Za'atar Wings with Tahini and Spicy Honey

Home run. Touchdown. Goaaaaaaaallll!  Insert whatever sports scoring term you want here. These wings are it.

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Whenever someone calls me a good cook, I usually counter with the claim that really I'm just good at following a recipe. My experiments in the kitchen have had mixed results, to put it kindly. In the past whenever I've tried to just improvise with ingredients or wing it (heh), I usually would wind up with something at least edible, but maybe not what anyone would go for given other options. I've generally done best just finding a recipe for what I want to make and adapting it with my own changesIt's really only within the last couple of years that I've started to gain confidence in my ability to just get in the kitchen and create. Sure, I still look up recipes, but more and more it's just to double check oven temperatures or cooking times or an ingredient ratio, giving me a solid foundation from which to branch out.

I bring this up because these wings were a personal victory for me. As simple as they are, it would have been easier still for me to decide that I wanted to make za'atar spiced wings and just go online and find a recipe. But I didn't want to do that. I decided to pay attention to that little voice of confidence in my head telling me that no, I didn't need someone else's recipe, that I in fact already knew how to make these. And that voice was right! I totally did! 

These wings turned out to be some of the crispiest, most tender wings I've ever had out of the oven. Finished with a generous dusting of Za'atar and drizzled with tahini and spicy honey, they are lemony, nutty, spicy, and sweet all at once.

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If you haven't yet tried za'atar, then get on that ASAP. It's a Middle Eastern herb blend that works on many types of meat, on french fries, popcorn, you name it. The mix of herbs can vary, but usually it contains sumac, thyme or oregano, and sesame seeds. I used a mix of store bought and a homemade version I bought at a winery in Arizona (of all places). It should be easy to seek out or make your own, since both za'atar and sumac seem to be having a moment these days.  

So make these wings, and I dare you not to finish the whole batch in one sitting. I managed to share one or two with my roommate. I deserve a medal for that.


Za'atar Wings with Tahini and Spicy Honey

These wings use a technique I discovered from a Tasting Table email that landed in my inbox right before the Super Bowl. A mix of egg white, baking soda and salt coats the wings and overnight, actual magic happens. If you don't want to wait overnight to make your wings, you can easily skip this step. I've made oven baked wings without it and they've been terrific. But these wings are so tender they fall right off the bone, and I just can't go back from that.

1.5-2 lbs chicken wings
1 egg white
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 Tbs za’atar

To serve:

Tahini
Spicy honey (I used this honey, but you can also add a pinch or two of cayenne to regular honey)

Make the wings:

  1. Lightly grease a wire rack (like a cooling rack) and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Whisk together egg white, baking soda and salt. Toss the wings in this mixture to completely coat, and then place on the wire rack. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator, uncovered, so the skin can dry out.
  2. When you are ready to bake the wings, take your baking sheet of wings out of the refrigerator, at least 30 minutes prior to baking. This is a good time to preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Bake the wings for 20 minutes, then flip and bake 10 minutes more. 
  4. Toss the wings in the za’atar and then bake 5 more minutes to finish crisping and toast the spices a bit.
  5. Just before serving, drizzle the hot wings with tahini and spicy honey.

Notes:

  • The real secret to oven baked wings is to bake them on a wire rack, so air can circulate beneath them and they aren't frying in puddles of grease.Yes, you can bake chicken wings flat on a baking sheet and they will be edible and tasty and fine. They will not be as crispy, so if that's what you're after you'll really need a rack.