No Small Thing: Hickory Smoked Italian Chicken Wings
A thin, blue, hickory smoke curled from the pit, tapering into a cold, blue Minnesota sky. A sky that which rose to infinity, and shortly touched the sun there. That beautiful flaming orb patron to the heavens, which at this time of the year, after many months of winter, we will gladly wallow in but one of its golden rays. The breeze is cool too, this late winter day, as I turn up the collar on my old smoking jacket, and admire how the soft, white clouds scatter through the air. And how the friendly Black Capped Chickadees, residents of the pond-side pit, bandy together in the old spruce tree, flirting or keeping house, or doing what ever it is that Chickadees do in trees. A beautiful winter day indeed, one in which to tarry pit side for a while, lovely beverage within reach, and smoke up something good to eat. On the pit today, the quintessential appetizer – hickory smoked BBQ chicken wings. It’s real easy to do to.
A few hours before the wings hit the pit, and whilst favoring a bit of sunlight ebbing in through the kitchen window, we tossed the wings into a gallon-size plastic zip lock bag and promptly dumped in an entire bottle of Italian salad dressing. Turns out this stuff doubles as a fantastic marinade, and is the only reason we can get away with coining these wings – Italian. Anyways, the concoction marinated all morning in the refrigerator, while yours truly may or may not have nodded off in his favorite man chair, whilst PBS cooking shows softly bantered up on the big screen. Good BBQ is never rushed, people. And if marination has spawned on a nap or two, well it only serves your palate the better for it. Be not ashamed! We let these wings soak for about four hours, and quite frankly, they smelled good enough to eat right out of the plastic sack, only we didn’t, because that would be rank folly!
Amid the slanting shafts of an afternoon sun, we populated the grate on the weber smokey mountain heap full of this succulence in poultry, put the lid on, and let the smoker have its way. That is the joy of low and slow, indirect cooking, and especially on pits like the WSM, for you can set the temperature, in this case, 250 degrees, and just let it go with no fear of burning, nor thermal fluctuation. No babysitting. No worries. And let the sweet passage of time and wood smoke gently work the meat unto your highest, most savory ideal.
We pampered the wings in the smoke spa no less than two hours. Two glorious cycles of the hour hand in which to make the acquaintanceship of your favorite chair, fireplace toasty at your feet, and a good narrative in hand. And tho winter’s chill is still with us, the sun burns stalwart, and I can feel its gentle kiss through my window pane. I stretched in my chair like a spoiled house cat, and drew a glance out to the pit. I liked how the wood smoke curled out of the damper in wispy tendrils, and did so without a care in the world. Or wait, maybe that’s me. That is the other joy of low and slow BBQ, in that whilst the cook is on, and the wood smoke poetically rises, the world and its problems seem to dissolve right along with the aromatic smoke itself, into a wild and beautiful sky. The ever-whirling cog of society rotates onward and with out you for a while, and when you consider it some, even if but for a moment, you are quite OK with that. Indeed, it is a high privilege. For you are doing right now precisely that which is well with your soul… Say what ever you will, but that is no small thing. Amen.
Slow Hickory Smoked Italian Chicken Wings. Yet another delicious way to let up on the accelerator pedal of life, under lovely skies, and where the wood smoke also rises. Sauce is optional.