While deep-fried chicken wings can have skin that's pleasantly crisped, sometimes it comes out a little slimy, and peeling it back one finds a lot of bone, tendon, and cartilage—indisputable reminders that you're biting into what was once a living, breathing being. When gnawing on a chicken wing, I can't help but feel like a prehistoric beast, or a pecking vulture, stripping a carcass as I poke my fingers between the tiny bones to access a bite of flesh. Not that my process is ever very successful: My waitress at the Butcher Block could hardly distinguish my finished pile from the uneaten one.
By the time we were done, my dinner companion had chocolate on his nose, peanut butter all over his fingers, and a napkin that looked like the "before" image in a Tide commercial. It's not the mess that bothers me, really—I'll happily saw through a plate of ribs or bite into a toppling chili dog—but the payoff needs to be worth the hassle.
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And what does a chicken wing taste like when it's been coated with the equivalent of a melted Reese's Peanut Butter Cup? The concept made theoretical sense, as a riff on chicken and waffles—certainly sweet flavors can complement chicken, as can peanut sauce or mole. But these wings tasted like they'd been coated with Hershey's syrup and Jiff, which is to say they tasted pretty disgusting. I would have put the test batch on the chopping block, not Butcher Block's specials list.
Yet on subsequent visits, the more wings I sampled, the more their skin seemed to crackle and their sauces seemed worth the mess: a soy-flavored house variety, a syrupy brown sugar (a successful chicken and waffles riff), and a tangy mango curry yogurt were all lip-smackers. I even liked the kitchen-sink wings, whose spicy red sauce made the dish taste a bit like General Tso's chicken—tossed with pickles, French fries, and a few spaghetti noodles. (Perhaps it could be the American version of poutine?) Each time I sampled one of the bony little buggers, I gnawed a little closer, picked a little cleaner, and learned to love the lowly chicken wing.