It is Memorial Day and barbecue is the traditional way of celebrating. Son-in-law, Chris, is avoiding sugary foods, so many a barbecue sauce was out. I decided that a spice rub would be the way to go.
While we were at Oxbow in Napa, I picked up some Whole Spice Ras el Hanut—the Moroccan spice blend. While I have made my own blends—one with 29 and another with 18 ingredients, today I decided to go with what I had bought.
The Moroccan spice blend Ras el Hanout is shrouded in mystery. There is no set ingredients list and individual blends are the closely held family and trade secret of the Moroccan spice merchants. Ras el Hanout means “head of the shop,” and each shop’s owner has their own unique mix, the best spice mix their shop can provide. Some blends have as few as ten ingredients, but others are said to have as many as fifty to one hundred spices. Whole Spice’s version contains 16—Cloves, Allspice, Black Pepper, Mace, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Ginger, Turmeric, Rosebuds, Cumin, White Pepper, Coriander, Nutmeg, Saffron, Bay Leaves and Paprika.
Many times, I have made the effort to make a meal with dishes consistent to the cuisine of the main dish. This time I decided to go full on California Fusion. While I made some Moroccan couscous to go with the wings, I also had some leftover Japanese potato salad and three bean salad from previous meals. Feeling the need for more greens I added an arugula salad. Finally, a fruit salad for dessert seemed to fit the salad theme that had developed.
Karl’s Moroccan Chicken Wings
16-18 chicken wings (about 4 lbs.)
2 Tbs. peanut oil
2 tsp. Kosher salt
3 Tbs. Ras el Hanout
1. Cut off the wingtips of the wings, leaving only the flat and the drumette.
Tip: While you can buy wings that are already cut up, buying whole wings is usually cheaper.
Note: I save the wingtips for soup stock. I also leave the flat and drumette segments attached, because it prevents anything from slipping through the grate while you are grilling and makes for fewer things to flip.
2. Rub the wings with the oil.
Tip: While some would brush the oil onto the wings, I find it easier to simply oil my hands.
Note: Washing your hands both before and after doing this should go without saying.
3. Sprinkle both sides of the wings with the salt and the spice blend.
4. Place the wings into a seal-able gallon plastic bag.
Note: Press the air out of the bag, seal it and place the bag in the refrigerator.
5. Marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours, flipping the bag occasionally.
Tip: Overnight is better.
6. Half an hour before grilling, remove the chicken pieces from the bag and let them air dry and come to room temperature.
7. Prepare your grill.
Note: If you are using charcoal, build a bi-level fire in the grill—push all of the coals to one side of your grill. If you are using gas, turn on all of your burners and heat the grill for five minutes—turn one side of the grill to its lowest gas setting when you put on the chicken. This helps the pieces that are farthest from the hot side of the grill to cook completely.
8. Oil your grating well and lay the chicken, pretty side down, on the hot side of the grill.
Tip: Close the grill lid.
Note: Chicken wings have a pretty side, the top of the wing, and a less attractive side, the underside of the wing.
9. Sear the chicken for 10 minutes.
10. Transfer the wings to the cool side of the grill.
Tip: As you are moving the chicken, flip the wings pretty side up.
11. Close the grill lid and continue to cook the chicken for another 20 minutes.
Note: If you wish to add a smoky flavor, you may add wood chips at this time.
12. Redistribute the wings.
Note: The wings that are closest to the heat will cook more quickly. Move the wings farthest from the heat closer and fill their spaces with the wings that were closest.
13. Close the grill and continue cooking the wings for another 15-20 minutes.
14. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and tent with aluminum foil to keep them warm.
15. Let the chicken rest for five minutes and then serve warm.