There comes a moment in every long marriage when you realize that you've turned into your mother-in-law.
Mine happened a few weeks ago. The school bus arrived to deliver my son. One of his classmates stuck his head out and yelled "Hi, Mrs. Ottaway." I smiled and waved back without looking behind me to see if my husband's mother had suddenly materialized in all her overalls-and-muck-boots glory. Then my son and I walked home and opened the front door to the sweet tang of chicken wings slow roasting in BBQ sauce, the recipe for which has been handed down woman to woman for at least three generations.
Ma Ottaway's Chicken Wings is the dish that everyone waits for during the family's annual summer gatherings on my in-laws' farm. It makes its appearance with out any pomp or circumstance, usually arriving in the silver hotel pan that it was cooked in. No matter. It needs no trumpeting because we've all be wafting around in the thick scent for hours.
You learn this dish from time spent.
There are some basic ratios to be heeded: one cup ketchup to a half cup molasses and a half cup vinegar. But after that, to love this dish is to spend a lifetime trying match the whims of a woman from another time and the flavor of memories.
My mother-in-law and her brother have been trying to recapture their mother's sauce for the last forty-five years or so. And according to my mother-in-law she's never quite gotten it right, something about chili powder she suspects. Meanwhile she raised five children on her attempts, and they've been trying to chase her efforts ever since.
I tasted the chicken the first summer that I met my husband. It was foreign to me. My family didn't slow cook in the oven, didn't make chicken wings and certainly didn't have much to do with BBQ sauce. Tofu and brown rice with hijiki, I understood. Or roasted chicken with matzo balls. Or even lamb stew. But this? I felt like I'd discovered another country.
I watched my mother-in-law make the base and start shaking and dumping, a spoonful of horseradish, a bit of chili powder (her own twist on the dish), sometimes a touch of mustard, sometimes not. Black pepper. Or not. Tabasco. Or not. It was years until I asked for the recipe. And a few more years until I could make anything that even resembled the wings. I burned them, made the sauce too watery, added sliced onions and then took them out.
Until one day it was me in the kitchen, children running under foot, the crowds gathering for a summer gathering and everyone hovering as the house filled with spice and heat and tang.
I am in no danger of suddenly bursting forth with an encyclopedic knowledge of animal husbandry, bible references, and the roots of just about every word in the dictionary. Nor am I about to don a pair of overalls and develop a consuming passion for goat farming. But that is not what it means to be Mrs. Ottaway. I can't be my mother-in-law anymore than I can make her chicken. And yet, some how she is a part of me now. I have taken my place in this line of women. This Jewish hippy kid with rootless Brooklyn roots dumps and shakes and fills the house with fall-off-the-bone Ma Ottaway's Chicken Wings. With my own twist of course.
1 cup Ketchup
½ cup Molasses
½ cup cider vinegar (can use red wine)
You can make as much as you want of this just keep the above ratio the same.
to this base you add lots of black pepper
1 Tablespoon horseradish
a couple pinches of chili powder
several shakes of Worchester sauce
and if you want it hot a few shakes of Tabasco, if you want it supper hot but very yummy, use habenero Tabasco (this will put it out of some people’s reach though.) My own twist is to use Franks Red Hot instead of Tabasco.
1 family pack of chicken wings, cut at the joint with the tip removed. Or for a lighter version, you can use skinned dark meat pieces. Six thighs and six legs for one batch of sauce.
Preheat oven to 300.
Put the chicken in a large mixing bowl and toss with the sauce until it is well coated.
Put the chicken in a wide baking dish. It should be all on one layer, not pieces on top of each other.
Cook uncovered for an hour and a half in the oven at 300. My own twist is to take them out at this point and pour off most of the liquid. Reserve the liquid. Put the chicken pieces back in for another 45 minutes or so. This crisps them up a but and puts an nice coating on the outside. For a wetter version, just leave them in to cook for the full 2 hours or a little more.
Let the sauce settle and then skim fat off the top. Served the rest with the chicken. Serve over egg noodles. The super hot habenero version is also great on rice.
I think this sauce would also be amazing to cook short ribs in a crock pot with, I’ll try it and up date.
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