The Food Side : Smoked, Chipotle and Maple Chicken Wings

Maple Chipotle Chicken Wings

One  place Tracey and I love to go to for the day or an over night is New Hope Pa.  This town, on the banks of the Delaware River, is a unique collection of old time history and up scale chic.  The main street is lined with small eateries and artisan shops which draw a diverse crowd from high profile shoppers to bikers on any given day.  The town also claims home to Marsha Brown’s Creole Kitchen and Lounge (an amazing restaurant built in a converted church) as well as one of the Triumph brewery locations.  And I would never think of leaving New Hope without first stopping into Susie’s Hot Sauce, one of the best hot sauce stores I’ve ever set foot in.

And as if that wasn’t enough another interesting town, Lamberville NJ, is just a short walk via bridge across the Delaware River.  For you people reading this that live in my area, I know that sounds strange considering our bridge to get over the Delaware is close to 2 miles long!  And for you history lovers Washington Crossing Park, from where Washington made his Christmas night crossing in 1776 is right down the road.

One of the things I love about places like New Hope is that you never know what you might stumble across.  One night while we were walking down the street we passed John & Peter’s, a place that is as unique as it’s blue, yellow and red paint job.  John & Peter’s is billed as the oldest continuously owned music club in the US.  And with live acts 365 days a year, twice on Saturday and Sunday, it’s hard to argue that they are a (if not thee) driving force in the local music scene.

But it wasn’t the music that brought us in that night, it was an item on the menu – deep fried double stuffed mint Oreo’s.  Now I know what you’re thinking, when is this article getting to the wings!  Well, as these discoveries usually go it’s sometimes not about the item that brings you into the restaurant, it’s what you discover while you’re looking at the menu.  And what we discovered was Maple Chipotle chicken wings.

When we saw them on the John & Peter’s menu we quickly decided that people do not live on deep fried Oreo’s alone so we placed an order.  And they were awesome!  The balance of the sweet maple and smokey chipotle was fantastic and so appetizing that we actually debated on passing on the Oreo’s for another order of wings (we didn’t).  So as a person who likes to fancy himself a wing guy, I knew sooner or later I’d have to give these a try.

Ok, first if you’ve gotten this far (thank you) I have to state that if you’re looking for some well spelled out recipe – you won’t find it here.  I’m kinda a “cook by zen” guy.  So I’m going to lay out the basics, and leave you the ability to tweak it to your preferences and tastes – which to me, is the very essence of what cooking is about.

I started by smoking the wings for two  hours with hickory wood.  I thought the smoke from the wood would help support the smoke from the chipotle and give a little flavor to the wing, not just the sauce.  This isn’t a necessary step in my mind, to be honest it was a beautiful  summer Sunday morning and I wanted to light my smoker.  What IS important is that you don’t cook them all the way through in the smoker. You’re just trying to give the meat a hint of smokiness.

Next I hit them with a touch of my dry rub (recipe and info here) and finished them off in a 400 degree oven.  GASP!  I hear you yell!  Yes, I bake my wings.  I find that by baking them in a very hot oven, they turn out crisp, plump and juicy.  Plus, I have an oven handy in my house, not a deep frier.  This shouldn’t take long, maybe 30 minutes.  If in doubt, pull out a wing and check for doneness.

As for the sauce, well that’s easy.  Start with whatever maple syrup you have on hand and I would dare say, the better the syrup the better the sauce.  Next I cut it with a little liquid to get the consistency I want.   I want the sauce to cling to the wings, but not be thick and gloppy.  To cut mine I used champagne, hey it was a Sunday morning so there was a bottle open, but you could use anything you’d like.  And don’t be afraid to use this step to add some flavor and take the recipe in a different direction (PSSSST orange juice).

The Software - As Alton Brown would say

For the chipotle part I used two different ingredients.  First I used the chipotle peppers packing in adobo sauce that you can buy in a can.  I used three or four peppers (make sure you get as much of that good sauce as you can) and chopped them up and added them to the syrup.  The rest I placed in a zip lock freezer bag and popped them in the freezer so I’ll have them for future use.  To give it a touch more spice I added a couple of pinches of McCormick’s chipotle pepper spice.

Now this is where the zen comes in, give it a taste and adjust to your liking.  I like to start with as much syrup as I’ll think I need for the amount of sauce I want and then add the chipotle peppers a little at a time till I get the balance I want between the sweet and the spice.  Then a quick whirl in the blender (taste again to make sure it’s still where you want it), place the sauce and finished wings in a big  bowl and toss to coat.  Serve with  your favorite beer or glass of wine.

I thought these turned out great.  Sadly it’s been a while since I’ve been to John and Pete’s so I can’t be sure how they compare, but I do know that if I had gotten these that night I’d have been tempted to order a second helping as well.  So give them a try and if you come up with any variations that you love, let me know!

Time for another beer…oops, sorry…order of wings.

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