Why This Recipe Works
- Baking powder raises pH and dehydrates the wings' skin so that it crisps in the oven just like it would if they were fried.
- Strawberries and chipotle peppers make a flavor-packed sweet and spicy sauce that's fruity and tangy.
When you think of delicious bar-food-style chicken wings, Buffalo wings are most likely the first thing to come to mind. You might even think of grilled wings, basted with a tangy barbecue sauce. But you almost definitely don't think of baked wings, and I'd bet good money that strawberries and avocados aren't even remotely on your radar. After one batch of these wings, though, that just might change. It sure did for me.
I often find myself in a bit of a conundrum: I love the crunchy crust and juicy meat of deep-fried wings enough to make them all the time, but heating up a half-gallon of oil, frying the wings, and then dealing with the mess and lingering smell tend to put me off. I've tried baking wings that were coated in every possible crumb, but nothing came close to the crispiness of fried wings. Nothing, that is, until I tried out Kenji's baking powder technique. By tossing raw wings in baking powder and letting them rest overnight before baking, the chicken skin becomes dehydrated, which allows it to bake up as crisp as fried wings with a fraction of the mess. It's the stuff of wing-loving dreams.
I love the technique so much that I ate a few too many oven-baked Buffalo wings, and eventually realized that I needed to swap out the sauce. I've always been a fan of simple salads with grilled chicken, greens, and sliced strawberries, so somehow I thought to borrow from that by making a strawberry sauce for the wings. It still sounds crazy even as I type it, but all I can tell you is that it really is delicious. With smoky chipotle peppers, balsamic vinegar, and spicy ginger blended into the sauce, there's enough acid and heat to balance out the fruity sweetness.
Making the Wing Sauce
To make the sauce, I heat halved strawberries, balsamic vinegar, ginger, garlic, and brown sugar in a medium-sized saucepan until the strawberries can be mashed easily with a wooden spoon.
The spoon should be enough to mash them fully, but if you have some chunks that refuse to break down, just give it a quick whiz with a blender or food processor to smooth it out. Then I mix in the minced chipotles with some of the adobo sauce from the can, and seasonings like onion powder, cayenne powder, salt, and pepper. The sauce will reduce as it's cooked, which I want to some degree. If it reduces too much, becoming sticky and candy-like, just thin it with a little chicken stock or water.
Making the Dip
Playing off the Mexican flavor of the chipotles while also riffing on the Buffalo wing theme, I came up with a dip that blends avocado with blue cheese, as well as some sour cream and lemon juice. It's tangy, sharp, salty, creamy, nutty, and just absolutely delectable. This is best to make shortly before serving in order to prevent browning, but if you'd prefer to make it ahead of time, place it in a bowl, squeeze an extra tablespoon of lemon juice on top, and seal with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly against the surface of the dip to prevent air from touching and discoloring it.
After I bake the wings and toss them in the sauce, I sprinkle them with poppy seeds for an extra dose of nuttiness and crunch. I plate them with the dip, and then I run into a corner and crouch over them in secret so I can actually enjoy a few before my family and friends scarf them down. Can you believe that the first time I made these, everyone ate the whole batch before I could even taste a single one? After you try 'em, you'll see why.
Oven-Baked Strawberry-Chipotle Wings
The best baked wings get a smoky, fruity sauce and avocado-bleu cheese dip.
2 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1 tablespoon balsamic or apple cider vinegar
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the can
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on taste)
Water or chicken stock, as needed
1 Hass avocado, halved and pitted
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
Spray a rack with nonstick cooking spray and set on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Dry chicken wings with paper towels. In a large zipper-lock bag, toss wings with baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt until evenly coated, then arrange wings on an even layer on the rack. Refrigerate wings, uncovered, overnight or up to 18 hours.
Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C) and set the oven rack in the upper-middle position. Bake wings on the rack set over the baking sheet for 20 minutes, then flip and continue to bake until cooked through and crisp, about 20 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine strawberries, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and light brown sugar and cook until strawberries are softened and release their juices, about 10 minutes. Mash strawberries with a wooden spoon and stir in minced chipotle, adobo sauce, onion powder, and cayenne pepper (1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon depending on your heat preference). Season with salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 5 minutes. If sauce becomes too thick and candy-like, stir in water or chicken stock to return to desired consistency. If any chunks of strawberry remain, transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Set aside.
In a blender or food processor, combine avocado, sour cream, blue cheese, lemon juice, and milk. Season with salt (taste first, as blue cheese is salty). Pulse until well-combined, transfer to a bowl, and set aside.
Place the baked wings in a large bowl and toss with the strawberry sauce until evenly coated. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Garnish with cilantro and serve with avocado blue cheese dip.
If preparing the avocado blue cheese dip in advance, squeeze some extra lemon juice on top, then cover with plastic wrap, pressing it flush against the surface to prevent oxidation.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 41g||52%|
|Saturated Fat 15g||77%|
|Total Carbohydrate 26g||9%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||19%|
|Total Sugars 15g|
|Vitamin C 59mg||297%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|