Growing up in the Midwest, spices weren't necessarily used frequently and with great abandon. Well, at least not in my home. In fact, I had only two spices in my repertoire—salt and pepper. The salt was brought out whenever anything needed extra flavor. Butter noodles feeling a bit bland? Salt. Mashed potatoes need a little flavor? Salt. When I was feeling very adventurous, I'd break out the pepper. Pepper was the special occasion spice—to be used sparingly and with great respect.
You see, just a few years ago pepper had too much heat for my poor taste buds.
As someone who loves food, I also love flavor. Unusual flavor combinations, new profiles, new experiences—I'm all for it. In restaurants, I like to choose dishes with bold flavors. Chicken and mushrooms served with a Marsala wine reduction? Mmmm. Scallops in a rich sun-dried tomato butter? Yes, please.
Though I love flavor, I don't always practice what I preach when I cook at home. The sad truth is that I could subsist off of unseasoned noodles and plain oatmeal without complaint. And I do. I often find myself falling into a routine of making and eating bland food so much that it seems unusual when I sprinkle my eggs with a bit of pepper. Perhaps there is some truth to the Midwest stereotype that we love our bland comfort food.
Nevertheless, I've been trying to break out of my flavorless cooking shell. When my friend Frances urged me to try to replicate a recipe for Thai Peanut Chili Chicken Wings that she happened upon at a food truck, I jumped on the idea. Despite the fact that I had no idea what the original even tasted like (and thus had no right to even attempt to replicate a recipe), I was intrigued by the idea of a spicy peanut chicken wing. Spicy, salty, and sweet all at the same time? I needed to know what these tasted like. I needed to have them in my stomach. And now, after making these, I know you need to have them in your stomach too.
Hello, flavor! It's been too long.
Do you ever find yourself in a flavor rut?
These Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings are exactly that—sweet and spicy. Chicken wings are marinated in garlic and ginger before being baked (not fried!). The wings are then coated in a peanut chili sauce. Peanut butter lends a sweet quality to the dish while the chili keeps your taste buds awake. Believe me, it really is a bold, beautiful flavor combination. I love that not only the coating of the wings holds bold flavor, but the chicken itself does too, thanks to the marinade. If you are looking to add a little spice into your cooking life, these chicken wings definitely fit the bill.
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Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings
Adapted heavily from Life's Ambrosia
Yields about 10-12 chicken wings
3 tablespoons peanut oil (olive oil for substitute), plus extra for coating
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 1/4 pound chicken wings, tips trimmed and cut at the joint
1/4 cup chili and garlic sauce
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sriracha, depending on how spicy you want your wings
In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons peanut oil, rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Add chicken wings and coat. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours to marinate.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Place chicken wings on prepared baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken has a little color. Turn and baste wings with more marinade halfway through baking.
In a separate bowl, stir together remaining 1 teaspoon soy sauce, chili and garlic sauce, peanut butter, and sriracha (start with 1 teaspoon and add more to achieve desired spiciness). Add peanut oil and stir until mixture becomes smooth, about 1-2 tablespoons. It will be very thick. Set aside.
Coat hot, baked wings heavily in peanut butter coating. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Best enjoyed with a side of napkins.