An anonymous admirer called Coca-Cola “the holy water of the American South.” Whenever an uninvited, yet beloved visitor shows up on your doorstep, you offer them sweet tea, coffee or Coca-Cola. It has become a part of the tradition of Southern hospitality. There is something about this beverage that is outlandishly comforting and familiar to Southerners. I remember riding my bike to the nearest filling station, pulling up to the bright red and white machine, depositing my hard earned allowance into the machine and waiting for the “clink” of the coin. The magic door opened and, alas, a perfectly sized glass bottle of fizzy and uplifting Coca-Cola would be waiting for me. Tempted by the sound of the cap slowly being twisted off the bottle and the refreshing taste, I devoured the beverage right there on the spot. The taste of Coke became part of our childhood and inherently so, became part of Southerner’s children’s lives. The tradition of Coke was born in the South and still steals a spot in our hearts and our tummies.
* This recipe has been adapted from Virginia Willis’s brilliant Bon Appetit Ya’ll. It is an excellent way to highlight the complexity of Coca-Cola.
Recipe: Serves 6
2 limes, juiced
1 ½ cups of brown sugar
1 cup of Coca-Cola
3 jalapenos, ribs and seeds discarded, finely diced*
3 pounds of chicken wings
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Note: Please protect your skin whenever you deal with peppers. Make sure you wash your hands well after dealing with these babies. The first time I made these, I thought my hands were made of steel and I ended up watching the Super Bowl with my hand in a container of sour cream. Not ideal.
Combine all ingredients except for wings in a saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring sauce to a boil and then simmer for at least 30 minutes or until the sauce begins to reduce and thicken up. Set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare a roasting sheet with heavy-duty foil and place a cooling rack on top of the foil. Place the oven rack 4 inches away from the broiler. Crank the broiler on high.
Place half of the sauce onto the wings and reserve the rest for basting. Place wings on the cooling rack. Bake for five minutes, baste and rotate the roasting pan. Place back in the oven for five more minutes. Take the wings out again and baste again with sauce. Flip the wings over and bake for 5 minutes. Take the wings out and baste, rotate the pan and place back in the oven for five more minutes. After five minutes, take wings out and baste wings for the last time, about 20 minutes total. Let cool and serve.