It’s Top Chef premiere week (Season 15, people!) and yesterday I gave you a Tom recipe. Today, as promised, we have a Padma Lakshmi recipe. And tomorrow is going to be the mother of all Top Chef posts: my rankings of season 1 through 14.
I’ve been a loyal TC fan since the pilot season, and overall I think the franchise has… mostly… improved with age. A few seasons have been duds, for sure, but I’m impressed at how it’s never jumped the shark (cough Project Runway cough) or overstayed its welcome (cough Food Network Star cough), and it seems to be quite well respected in the world of fine dining. The show has attracted bigger and bigger names for guest judges, and it appears that each year the cheftestants are more talented with larger resumes than the year before. Of course, this all means that the show just gets more expensive to produce each year, and thus requires more and more sponsors, and some of those sponsored challenges deserve some solid snark. I have to throw particular shade at the Diet DrPepper Quick Fire (WTF??) and the Season 11 episode where they went from using beautiful peak-season Creole tomatoes in the Quick Fire to an Elimination Challenge sponsored by PHILADELPHIA CREAM CHEESE should really get top anti-honors in the Hall of Shame. That was, frankly, just gross. But, Padma always seems sufficiently embarrassed by some of these ridiculous sponsors, and they have to get the dough from somewhere, so in the end all is pretty much forgiven. I’m still watching, so what’re you gonna do?
I bought Padma’s second cookbook right after it came out, about ten years ago, and it immediately skyrocketed itself to favored status among the titles on my cookbook shelves. I’ve tried easily half the recipes in there, and I will happily trek to Kalustyan’s in the city to buy the necessary ingredients she requires that white girls raised in southern suburbia had never heard of before, like kefir lime leaves, and black cardamom pods, and fenugreek seeds (to name just a few). Oh who am I kidding – Padma may have introduced me to Kalustyan’s – for which I thank her profusely – but that was a long time ago, and now I need zero excuse to run in there.
When this recipe says Bold, she means some serious hot and spicy, as you may have guessed. Judging from the amount of chiles she calls for in her recipes, it’s very safe to assume Padma can hack it when it comes to spicy food. That’s seriously putting it mildly. Look, I grew up in Texas, where jalapenos reign supreme, and I feel like I have a decent tolerance for spicy food – AND I actively like it. But some of the spicy recipes in this book have really given me a spanking. So when Padma tastes something on Top Chef and starts sputtering and coughing about how spicy it is, I feel like I have at least a tiny frame of reference for just how punishingly brow-sweat-inducing it must’ve been. I always imagine chomping down on a raw ghost pepper during those scenes…
These wings are delicious, and the heat builds. And builds, and builds some more. They’re super sticky and messy and smoky and so, so hot. And yet I keep making them again and again, every year. This has to be probably the tenth time I’ve made them since buying her book. And they never get old. Here is the recipe, now go forth and discover for yourself.
Alright, see you tomorrow! And enjoy the wings.
SOURCE: Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet by Padma Lakshmi
10 fresh or dried dates, pitted
4 plum tomatoes, seeded, with the juice squeezed from them
13 oz. can of chipotle in adobo
2 cloves garlic
⅓ cup honey
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more for the chicken
Olive oil, for drizzling
4 lbs. Chicken wings, split into wings and drummettes
Add the dates, tomatoes, chipotles, garlic, honey, and 1 tsp salt to your blender. Puree until very smooth. Pour into a deep saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes, add ¼ cup water halfway through and stirring. Cool, then reserve 2 cups for the chicken wings. Store the rest in an airtight container in the refrigerator for another use.
Preheat your oven to 450 F.
Season the chicken wings with salt on both sides. Drizzle some oil into a 12-inch oven-safe cast-iron skillet and place the skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brown the chicken wings on both sides. You’ll likely have to work in batches for this. You don’t need to get thorough browning here, you just want to see some color.
Once all the wings have been browned, place them all in the skillet, squeezing them to fit however you need to (doesn’t really matter), then pour 2 cups of the date-chipotle mixture over them. Toss to make sure everybody’s well coated in the sauce. Lower the heat to medium and cook the wings about 10 minutes, turning and basting occasionally.
Place the skillet in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until the chicken is sticky and starting to laquer, and cooked through. Serve hot with lots of napkins.