Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Nana's Soy Garlic Wings

Nana Tormey ♥
My husband has told me that he always used to say, when he was younger, that he wanted to marry someone who cooked like his nana. Nana's recipes are stuff of legend, dishes that are cooked up now by his Auntie Jean, that the cousins and aunts and uncles remember her preparing fondly now that's she's passed. They bring up memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings, of birthdays and Sunday afternoons spent crowded into their small Weymouth home. The large Irish brood spills out onto the back deck and driveway, unable to be contained as each year more and more grandchildren get married, more and more great-grandchildren are born.

I have a printed out booklet of some of her favorites, recipes she'd collected over the years from the various cooking magazines and programs she used to love. Pup, my husband's grandfather, put them together at some point, and she passed them to me. They're typed out, done on a word processor, and stapled together. On the back page, in true Pup fashion, there is an index, alphabetical, detailing on what numbered page each recipe can be found. There are some great ones in there, but they aren't the Nana recipes, the recipes the family loves and prepares at every gathering. Those aren't written down in any neat little booklet. They lived in Nana's head, prepared by muscle memory, and have been shared and duplicated by her daughter and sons and grandchildren.

My father in law (blue tie) and his brothers and sister, at our wedding
My husband (the redhead) and his brothers and sister, also at our wedding
I remember very clearly the first time I had Nana's wings, at some gathering over the summer. One of the birthdays, years ago when everyone still got together for them all. I remember that I thought they were delicious, garlicy with just the right amount of salt. I asked Johnny about them, and he said to ask his aunt for the recipe, or her son, his cousin Tommy. I never got around to it that day, and it became something that I'd mean to do and always forget until we had them again. The lore of them built up, this secret recipe, and I was nervous about eventually finding it out and being unable to duplicate them properly. One day, I finally remembered to ask his aunt.

The ingredients? Soy sauce, garlic powder, light oil. End of list.

I thought, this can't be true. They're so good! It must be more complicated than that! But really, sometimes the best things are the simplest. And even though the list is short, the technique matters. I've found that it's actually taken me a while to duplicate these wings, to prepare them and have them come out as good as when Nana or Jeanie or Tommy make them. I may never be as good of a cook as Nana, but I'm grateful that I've learned to make her wings, that our kids will hear about her over the foods she used to make.

One important step to making the best tasting wings is giving them enough time to marinate. Now, they'll still be good if you throw them in in the morning and cook them that night, but I've found through trial and error that to get them to perfection, they need at least three days. The marinade is so easy to prepare that I like to whip it together and put them in as soon as I get home from the grocery store. That way, when we want them later in the week, they're good to go.

I take them out, give them a rinse and pat dry, and into a gallon storage bag (freezer ones work best for a few-day marinade, they don't tend to leak like regular ones do).

Then, I mix the marinade. I like low-sodium soy sauce, it's still got the salt but waaaaaay less than the regular version.

Once combined, I just pour over the wings, squeeze out the air, and mix them around with my hands really well for a few minutes to make sure they are all coated. I put the bag inside a bowl or tupperware container in the fridge, in case it does leak, and just let it do it's thing for a few days. Try to remember to turn them once or twice a day to make sure they coat evenly.

When you're ready to cook them, let them sit on the counter for 15-30 minutes while your grill heats up, to take the chill off them. Because of oil and the sugars in the soy sauce, if you cook them too high, they'll cause a flare up and the wings will char. I like a good char on my BBQ, but these wings are best when that doesn't happen. Let them slowly brown, turn them often, tend to them.

In my husband's family, they've been known to bake them off in the oven for 45 minutes or so at 350, to cook them most of the way, and then finish them off on the grill. This is good for parties, I find, when you have lots of other things to grill. Or when you're making a huge batch of them. But I like to cook them on the grill all the way through, as long as I have someone to watch the kids so I make sure they don't burn!

I'm so happy to pass on these family recipes to my boys, and hopefully this blog will help their kids and grandkids to grow up with them, too.

All the Tormey cousins and their significant others, at cousin Sara's wedding, New Years Eve 2009
Nana and Papa at a family party at the lake house ♥

Nana's Soy Garlic Wings
3-4 pounds of wingettes, or whole wings broken down
1/3 cup less sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup light oil (canola or vegetable)
2-3 TB garlic powder, to taste

Rinse the wings and pat dry. Put the wings in a gallon sized freezer storage bag, or large tupperware container. Mix the soy sauce, oil and garlic powder and pour over the wings. Seal and mix around until all wings are coated. Refrigerate and let marinade for at least 3 days.

When you are ready to cook, let the wings sit for 15-30 to take the chill off. Heat the grill to medium high and cook the wings, turning frequently, until lightly browned and crispy on both sides, about 30 minutes. Alternately, cook on a sheet pan in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, and then finish off on the grill. Great for parties, even better cold the next day.


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