
Like those ribs that were the inspiration point for these wing, this recipe really showcased the flavor of the chilis in a unique and tasty way. While there were three different peppers here, this was not a spicy wing, but rather one that had a really deep mixture of earthy, fruity, and smoky notes that could have only be delivered by using a blend of chilies. The sugar and honey likely assisted in scaling back most of the heat, which I actually appreciated because it helped the more nuanced characteristics of the chilies to really be front and center. The lime was the right compliment to these flavor, while the butter that was also in the sauce delivered a richness that so many good wings have. Now that I'm on the other end of this recipe, I think one of the most exciting aspects of it is that you could come up with so many different variations by merely selected different chilies, so that's something I may just have to do in the future.
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Inactive 8 Hours
- Cook 45 Minutes
- Total 9 Hours
- For the Chili Seasoning
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
- 2 teaspoons guajillo chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- For the Wings
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon chili seasoning
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
- For the Sauce
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 4 teaspoons chili seasoning
- 1 finely chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
- To make the chili seasoning: In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, ancho chili powder, guajillo chili powder, garlic powder, chipotle powder, and cumin.
- To make the wings: In another small bowl, mix together baking powder, 1 tablespoon of the chili seasoning, and salt. 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: Melt butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Whisk in honey, lime juice, 4 teaspoons of the chili seasoning, and cilantro. Remove from heat and 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 browned, about 45 minutes.
- Transfer wings to a large bowl. Add in sauce and toss to thoroughly coat wings. Transfer wings to a platter, garnish with fresh cilantro, and serve immediately.