I miss Gourmet magazine. The glossy photos, globe-spanning recipes, and writing from the likes of James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, and Madhur Jaffrey (and yes, the endless ads for luxury lifestyle items I would never be able to afford) all combined to create a world apart from the day-to-day tedium of reality.
Ten years ago this month, Conde Nast published its last issue of Gourmet. It feels like it was just yesterday. It still hurts a little when I think about what we’re all missing.
When I started thinking about ideas for this column, I was drawn to chicken wings. I was probably thinking about football and fall and how chicken wings go so well with both of those things but in reality, I had a craving for wings. Not just any wings, La Brea Tar Pit Wings.
It was a recipe I remembered from an old Gourmet magazine. There was one problem; I couldn’t remember the name. I kept coming back to “Black Tar BBQ Wings” and Google was not helping. It gave me something called “Barbecued Bat Wings” and let me know that it was basically impossible for prehistoric animals to escape a tar pit, but I didn’t get any closer to the wings of my dreams.
In the end, I decided to make them from memory. They were sweet, savory, vaguely Asian, and oh so dark. I went with a combination of soy and hoisin sauces, garlic, ginger, brown sugar and rice wine vinegar. They were hot, sticky, delicious and really scratched that chicken wing itch.
After inhaling the wings in one sitting, I decided to do a little more online research and found the original recipe. It’s a bit different than my concoction but equally delicious. I’ll include it along with mine.
While I was searching for that recipe, I was reminded of how differently I treat recipe research now as opposed to 10 or 20 years ago. As a young culinary student, we were encouraged to use all sources available to us. Cookbooks, trade publications, magazines and even the fledgling internet. I took this to heart and devoted large chunks of time to poring over print recipes and the stories that accompanied them.
The better the story, the more I really got a feel for the recipe and the kind of love and emotion that went into creating it. When you begin to understand the environment around a dish, the better chance you have of creating something delicious.
I’m not saying there aren’t great stories accompanying the recipes you find on the internet, there are plenty. It’s the way we approach internet recipe research as opposed to opening a cookbook or an old issue of Gourmet.
Internet searches tend to be utilitarian quests for a specific recipe containing specific ingredients.
Thumbing through the pages of Gourmet magazine was a leisurely stroll through the pages of the good life, waiting for inspiration to hit you like the smell of a freshly baked baguette, chopped basil and lemon, or sweet and savory chicken wings.
Black Tar Chicken Wings
24 chicken wings, cut into paddles and drummies, tips discarded
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C. hoisin sauce
½ C. soy sauce
⅓ C. brown sugar
¼ C. rice wine vinegar
1 T. fresh garlic, minced
1 T. fresh ginger, minced
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place wings on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place wings in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until juices run clear.
While wings are baking, place remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.
Simmer for 10 minutes or until wings are done. When wings are done, toss them in the black tar sauce and serve.
For stickier wings and a more intense flavor, return the wings to the sheet pan after tossing them in the sauce. Bake in the oven for another 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly.
-Serve with sriracha mayo. (Recipe to follow)
La Brea Tar Pit Wings
(Recipe from Metta Miller, originally published in Gourmet magazine)
4 lbs. chicken wings, cut into paddles and drummies, tips discarded
1 C. soy sauce
½ C. dry red wine
½ half C. plus one T. sugar
¼ t. ground ginger
Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Arrange wings in one layer in a large roasting pan.
Combine the soy sauce, wine, sugar and ginger in a small saucepan and heat over moderately low heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved.
Pour evenly over wings.
Bake for 30 minutes. Turn wings over and bake until sauce is thick and sticky, about 1 hour more.
Transfer wings to a platter.
1 C. mayo
Juice of 1 lime
1 T. soy sauce
¼ C. sriracha
1 t. granulated garlic
¼ t. szechuan peppercorns, ground
Mix all ingredients with a whisk until well blended. Serve with chicken wings or anything else that needs a little kick.