Foodie Favorites: Dressing Up the Humble Chicken Wing

Bon Appetit's turmeric and lemongrass chicken wings

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When I was playing softball in high school, my teammates and I would often crawl dirty and bedraggled to a particular local pizzeria after games. They’d sit laughing over their greasy cheese slices, while my taste buds, mature even then, would inevitably draw me toward the more gourmet pies, usually something with fresh mozzarella and basil, or maybe a whole wheat crust. Uncharacteristically, however, I’d more often than not supplement my slice with a small basket of this establishment’s signature chicken wings—something I never ordered at other restaurants. They weren’t good, not even by cheap chicken wing standards—they were often dry and rarely crispy. Yet something about them just perfectly fed that unique hunger I’d only get when I was sore and tired from a game, and my lunch break had been somewhere in the neighborhood of 10:50 am.

Now, despite my wheat and dairy allergies and my general obsession with healthy eating, I still find myself craving those awful chicken wings when my adult slow-pitch softball games end. The only course of action is to figure out how to make ‘em right!

An Argument for Chicken Wings

It’s hard to think of chicken wings without conjuring up the image of dive bars, wet naps, and heartburn. If you look at them with an open mind, however, they have a number of advantages:

  • With increasing reports about the quality of our meat (and food in general), I’m buying all my chickens and other meats from the farmers’ market. If you’ve never tried a naturally pasture-raised chicken, your health and your taste buds are in for a treat. Your wallet, however, isn’t. It’s my personal opinion that money spent on good food—an investment in your health—is money that can’t be better spent. But I do know that times are tough for a lot of people. The good news: thanks to the overwhelming demand for boneless chicken breasts, the wings are cheap! If you’re looking for an affordable pasture-raised meal, look no further than the chicken wing.
  • They cook relatively quickly, and there isn’t a ton of meat on them so they’re hard to screw up.
  • Because of their price, size, and handheld nature, they’re great for entertaining. Plus, just about everyone likes chicken.

On to the Recipes

So how do you make a healthy wing? Here are a few recipes to get you started:

This recipe for grilled turmeric and lemongrass chicken wings from Bon Appetit is the one that inspired this post. It’s not difficult, it’s insanely delicious, and turmeric is one of the healthiest spices in the world. And I’ll let you in on a secret: since I’m stuck in a grill-free zone, I made them under the broiler in the oven. Still amazing!

For traditionalists, here’s a simple buffalo wing recipe from Alton Brown. Buffalo wings are not typically the poster food for health, but when you control the ingredients they’re not nearly as bad as you think. Use nutrient-packed organic butter from grass fed cows, and find a preservative and sugar-free hot sauce (or, if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own!).

If you want something REALLY easy, these spicy jerk chicken wings are cooked in a slow-cooker and then just crisped in the oven.

Got your own favorite chicken wing recipes to share? Leave them in the comments!








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