Spicy Middle Eastern Chicken Wings with Creamy Tahini Sauce – Baked, not fried. Lightened up, flavorful alternative to buffalo wings.
“Finger foods” or canapés rose to fame in the 1920’s, when American Prohibition gave rise to speakeasies and illegal basement drinking parties. At these parties, passed hors d’oeuvres were often provided in an effort to help people hold their liquor. If a patron left a speakeasy stumbling drunk, the illegal watering hole was more likely to be discovered. Finger foods helped to mitigate the potential damage. Over time, small-bite hors d’oeuvres became a mainstay at cocktail parties and events, home parties, potlucks, buffets, and of course game day celebrations! With Super Bowl Sunday on the horizon, how could I not give a nod to the crowned king of all finger foods- chicken wings?
Buffalo wings are probably the most famous game day appetizer, with good reason– they’re spicy, salty, and addictive. According to The Oxford Companion to Food, Teressa Bellissimo first created buffalo wings on October 30, 1964 at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. It is not clear whether Belissimo cooked them up as a snack for her son and his friends, as a midnight meal for Catholic diners who had spent the day abstaining from meat, or as a clever way of using up the wings that were delivered instead of the backs and necks they needed for stock. Whatever the true story might be, in 1980, journalist Calvin Trillin of the New Yorker wrote a magazine story on buffalo wings, cementing their fame.
As an alternative to buffalo wings, I decided to create my own spin on the spicy chicken wing concept by marinating wings in a blend of Middle Eastern spices. Rather than frying them (like many buffalo wing recipes) I bake them in a hot oven. They are full of flavor and finger-licking good, perfectly spicy just the way I like them. I serve them with creamy, garlicky tahini sauce – recipe can be found here – which makes a perfect dipping sauce. Serve them at your own speakeasy, or on game day, or whenever you crave some spicy little bites of deliciousness.
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- 2 lbs large chicken wings (about 25 large)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (1/2 tsp for mild, 3/4 tsp for medium, 1 tsp for spicy, 1 1/4 tsp for fiery)
- 3/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 1/2 cups tahini sauce (see notes for a recipe)
- Prepare your chicken wings by first trimming them and separating the drumstick from the wing with a pair of sharp kitchen scissors.
- Begin by removing the wing tip. Discard the tips or reserve them for later use in chicken stock.
- Next, separate the small drumstick from the wing by cutting through the connecting joint.
- When your drumsticks and wings have been separated, trim off any excess skin flaps or fat.
- Now you have a separate drumstick and wing, ready to be marinated.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, the spices, salt and pepper (if you're salt sensitive, use 3/4 tsp of salt).
- Place the prepared wings in a marinating dish or large plastic zipper bag. Pour the spice marinade over the wings and stir or massage the bag till all the chicken pieces are evenly coated in the marinade. Cover the chicken with plastic or seal the bag and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, up to 24 hours.
- Take the wings out of the fridge about 20 minutes before you plan to cook them so the marinade can soften up a bit. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray baking sheets with nonstick cooking oil (you may only need one sheet depending on how big your wings are; line with foil for easier cleanup if desired). Stir or massage the chicken after 20 minutes out of the fridge to make sure everything is coated evenly and there are no spice clumps. Place the chicken pieces on the sheet, evenly spaced. Place the chicken in the oven. Let the wings roast for about 45 minutes till cooked through, turning the wings once with tongs halfway through cooking.
- Season with additional salt to taste, if desired. Serve hot baked wings with creamy tahini sauce - recipe can be found here.