It may not surprise you to learn that I love chicken wings the way some people love cake. I've written about my search for the wings of my youth before, so naturally when I learned there would be a wing bar in the cafeteria at work, I was pretty excited. Evidently there was a change of plans, because instead of a wing bar, there was a whole Korean barbecue spread. How. Unbelievably. Disappointing. I tried to settle for a crispy buffalo chicken wrap, but lets be serious--there's nothing sexy or satisfying about a wrap. I enjoy the messy sport of eating with my hands and biting into meaty wings as sauce drips down the side of my hand, and a wrap is a totally unacceptable replacement.
Unable to shake my craving, I decided to make some wings at home. They're one of the easiest things to make and take almost no time at all, so I try to always have some wingettes in my freezer. In addition, they're super cheap. It's true! The popularity of boneless, skinless chicken breasts has caused their price to skyrocket, but other less popular cuts like wings and thighs are super cheap. I usually buy a tray of about 16 large, organic, free roaming chicken wings for less than $6.00 (!). With a side salad that's more than enough to feed 4 people quite cheaply. Not to mention, the method I use is to coat them in a tasty spice rub and bake them in the oven, so the only fat involved is what's found in the chicken skin--no oils or butter added, and no deep frying (a surprise coming from me, I'm sure).
Since I like my spice rub on the spicy side, I always serve wings with a homemade dipping sauce that's on the sweeter side, for a really nice contrast. I also like for it to have a cooling affect, so I use Greek yogurt as the base. If you've never had Greek yogurt, it's been strained to remove a lot of the liquid, so it has a creamier, richer texture, somewhere between whipped cream and cream cheese. I change the sauce every time I make it, sometimes making it like a ranch dressing with pepper and buttermilk, and sometimes making it more like a raita with diced cucumber or onion. This time I wanted something that reminded me of a sweet chutney, so I mixed in some flavors that you might find in a mango chutney, like mustard in the place of mustard seeds, and apricot jam in the place of slow cooked mango. It seems odd at first, but it really pairs well with the spices on the wings.
I really recommend playing around with the spices in the rub. By toying with spices you can give wings a whole new feel every time you make them. Add in some curry, or switch in some chili powder or Sichuan pepper and salt and you have a whole new flavor. Here's what I did:
Spicy Chicken Wings with Sweet Yogurt Sauce
12-16 chicken wings or drumettes
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp your favorite seasoning salt (I use Chef Paul Prudhomme's)
3 Tbsp flour
3 oz Greek yogurt (about half of a 7 oz container)
1 1/2 tsp apricot or peach jelly/jam (you can even use duck sauce)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 450 F degrees (make sure it's completely heated, or you won't get crispy skin).
2. Add wings and all of the rub ingredients to a large bowl and toss to combine.
3. When the wings are well coated, place them on a baking sheet (make sure they're not touching) and bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked through.
4. While the wings bake, mix all of the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and top with a light dusting of paprika. Enjoy!