Chicken wings are hardly the stuff of literature, poetry, or even a note to a friend. That said, there is a certain magic to them. I learned this as a very young child when I bit into my first, meaty wing. The spot was California. The time was pre-school. I was one of five children, and my mother was a magician with food. She devoted herself to providing us with variety, variety, variety. Everything was good; we always ate well.
The Finest of Dishes
She made the finest stuffed peppers, perfumed sukiyaki in the frying pan at the table, amazing oxtail soup, and tender white beans with pork sausage. I also enjoyed her homemade hamburgers – always with onions and spices rolled into the meat –the lamb roasts and chops, the Country Captain chicken (tomatoes and currants), the spicy crab bake… Her cooking was simple in some ways, yet inventive in others as we grew up eating weird vegetables that no one else ate. There were artichokes, eggplant, zucchini by the bushel, kohlrabi, black radish, okra. She rarely made the same dish twice and when I suggested to my sisters that we put together a cookbook of her recipes recently, we came up with three – 3 – that she made more than once.
Chicken Wings Still Won
With all that variety, chicken wings (and cauliflower with cheese sauce oh my!) were still my very favorites. And because they were economical, they were regulars on the table prepared in all sorts of ways. My favorite was dredged in spiced flour and fried, though I loved the rosemary lemon version, the spicy tomato version, the plain olive oil and garlic version. And chicken wings were always my birthday meal choice.
Once Hard to Find
Chicken wings were hard to get here until recently; now they are in every butcher shop because, in part, times are tough, and they are relatively inexpensive. Not only that, though. Cooks and eaters have realized how delicious they are, how perfect the proportion of meat to skin is, how crisp they get while remaining tender, juicy, succulent. They defy the French sensibility of eating food with your hands, and I was once reluctant to serve them to French friends. When I did, they were such a hit that I have no reservations now.
Thus, the chicken wing has taken on mythic proportions because of my memories, as food tends to do. I served them to my kids whenever I could get them (my butcher saved them for me because otherwise he threw them away) and I’m happy to say they have grown into chicken wing lovers too.
I share this recipe and these memories with you based on my long and fascinating history with chicken wings, with high hopes of inspiring you all! Bon Appétit!
CHICKEN WINGS WITH GARLIC AND LEMON - AILES DE POULET A L'AIL ET CITRON
- 8 chicken wings about 1-1/2 pounds;750g, at room temperature
- 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 large garlic cloves green germ removed if necessary, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1/2 cup;125ml fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup;10g herb leaves such as basil or flat leaf parsley
- Line a plate or platter with a brown paper bag or paper towels.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the chicken wings. They should sizzle nicely. Season them with salt, and cook until they are golden, which will take 6 to 8 minutes. Turn and season the wings again, this time adding some pepper if you like, and continue cooking until the chicken wings are deep golden and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Transfer the chicken wings to the prepared plate or platter.
- Return to the skillet, placing it over medium-high heat and add additional oil if necessary, to a depth of about ¼ inch (.6cm) in the pan. When the oil is shimmering add the garlic and cook, stirring and swirling in the pan, until the slices are pale golden. Stay close – garlic can burn in an instant.
- Scoop out the garlic into a small bowl and discard the fat in the pan.
- Pour the lemon juice into the pan, let it sizzle and reduce for a minute or two, then add the herbs and cook, stirring, until the lemon juice is starting to get syrupy.
- Scatter the garlic over the chicken, then pour the lemon juice and herbs over the wings. Turn them so they are coated with the lemon juice, herbs, and garlic and either eat immediately, or save for your picnic!