A Wing Ding of a Party

Recipes by Nancy Johnson

Wine Commentary by Gary Twining

From Super Bowl parties to family movie nights, when the occasion calls for finger food, a platter of chicken wings is always welcome. Serve about a dozen wings per person, a bit more for bigger appetites. To cut whole chicken wings into two pieces, first snip off the tip and discard. Then locate the joint between the drum and wingette. Use kitchen scissors to snip through the center of the joint. While blue cheese dip is traditionally served with wings, even a dollop of sour cream is a cool counterpoint to the spicy wings.

Gary: Serving wine with casual fare such as chicken wings is a positive for all wine lovers. We need to avoid the syndrome of the “special occasion only” bottles that simply gather dust instead of being shared and enjoyed. While chicken is very wine-flexible, the most important consideration will be the sauce used in preparing the wings. Remember perception of spice and heat will be increased by higher alcohol levels. Think of which wines would make the sauce/coating enjoyable and you will be well on your way to a pleasurable experience.

Spice-Rubbed Buffalo Wings

These are Buffalo wings – only better. The spice rub will cover about 4 pounds of wings. Make a double batch if you’re feeding a crowd. I like the flavor of Hungarian paprika, and that’s why I use it here. You may use whatever paprika you have on hand. I toss all of the wings into the bag at the same time, but if all won’t fit into your storage bag, divide the rub into two different bags.

4 lb chicken wings

2 tsp dry mustard

2 tsp Hungarian paprika

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp seasoned salt

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

3/4 cup butter, melted

1 cup Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large food storage bag, mix mustard, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, seasoned salt and cayenne pepper (if using). Pat wings dry, toss into bag and shake bag until wings are well covered with spice mixture.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange wings on sheets. Bake uncovered, 30 minutes. With tongs, flip wings. In a bowl, mix melted butter with Frank’s Wing Sauce. Spoon over each wing. Reserve any leftover sauce. Bake wings about 10 minutes longer or until wings are cooked through. Toss with remaining sauce, if desired.

Gary: Unless you desire heat, look for wines with lower alcohol – early picked or cool climate wines are perfect to help quell the fire. Dry sparkling wines such as Champagne, Prosecco and Cava will bring out the flavor without exacerbating the heat. If you want something with a hint of sweetness, Moscato would be a good choice. Don’t forget the low-alcohol, softly sweet Lambrusco that would make a good quaffing wine with Buffalo wings. An off-dry Riesling, soft rosé or mellow red such as Zinfandel or Beaujolais would also be a nice pairing.

Garlic Parmesan Wings

Normally I preach the virtues of using fresh garlic and well-aged Parmigiana Reggiano in a recipe. But not with wings. Use jarred minced garlic and the cheap Parmesan cheese from the pasta aisle at the supermarket. Easy!

4 lb chicken wings

1 cup butter, melted

1 TBS jarred minced garlic, more or less to taste

1 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, mix together butter and garlic. Add wings and toss to coat.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange wings on sheets. Bake uncovered, 30 minutes. With tongs, flip wings. Sprinkle 1/2 cup Parmesan over wings. Bake 10 minutes longer or until wings are cooked through. Toss wings with remaining Parmesan.

Gary: Think crisp whites for this style of wings. Pinot Grigio with its lightness and crisp acidity would make a great pairing, as would Albariño, Gavi di Gavi and Orvieto. There are numerous worldwide examples that would pair well also, such as Mâcon Chardonnay (or any unoaked Chardonnay, especially with good acidity).

Honey Glazed Wings

In this recipe, we’ve lowered the heat to 350°F, so the wings will spend a little more time in the oven. The lower heat will protect the honey glaze from burning, but watch the wings closely and as always, cook chicken until it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F.

4 lb chicken wings

Butter-flavored cooking spray

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 TBS butter

2 TBS ketchup

1 TBS Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan, combine honey, soy sauce, butter, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt, ginger and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange wings on sheets. Coat wings with butter-flavored cooking spray. Bake uncovered, 35 minutes. With tongs, flip wings. Spoon sauce over wings. Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until wings are cooked through.

Gary: The honey glaze would suggest a lightly sweet white such as Moscato or Tokay, softly dry Riesling, Vouvray/sweet Chenin Blanc, Orvieto Amabile or semi-seco (off-dry) sparkling. The wine should be slightly sweeter than the sauce/coating to ensure the sauce would not make the wine seem thin or sour in comparison.

Blue Cheese Dip

Use low-fat mayo and nonfat Greek yogurt to lower the calorie count. Minced fresh parsley instead of dried is also an option. Use more or less blue cheese, according to your preference, or substitute feta cheese. I actually dunk my Buffalo wings right into the dip, so I serve the dip in small individual bowls.

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup blue cheese

2 TBS grated onion

1 TBS dried parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

1 TBS fresh lemon juice

1 TBS cider vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Chill before serving.

Gary: When serving blue cheese dressing, the intensity of the blue-veined cheese will suggest either a softly dry sparkler or sweet white to set off the salt and strong blue flavors. Fuller-bodied reds will stand up to the intensity of the dressing so look for Côtes du Rhône/Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Syrah/Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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