Sunday, September 23, 2012

Smoked Chicken Wings and Tinkerbell Margaritas

Since our Big Green Egg, a wedding gift from my father-in-law, arrived, I've been scouring the internet for the perfect recipe for her maiden voyage.  A while back, I'd bookmarked this recipe for Spicy Smoked Chicken Wings at Ezra Pound Cake, a blog which should win all the prizes in the land for having the best name ever.  This seemed to me to be a great newbie recipe - a cheap cut of meat, a relatively short cooking time, and a temperature low enough for a new BGE, which apparently needs some low-temp runs under its belt before you can crank it up (pizza here we come!).

That recipe, though, calls for some oven time, which I'd failed to notice.  I was going to have dinner in the oven, so I wanted an all-BGE recipe.  I went back to the internet for help, learning once again what we all already know: the internet is your hysterical, paranoid aunt who, when she hears hoof beats, thinks neither horses OR zebras, but thyphoid-carrying zombie unicorns.  In ten minutes of looking at chicken wing recipes, I had learned that my skin would get rubbery, or stay raw, that the meat might be mealy if it's over cooked, or undercooked, that the texture will probably be awful - possibly mushy, maybe stiff, potentially foam core board-like. That chicken is the hardest thing to smoke on the planet.  And that we're all going to die.

I was very thankful that my test run was for an appetizer, not the main meal.  I did learn a few tips, though, reflected in the recipe below, and I decided to go forward and conquer, because I had four pounds of chicken wings in the fridge. (Spoiler alert: the wings were freaking awesome and no one has died.)

I did employ a certain approach that I highly recommend when trying new recipes or cooking methods for dinner guests: invite only your easiest friends and ply them with strong margaritas, just in case.  Drunk people will generally eat anything and be thankful for it.  In the method of Ina, I prepared a pitcher of this easy-cheater margs in the afternoon and popped it in the fridge to chill.

Tinkerbell Margaritas

2 cups good tequila (use good stuff, because you're using it generously with not much else....)
2 cups Santa Cruz Organic Limeade
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (this took me 2 oranges, because they were a bit old)

Combine, stir, chill, and serve straight up in tiny glasses.  Be careful: I call them Tinkerbell margaritas because they are small and fresh and pretty, but if you don't pay attention, they'll knock you on your rear like an angry Tinkerbell.

Smoked Chicken Wings

3/4 c medium-hot chili powder (I use Penzey's)
1 tsp crushed red chile pepper flakes
1 TBS smoked paprika
1 TBS dried oregano
4 lbs chicken wings with tips
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
4 TBS cornstarch
1 1/2 TBS butter or olive oil


Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet and set aside.  Combine chili powder, chile flakes, paprika and oregano in a small bowl.

Remove wing tips and pat chicken wings dry.  Coat with salt and pepper first and then your dry spice mix - you want a good, dense coating.  Dust the wings with cornstarch (I used a small sieve) on both sides - it should look like confectionary sugar on a cake, but don't eat it. 

Spread your wings on your prepared baking sheet; the cooling rack will allow air to circulate around the wings in the fridge.  These should chill at least 4 hours - overnight should be fine.

These guys above don't have their cornstarch yet - as soon as I took this photo, I realized I had forgotten something important.  No need to panic.

Prepare your smoker and get her up to about 325F (I used BGE lump charcoal and a mild wood chip blend).  As a newbie, I struggled with maintaining a steady temp (and yet no zombie unicorns attacked!), but I imagine you know what you're doing so that won't be a problem.  I let mine go about 35 minutes and then flipped them, upped the heat to about 350/375F and let them go another 30 minutes.

With about ten minutes to go, a few of the wings looked a bit dry-skinned, so I brushed them with a touch of butter.  Worked like magic.

These wings could be eaten with any manner of dipping sauces, like this one, any of these ones, or this one.  We ate them standing up around the kitchen island like animals with no sauce at all and they were awesome.  These could clearly be done on a regular old grill at 350 for an hour, flipped regularly.  You'll miss some smokey flavor, but I don't think you'd miss that much, so if you don't have a fancy Big Green Egg, don't fret.  Go for it.

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