If you plan on ordering out for the Super Bowl, it’s hard to go wrong with a big batch of flats and drums from your favorite Buffalo wing spot. However, if you’re planning on cooking the spread this year, frying all those little guys yourself at home is a real pain. So we suggest that if you need to get your wing fix, go grilled and mix up the flavors while you’re at it with this recipe from Chris Shepherd’s outstanding Cook Like a Local. Here he’ll show you how to make some outstanding wings with a cooling, delicious raita.
I really love chicken wings and could have easily put a wing recipe in every chapter of this book. But in narrowing down our list, this one, based on tandoori chicken and full of cumin, coriander and ginger in a yogurt marinade, came out as the winner. Yogurt, and other creamy, fatty spreads like butter, sour cream and mayonnaise, make excellent conveyors of flavor. Certain flavor compounds in spices are fat-soluble and others are water-soluble. Because a rich, full-fat yogurt contains both, it does double duty, carrying the full range of the spices’ flavors. As a bonus, yogurt has lactic acid, which helps to tenderize proteins as they marinate.
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Tandoori chicken is technically named for the oven used to cook it—a cylindrical clay oven that looks like a barrel, with the heat source at the bottom. But a grill works well in lieu of a tandoor, and it’s really that combination of tangy yogurt, spices and aromatics that define these wings for me. Cumin and coriander, in the presence of lime juice, ginger and fresh herbs, triggers an acknowledgment in my brain that I’m enjoying food inspired by India. Raita, a mixture of yogurt, cucumber and herbs, acts as the cooling dipping sauce that every wing recipe needs.
Masala Chicken Wings
Serves 6 to 8
For the Wings
½ c. masala mix
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 pounds chicken wings
For the Raita
2 c. plain yogurt
2 tbsp. thinly sliced mint
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 large English cucumber, sliced lengthwise and seeds removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Masala Mix
15 garlic cloves
3 Thai chiles, stemmed
1 bunch cilantro (both stems and leaves)
2 tbsp. thinly sliced fresh ginger
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Make the masala mix: Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. The masala will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Prepare the wings: In a resealable plastic bag, add the masala, coriander, cumin, cayenne, paprika, yogurt and salt. Seal the bag and shake/squeeze until everything is nicely combined. Add the chicken wings, seal and shake again to coat thoroughly. Refrigerate for four hours or up to 10.
Make the raita: In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mint, cilantro and lime juice. Using the large holes of box grater, grate the cucumber. Place the grated cucumber in the center of a clean kitchen towel, bring the corners together and twist (like you’re wringing out water) to squeeze out the excess liquid. Mix the cucumber into the yogurt mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare a very hot grill, creating zones for direct and indirect heat. If you’re using charcoal, you can do this by banking all of the coals to one side. On a gas grill, only use the burners on one side, at full blast. Pull the chicken wings out of the marinade, letting the excess drip off. Place the wings over direct heat on the grates and grill, turning occasionally, until the wings are charred on all sides—about eight minutes. Move the wings to the indirect heat zone and let roast until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, add the peppers to the direct heat zone and char until softened.
Cut the peppers in half and serve them mixed in with the wings on a large platter, with the raita on the side for dipping.
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