Food & Drink

What makes these spicy wings so irresistible?

Sticky, spicy and oven-roasted, these wings may be irresistible.
Sticky, spicy and oven-roasted, these wings may be irresistible. Deb Lindsey/The Washington Post

Way back in the early 1980s, I came up with a chicken wing recipe. It started as a refrigerator-clearing exercise, using a little of this and that from jars. The first batch was terrific, and because I had, literally, taken a little of this and a little of that, I was unable to replicate what I had done.

It took some experimenting to cobble together another batch as delicious as the first; after sampling several dozen wings, who could remember? From that day forward, I had my wing recipe.

When I set out to re-create the recipe recently, I stumbled. It turns out my refrigerator contents have changed. Where Chinese chili sauce with garlic was a standard in my '80s kitchen, today it is Korean gochujang. Soy sauce has stepped aside for tamari. I had only Tabasco and Frank's Hot Sauce then, but now there are a dozen bottles of hot sauce, some vegetal, some incendiary. The updated recipe is complex, sweet, spicy, tingly and still dead simple.

Pour all the ingredients in a bag, add the chicken, marinate, roast. If you want to eyeball the amounts instead of measuring, I won't tell.

The last important bits of advice: Line the baking sheet with a double layer of foil, because roasting these wings makes one caramelized, crazy sticky mess. Don't use disposable baking pans, because they aren't sturdy enough to carry the weight of all these wings.

Double or triple the recipe to serve a crowd. And prepare to bring these wings to every future get-together.

Irresistible Wings

The wings need to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, and up to 8 hours. If the timing is inconvenient, remove the chicken from the marinade ahead and place the wings directly on the baking sheet; refrigerate until ready to roast.

1/3 cup ketchup

1/3 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup low-sodium tamari or soy sauce

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean pepper paste)

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons black bean chili sauce (available at Asian markets and some Whole Foods)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sorghum or molasses

3 pounds chicken wings (all drumettes or a combination of drumettes and flats)

Combine the ketchup, hoisin, tamari or soy sauce, brown sugar, gochujang, mustard, black bean chili sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and sorghum or molasses in a 1-gallon zip-top bag. Add the chicken and seal, pressing out as much air as possible. Massage to distribute the marinade ingredients and coat the wings (through the bag). Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and at most 8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with two layers of aluminum foil.

Arrange the wings in a single layer on the baking sheet; discard any leftover marinade. Roast for 20 minutes, then use tongs to turn the wings over; roast for another 20 minutes. They will be sticky and caramelized and irresistible.

Serve warm.

Yield: 6 servings