8 & $20: Pineapple-Chile Chicken Wings

This game-day party recipe, matched up with a Riesling, doubles as a casual dinner
8 & $20: Pineapple-Chile Chicken Wings
The spicy-sweet pineapple-chile sauce teams up well with a wine that has some residual sugar, refreshing acidity and a low to moderate alcohol level. (Greg Hudson)
Jan 27, 2015

Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make a meal—or party platter—from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

Entertaining for a group can be stressful—even if you're just hanging out with your buddies watching the big game—so it’s nice to serve food that’s as simple to make as possible. These wings are easy to prepare and bake in the oven while you are getting ready to receive guests. If you increase the portion sizes a bit and add a salad, they make for a festive dinner in.

The only serious prep work required is to separate the wings into sections. You can, of course, avoid this by purchasing wings that have already been split or opting to use drumsticks instead. If you're preparing wings for a casual dinner at home, you might even choose not to separate them; however, sectioning them gives you more individual pieces for a party platter. Moreover, the wing tips can be saved to make an excellent stock, as they contain a lot of collagen.

Another bonus is that it is pretty hard to overcook wings, so don’t stress if you miss the oven’s timer by a minute or two while hurriedly preparing for your party. However, do be careful about leaving the wings in too long after the sauce has been added, as it can quickly shoot past the caramelization stage.

When first preparing this dish, I initially made only half the quantity of pineapple-chile sauce, but found that I wanted a bit more for dipping, so I ultimately doubled the amount. Feel free to scale down to suit your preference. The lemon-chive sour cream is also optional, but it adds brightness to the flavor and its creamy texture provides contrast to the wings.

The pineapple-chile sauce on these wings does present a bit of a challenge when it comes to wine pairing. The rule of thumb for foods that combine sweet and spicy elements is to serve a wine with some residual sugar to match the level in the dish, good acidity to refresh the palate and low to moderate alcohol levels, as alcohol can exacerbate the spicy heat. Many German and Alsace bottlings, such as off-dry Riesling and Gewürztraminer, fit the bill quite nicely.

I was feeling somewhat experimental, though, and decided to cast a wide net in hopes of finding options that challenge the common wisdom. I sampled several fruit-forward but dry wines with the wings; on occasion, I have had success matching such wines against other spicy-sweet dishes. Because the wings were only lightly sweet and gently spicy, I thought there might a chance for additional matches.

I started with a tropical and floral Torrontés from Argentina, a red-fruited California Zinfandel, and even a dry blend of Alsace varieties. The fruit in the first two shut right down and gained bitter notes. The blend from Alsace fared better, but while it remained refreshing, it was not a perfect match. Next, I went up a couple of notches on the residual sugar scale and tried a Moscato d’Asti. The wine's effusive fruit flavors and sweetness level were better suited to the wings; however, the wine lacked enough acidity to reinvigorate the palate between bites and ultimately became a little cloying.

The old wisdom held true in this case. I finally opened a bottle of German Kabinett Riesling, and the match was like coming home. The wine’s pretty fruit held up perfectly, without turning bitter in any way, and the Riesling’s bracing acidity cleansed and revived the palate bite after bite. Try one like the August Kesseler Riesling Kabinett Pfalz R 2013, though off-dry New World versions would likely make great matches as well.

Pineapple-Chile Chicken Wings With Lemon-Chive Sour Cream

Pair with an off-dry white with vibrant acidity, such as August Kesseler Riesling Kabinett Pfalz R 2013 (87 points, $18)

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes

Approximate food cost: $30

  • 18-20 chicken wings
  • 12 ounces pineapple juice
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 2/3 cup Thai sweet chile sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons chives, finely chopped and divided
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt, to taste
  • non-stick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 425˚ F.

2. If wings are not already sectioned, separate into pieces by cutting each wing at the two joints, so that you have a drumette, middle and wing tip. Discard wing tips or save for later use in a stock.

3. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (this is optional but will save on cleanup time) and lightly coat with cooking spray. Spread the wings out in a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd the sheet. Use multiple baking sheets if needed. Sprinkle salt over the wings.

4. Place the baking sheet(s) in the oven for 20 minutes, then flip the wings over. Bake for about 20 more minutes, or until the wings have begun to turn brown and crispy, and have reached a minimum internal temperature of 165˚ F.

5. While wings are in the oven, combine the pineapple and lemon juice, sweet chile sauce and soy sauce in a sauce pan. Cook over medium-high heat and reduce by about half or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.

6. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, half the lemon zest, chives and salt to taste. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

7. Once the wings have begun to brown, remove from oven and drain off any excess drippings. Brush the wings with half the pineapple-chile sauce, being sure to coat both sides. Set aside the remaining half of the sauce and keep warm until ready to serve.

8. Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚ F and return the wings to the oven for another 7 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce on the wings just starts to caramelize.

9. Arrange the wings on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the remaining lemon zest and the red pepper flakes and season with salt to taste. Serve with the remaining pineapple-chile sauce and the lemon-chive sour cream on the side. Serves 4-5 for a meal, or 8-10 as an appetizer

Cooking Pairings White Wines Riesling Recipes

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