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For This Family, Shabbat Dinner Is Their Judaism

For This Family, Shabbat Dinner Is Their Judaism

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Recipe Roots: Hungary > Baltimore > Suffolk, VA > Detroit Area > San Francisco
Shared by Peter Weltman

During his childhood, every Friday night, Peter Weltman’s family gathered in their suburban Michigan home for Shabbat dinner. “Even if my dad was working late, he’d come home for Shabbat and go back to the office,” he explains. “It was the non-negotiable. That was our Judaism.”

On Fridays, his mother Robyn often made grilled salmon, red bliss potatoes with olive oil and rosemary, and a Greek salad that she was known for. Another staple of their Shabbat dinner table was a chicken wing recipe, dashed with garlic powder, paprika, fresh thyme, and slicked with olive oil. The simple recipe originally came from Robyn’s paternal grandmother Margaret Levy, but Robyn learned it from her father, or papa David, as Peter called him, a pediatrician who was the primary cook in the family when Robyn was growing up.

While some of the family lineage has been lost to time, Peter knows Margaret’s family came from Hungary to the U.S. Perhaps they brought this recipe with them or at least a taste for paprika, which, he says, adds “that lifted...that savory note.”

In four generations, the recipe has changed in only one significant way that Peter knows of: the addition of orange juice to the sheet pan, which adds a sweetness as it caramelizes and forms a glaze of sorts. That change came from Emma, Peter’s babysitter when he was little — and it stuck.

In San Francisco, where he lives and works as a wine writer, he tried to replicate that version of recipe a couple of years ago. He went to a whole animal butcher and was told: “We don’t have party wings on hand.” More recently, he persisted and found drummettes at Whole Foods and called his mother for the recipe. She didn’t have a written version, but agreed to FaceTime with Peter as he made the wings, walking him through it step by step, sweetly coaching him through it saying “I can smell it through the phone,” Peter recalls.

While Peter has conquered the family recipe, he says he still prefers to let Robyn make it when he goes to visit her in Detroit. For now, she’s the keeper of the recipe.

Peter shared his story at Schmaltzy, our live storytelling and tasting event, in California. Listen here:

Robyn’s Chicken Wings

Peter likes to pair the wings with amba, a piquant pickled mango condiment that’s popular in Israel and toum, a powerful garlic spread from Lebanon that his mother keeps on hand for him when he visits.

3 lbs. chicken wings, drummettes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon (a sprinkle) paprika
8 stems fresh thyme, leaves removed
1 cup of fresh orange juice, from about 2 oranges

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Place the chicken wings on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and thyme. Toss until everything is well coated and evenly distributed.

3. Spoon the orange juice over the top of the wings - just enough to moisten, not so much that the wings are swimming in the juice.

4. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 25-30 minutes until the wings are cooked through and a nice glaze has formed. During the final 15 minutes of baking, baste the wings again with the reserved orange juice.

5. Serve immediately with amba and toum for dipping.

Photos by Penny De Los Santos

Photos by Penny De Los Santos

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