Joe Tulipana of Blind Box BBQ in Shawnee is on the verge of adding a new favorite to the Chow Town barbecue scene: hog wings.
Tulipana didn’t invent hog wings, but as far as I know, he’s the only local pitmaster/proprietor with hog wings on his menu.
Hog wings, of course, are not real wings. Everybody knows that pigs can’t fly until the impossible happens. It’s a popular expression, “Yeah, when that happens, pigs will fly.”
Chef Paul Kirk introduced me to hog wings. He called them pig wings, as do many others in the trade. Butchers and chefs have called them various other names, but pig wings or hog wings have caught on as the most popular name.
Hog wings come from the back legs of the animal. Ascending from the hoof, past the hock, the shank bone connected to the leg bone is the “wing.” Like other winged creatures, there are only two wings per hog.
There is not a precise age distinction between pigs and hogs other than that hogs are older and bigger than pigs. There is no consensus as to whether a specific breed — Duroc, Berkshire, Tamworth, Yorkshire or other — yields the tastiest shanks.
Raw shank meat is tough. Making it tender and flavorful is the job of the cook. Cooking options include slow smoking, grilling, oven roasting, frying, microwave or a combination of methods.
Anatomy, age, breed and cooking methods aside, let’s eat some Blind Box Hog Wings prepared by Tulipana.
His current method of rendering hog wings tender is to oven-roast lightly seasoned shanks until tender, fry them for about 30 seconds to make a crunchy bark, and then toss them with a spicy chili and honey glaze. He serves them with sauce on the side for dipping.
Blind Box Hog Wings are a flavor explosion of spicy, sweet and tender meat made more delicious with a crunchy bark. The only element missing right now is a kiss of smoke.
Tulipana said he is working on that, experimenting with oak, hickory and an oak/hickory combo. Although his hog wings already send Blind Box fans soaring to hog heaven, a kiss of smoke will give them a halo upon arrival.
Hog wings are destined for Chow Town favorite fame.
Blind Box BBQ is in the MillCreek Shopping Center at 13214 W. 62nd Terrace, in Shawnee. Its telephone number is 913-268-4227 and it can be found on the Internet at blindboxbbq.com.
Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. His most recent releases are America’s Best BBQ (Revised Edition), with chef Paul Kirk, and Barbecue Lover’s Kansas City Style .