My grandma (also known to me as Mormor, the Swedish word for maternal grandmother) is responsible for bestowing upon my family our time-honored recipe for teriyaki-style chicken wings. Sure, her pickled herring, headcheese and potato sausage are revered as well (some more than others) but it’s her chicken wings that I remember most fondly from childhood. The pickled herring I only ate once on a dare. It was as awful as it sounds.
Anyways I’m not sure how the chicken wing recipe first came to be a family favorite. The vague explanation is that it was passed to her from my mother’s best friend’s mom more than fifty years ago. Where she found it, I have no idea and why she gave it to my grandma is another mystery — though a fortuitous one for sure.
It’s one of the dishes that my grandma makes every time I go to visit her and my grandfather (along with her Swedish hotcakes which she makes every Saturday morning without fail). As a kid, when we would visit them on vacations, she used to make the wings for my brother, my older cousin and me. My brother has always enjoyed them, but my cousin and I were obsessed. We would race to eat as many as we could — counting up the bones when we were done to see who was victorious. I think most of the time we actually tied — which looking back was quite a feat. It should be noted that my cousin is now taller than me by more than a foot and is a boy to boot and I can still eat as many wings as he can.
My mom also made them for our family. They were what I requested for every birthday or “special occasion” dinner. They were what I craved on my winter breaks during college. They were the first recipe my mom wrote down for me and the only reason I own an electric frying pan. It’s impossible to make them as good without one.
Three generations later and these wings are still one of the dishes I make, along with my mom’s chicken casserole, when I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. Which is fairly often.
Over the years, I have been spreading the chicken wing love. My best friend Nikki Sea had me email her the recipe a while back and I have now gotten my husband hooked on them as well. In fact I usually make about three times what the recipe calls for because I tend to hoard the leftovers so I can enjoy them in secret or sneak them to work for my lunch.
However these wings are so sticky and messy, they are difficult to eat covertly. My grandma always says we should serve them with finger bowls, though instead we just plunk down a huge pile of napkins in the center of the table. Last year for my birthday party, I set out a huge platter of them. We went through a lot of napkins that night and the wings were all but gone. Luckily there were a few left over for me to snack on the next afternoon while I cleaned. Though you better believe I had some tucked away in the back of the fridge, just in case…
Mormor’s Chicken Wings
10-12 each Chicken Wings (cut off the tiny wing tip if you are using whole, 3-joint wings. You can also use just the midjoints or drummettes, whatever you prefer.)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sherry or any white wine (Mirin,
Two Three Buck Chuck Pinot Gris, whatever you have handy)
3TBS brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard (I usually throw in a squirt of Dijon mustard)
Green onion diced (about half of a bunch, reserve some to sprinkle on top if you’re feeling fancy)
Put chicken wings in a frying pan. Mix all the sauce ingredients together and pour over the wings in the pan. Simmer covered for 30-40 minutes. Then removed the cover and simmer for 15 more minutes or until all the sauce has thickened and sticks to the wings, taking care not to burn them. If at any point thing are getting too dry, dump in a little more water. They are best when cooked until dark and very sticky. The meat will fall off the bone.
If you’re really feeling frisky, sprinkle with some sesame seeds too.