Restaurant wings are all too often a disappointment. Soggy-skinned, tossed in ubiquitous bottled orange sauce -- why bother?
Add an 800-degree wood-burning oven to the wing equation, and the answer changes.
Peel Wood Fired Pizza (921 South Arbor Vitae, Edwardsville, Illinois; 618-659-8561) uses its oven to its full extent -- pizza, foccacia, baked pastas and meat that top giant salads and sandwiches all emerge from the oven. But the best use of the brick oven (besides making crispy pizza crust with those crackling bubbles we love so much), is the wings.
Fire wings on any other menu would give us pause. That phrase usually translates to those soggy-skinned wings coated in heavy-handed pure capsaicin. It might be delightful when applied to sore joints, but who wants to eat that?
Don't get us wrong -- we like hot. But we like other flavors with our heat, and Peel provides. In addition to dried red chiles, the wings are tossed with coarse gray sea salt and roasted garlic olive oil. After a trip through the fire, which leaves them caramel-charred on the outside and tender inside, full chicken flavor intact from not being over-cooked, they're topped with coarse shreds of Parmesan cheese and cooling chiffonade of basil. A chilled-out dish of housemade ranch dressing doesn't bury the heat, but balances it.
Do they burn? Most certainly. But it's a balanced burn with interesting layers of flavor and texture that don't occur when wings are tossed in the fryer.