Back in the days when I went into the office, a favorite lunch spot was a Cuban joint that serves a rotisserie chicken with the greatest skin I've ever tasted. The chicken itself is excellent as well, but whenever I go there the first thing I do is divorce skin from meat, eat all my chicken, rice, and maduros, and then savor that rich and garlicky skin last so the taste lingers as long as long as possible. When I decided to try to make that chicken at home many years back, cracking the code to get that outstanding skin wasn't all that hard—it ended up being the standard Cuban mojo marinade. It's been awhile since I've made that recipe, and when a craving a hit recently, I thought why not try it out on wings which only increases the amount of surface area that magical marinade touches, so I figured it could only be all the better.
For those unfamiliar with mojo sauce, the defining characteristics are a sour citrus and garlic. Sour oranges are the fruit used here, and they're fairly common at Latino markets, so that's a good place to look if you'd like to shoot for authenticity. If you don't have a source for sour oranges, or aren't keen for the hunt, regular orange juice and lime juice used in a one-to-one ratio will get you a serviceable facsimile.
The next most important thing is a lot of garlic, which is smashed into a paste, releasing a more intense and sharper garlic flavor than merely mincing the cloves. On top of that, olive oil, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper all get added into the mix. I went in heavier on the salt here than a standard mojo sauce since its main purpose was a marinade and extra salt works as a brining agent to further enhance the chicken's flavor and moisture retention.
Since this is a citrus heavy marinade, shorter marinating times are called for to prevent the meat from taking on a mushy quality. Between a two and six hour bath will do the chicken just fine in this instance, and I went right down the middle with a four hour rest in the sauce before heading out the grill.
I don't do a lot of marinated wings recipe because they are counterproductive to getting the crispy skin I'm attracted to, but in this case I was more after flavor than texture, so I wasn't going to be bothered missing the crunch. To cook the wings, I merely set them all over indirect heat, covered the grill, and came back about 45 minutes later.
I was expecting to be greeted by all deeply browned wings, but only a portion of my batch had actually browned to the point I was hoping for. So to get the rest to their desired color, I moved them to be situated directly over the fire and let them cook, flipping occasionally, until their color darkened and started picking up charring in spots.
Knowing how well mojo enhances chicken, I couldn't wait to dig into these, but my extreme enthusiasm may have dampened my impression of these wings when they didn't quite live up to the rotisserie chicken I love so. Don't get me wrong, these wings had an incredible flavor with that garlicky and citrusy flavor accounted for and well embedded in each bite. There was also a nice earthy undertone that paired well with the most mellow of smokiness. What they seemed to lack though was that self-basting action that introduces rendering chicken fat into the equation, enhancing the overall richness. Any lacking came from my own knowledge of what the highest heights of mojo chicken is, and my guests all seemed to love these wings with no qualm, further proving that a mojo sauce and chicken are a match made in heaven.
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 10 Minutes
- Inactive 2 Hours
- Cook 45 Minutes
- Total 2 Hours 55 Minutes
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 2/3 cup fresh sour orange juice, or 1/3 cup of fresh orange juice and 1/3 cup of fresh lime juice
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 3 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
- Place garlic in a mortar and pestle and pound garlic into a smooth paste. Transfer garlic to a large bowl and add in sour orange juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and cumin. Whisk until salt is completely dissolved. Place wings in bowl and toss to coat and submerge chicken in sauce. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator to marinate for 2 to 6 hours.
- 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 well browned, about 45 minutes.
- Move any wings that did not brown or need extra browning to the hot side of grill and cook, flipping occasionally, until well browned, about 3 minutes total. Transfer wings to a platter and serve immediately.