One July 4th, I was visiting with my daughter and her family in Savannah. She really loves my cooking. In fact, I have carte blanche to purchase, cook, serve and clean up anything I please. For Independence Day, I decided to grill some wings. They turned out so well, I was asked to write down the cooking instructions.
1. Purchase whole chicken wings, generally found in packages of about 20 or 25. Buy more than you need, leftovers are good. You’ll also need cooking spray oil, we use the Publix Olive Oil spray, but almost any type will do. Some seasoned salt.
2. Search every drawer and cabinet in an unfamiliar kitchen for shears. Fail. Twice. Get out the cutting board, select the best knife you can find and attempt to cut the tip off a wing. Fail. Select another knife, spend 2 minutes hacking off one wing tip. Wash hands, look again in the most obvious cooking utensil drawer, immediately find the shears.
3. Cut the wings in three pieces. Discard the tips and put the drums and flats in a baking pan. Upon completion, rinse the wings under cold water. Tilt the baking pan to drain the water, drop half a dozen wings in the garbage disposal. Look around to see if anyone witnessed that, retrieve the wings from the disposal, rinse especially well. Splash chicken wing water all over the counter and the clean dishes in the adjacent dish pan. Set the pan of wings aside, re-wash the clean dishes, use antibacterial soap to clean all surfaces within arms reach.
4. Once wings are relatively dry, use your right hand to spray oil lightly and your left hand to toss the wings to coat evenly. Do the same to sprinkle with seasoned salt. Wash the spray can and salt shaker after accidentally switching hands.
5. Go outside to fire up the grill. Bring a frosty beverage with you, on the chance that it’s hot in Georgia in July. Turn on the propane, light all the burners and close the grill, let it warm up for 5 minutes.
6. Start placing wings on the grill, one by one, with a long pair of tongs. After about a dozen wings, just dump them all in a pile in the center of the grill, then arrange them in a single layer by hand. Close the grill. Note that the frosty beverage has nearly evaporated, go inside to get another.
7. Chat with your daughter, play with the baby for a few minutes. Realize you need to check the wings.
8. Shield your eyes from the conflagration in the grill with your forearm. Turn all burners down to the lowest setting, then frantically move wings away from the areas of flare up. Observe that the most violently combustible areas are where the drippings from last nights ribeyes landed. Re-arrange the wings, moving those with one blackened side to the outer edge of the grill. Close cover, get another beverage, return promptly.
9. Observe that all the burners have gone out. Check the propane tank, tap several times with your knuckle to confirm the empty dink dink sound. Try to remember combination for your son-in-laws shed. Fail. Go inside and ask for combination, determine there is not a spare propane tank. Do a mental calculation of the time spent on a round trip to Home Depot, measure against the ravenous looks you’re getting from your family.
10. Put the wings back in the baking pan, bring them inside. Go back outside and turn off all the burners and the tank, hopefully averting any future disaster. Divide all the wings into two skillets, putting the partially blackened wings in one and the completely raw wings in the other. Adjust the unfamiliar gas burners to be slightly higher on the raw skillet. Turn the burners back down until the oil splatter zone is contained to the area immediately surrounding the stove.
11. Start to toss the wings inside the skillet with grilling tongs, realize that you’re using non-stick cookware, get the rubber tongs.
12. Ask your daughter for the can opener, examine the strange gadget she hands you. Answer “yes, I know how this works,” fumble around for a minute, then have your daughter school you in its operation. Let her open the damn beans. Dump them in a pot, place on a back burner behind the wings. Run cold water over the hot oil spatter that’s searing your forearms.
13. Re-balance the wings, put the most…well done…wings in the smaller skillet. Coat the wings in the small skillet liberally with Thai peanut sauce, toss for 2 minutes.
14. Line a serving platter with paper towels, dump all the wings on the platter. Put the beans, hot sauce, blue cheese, ranch and chips on the counter. Fix yourself a plate, grab another frosty beverage, and collapse in the big leather chair in the living room. When everyone stares at you, tell them it’s done, they can help themselves.