Yesterday I found myself in a waiting room, trying to kill time until it was my turn. In doing so, I looked at my Twitter account, which apparently has an analytics area that will tell you how many people looked at each of your tweets.
Much to my surprise, the top ten, which the exception of one, all involved the same subject: food. You may think you are dispensing wisdom when you type out that carefully worded and well thought-out tweet, but if you want numbers, slap a picture of a plate of BBQ wings next to it and your stats will double.
I’ve noticed the same on the occasional stories I’ve written about food on this site. There have been times I’ve worked hard at an analytical piece that I end up being quite proud of, only to see at the end of the week a story and picture about food (or Maggie The WonderBeagle) have drawn more eyes to them.
So I’m going to start a weekly feature on how to make some of these dishes I post pictures of. I’ve been cooking most of my life, and I’ve found once you can identify the ingredients and just how long you cook something for, the rest is easy. The two things that always foul up a dish in my experience are you overcook/undercook it and you don’t season it properly.
So I’m going to try over the next few months to show everyone how to cook 8 or 10 basic dishes most people enjoy. If you’re an accomplished chef and see better ways to do it, let me know and I’ll add it to the next story. If you’re not someone who cooks, try these.
I’m going to start with the wings I had a picture of up on Twitter earlier this week. They are about as simple as it gets, and the steps you take are roughly the same as you would use to make BBQ and any number of other comfort foods. The first thing you do is buy fresh chicken wings, never frozen ones.
You may at first be surprised that they are significantly more expensive than what is usually thought of as the prime part of the bird, the chicken breast. Before some guy in Buffalo figured out a recipe to make the wing a rock star, most places chopped the wings off and threw them away because nobody wanted to eat them. Now they are mandatory at just about every casual dining restaurant across the country.
Next, you need to cut the wing up, although you can just cook the entire wing and eat it whole. You’ll notice there are two joints in a wing, and if you bend them back and take a knife to cut through the tendon in each joint, you’ll have a drum, a flat and a wing. Throw the wing away (it has very little meat and not worth the effort) and keep the other two.
You can coat them in flour and just deep fry them, but this way is a healthier alternative, tastes just the same, and cleanup is easier. Step 1 is to coat the wings in a dry rub, and let them sit in the fridge overnight. This allows the seasonings to work their way into the chicken skin and also help the meat retain moisture, which gives you a juicier wing. You can buy dry rubs that suit your individual taste (like a chipotle or something with a lot of heat), but it’s just as easy to make your own.
I like something with some heat, texture and sweetness, so I mix up these ingredients in a bowl: chili powder, cumin, paprika, adobo, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, salt and pepper. I then generously rub this all over the wings (this is the same dry rub you can use on a pork shoulder for BBQ), then let them rest overnight in a fridge.
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the over to 350. I cover mine with foil so the steam helps cook the wings, but also keeps them from drying out. You will find after an hour that while baking helps thoroughly cook the wings, they are not crisp like they would be if you had used a deep fryer. To address that, preheat your air fryer at 350 for about two minutes to warm it up.
You’ll find you can get about 8 wings into an air fryer at a time, so put your first batch in for about 5 minutes. I say “about” because that gave me the crunchiness I was looking for. If you like yours crispier, go six minutes or more. I will offer this word of caution: at some point the air fryer stops making the wings crispy and instead turned them into something “blackened.” Keep an eye on them if you are going longer than five minutes.
Once done in the air fryer, they are now temporarily as hot as molten lava, which is the perfect time to add a wet sauce for another layer of flavor. I don’t advise using a BBQ sauce at any point of the cooking process prior to this because BBQ sauces tend to have a lot of sugar in them, and sugar burns very quickly. By using a dry rub, you can cook it as long as you want, get the flavor you want, and the dry rub is not going to blacken the chicken from burnt sugars.
Dry rubs, while tasty, can sometimes be gritty in spots, which is why I add the wet sauce. I pull the wings from the air fryer, immediately brush on a honey BBQ sauce, and the heat of the chicken immediately dries it to a nice consistency. In my method, I make my dry rub a little toward the hot side, then apply a sweet wet sauce. You get the best of both worlds.
Only thing left to do is plate the rest of the wings, crack open a jar of blue cheese or ranch (buy the good stuff, not the 99 cents a bottle weekly specials) and enjoy restaurant quality wings you made in your own home.
Oh, and have a few hand towels nearby. They’re good, but they’re a mess to eat. 😊