Football season is officially here, which means you're either busting out your jersey and drafting fantasy picks, or (like us) you're getting your head in the game for one reason and one reason only: game-day eats. Yes, that means the occasional box of delivery pizza and the more-than-occasional scent of cheese melting on top of nachos emanating from our microwaves. But if there's one sticky-fingered item we never fumble on, it's the ever-venerable chicken wing.
This year, we're skipping the frozen bag and putting a new spin on this classic by combining it with another not-so-guilty pleasure of ours: General Tso's chicken. The genius hybrid comes from none other than Top Chef alum Dale Talde, who serves the sweet, peppery and garlicky wings (see the recipe) at his newest Brooklyn restaurant, Atlantic Social. No matter what happens this season, these wings are the true champions in our book.
For Talde, the mash-up was a no brainer. "We had such a success with the kung pao wings at Talde," he says of his first Brooklyn restaurant's popular menu item. "We were really just trying to find that same magic." In order to recreate that addictive taste, he and his team tested their way through six variations of General Tso's chicken until they found a lip-smacking version that not only lives up to but bests the take-out staple.
Of course, frying up a batch of wings at home can be a lot more tedious than at a restaurant (which is why we'll be ranking our favorite chicken wings across the country next month!). Even Talde admits it can be a huge undertaking for the home kitchen. Luckily, however, the chef has a few tips on making the process as seamless as possible, without having to resort to—well, you know.
First, follow Talde's lead and make all the components in advance; it's what he does at his restaurants. The chicken wings can be tossed in their marinade of egg whites, cornstarch and Chinese cooking wine—a technique known as velveting, which provides the wings with an extra-tender bite—the night before. The same goes for the General Tso's sauce (which Talde labels as a painless "dump and stir" recipe), flavored with plenty of ginger, garlic and a punch of fiery Thai chiles. All you have to do come Sunday afternoon is deep-fry the wings before generously tossing them in the glossy, thick glaze that will make you forget all about Frank's RedHot and blue cheese dressing.
Talde also suggests making much more than you think you and your guests are going to eat. "If you're going to go through the effort of making chicken wings at home, make a lot. Invite some friends over and make three dozen," he recommends. Luckily, this recipe is easy to multiply, whether you're feeding a hungry group of four or an entire tailgate.
The biggest pro tip when it comes to these wings, however, isn't some secret sauce or even how you make them—it's how you eat them.
"The secret move is to make a pot of rice," Talde reveals.
Believe us when we say you don't want any of this sauce to go to waste, and a bowl of rice is the perfect sponge for catching everything that doesn't get stuck to your fingers.
As to how the busy chef and restaurateur (who is gearing up for the opening of several new restaurants in West Palm Beach) likes to spend his game day? On the rare Sunday that he's off, you can find the Chicago Bears fan rooting for his team at home. Though as much as he'd like to spend the entire afternoon in front of the TV, in deference to his wife (who, like this author, is more in it for the food than the football), he'll watch for only an hour at the most. "I can only handle one hour of the Real Housewives—to put my wife through the same misery would be cruel," he jokes. Good thing a plate of these wings will settle any score.
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