Pub Night: Baked Gar Par Chicken Wings
Here at the Choosy Beggars, “Pub Night” is normally about bringing the flavors of our favorite pub grub into the home kitchen, but with lower fat and a healthier preparation. To that end, maybe I shouldn’t call this a Pub Night article. Please, whatever you do, don’t let the ‘baked’ in our title fool you into thinking that these wings are in any way a healthy alternative. These garlic and parmesan flavored breaded wings are many things, but healthy they are not. Crispy, garlicky, finger sucking and juicy, however, all apply in equal and delicious measure.
If you’re wondering about the “Gar-Par”, that’s just shorthand for garlic and parmesan. One of Ontario’s most beloved and fastest growing franchised wing joints, Wild Wing, prides itself on unique flavor combinations for their wing sauces (BBQ and pineapple curry, Thai and raspberry, and dill pickle to name a few). One of the most infamous is their Gar Par offering, which is a crispy breaded wing drenched in garlicky caesar salad dressing and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. You either love or hate the creamy, messy wing, but I have not yet met a person who frequents Wild Wing and hasn’t tried it.
It’s not that I’m averse to all thick and creamy sauces, because I do love a good bechamel or, indeed, anything that contains cheese. That said, I’ll take a vinaigrette style caesar over a thick and gloopy dressing any day of the week, and although I love the flavor in those wings they’re just a little bit too much for me. Mike and I set out to capture the serious depth of garlic and parmesan that those Gar Par wings bring in spades, but in a crispier crust and without the cream.
What we offer to you is our take on gar par. We have a juicy and succulent, meaty chicken wing basted in an intensely garlic and lemon flavored quick marinade, and coated in a crunchy, crispy bread crumb and parmesan coating. The wings are baked and not deep fried, but as you lick that fried chicken flavor off your fingers you’ll want to high-five your oven and vow to take it out for dinner next time.
Baked Gar Par Chicken Wings
Serves 2-4 on game night, or 6-8 on an appetizer buffet
- 3 lb whole chicken wings *
- 1 lemon (2 tsp zest plus juice of whole)
- 1 bulb garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 egg
- 1.5 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1.5 cups moderately coarse breadcrumbs **
- 50 g Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
* When choosing your wings, size matters. Although some people prefer large roaster wings that look like they could have been from an anemic turkey, I find them to be rather tough, stringy, and often less flavorful. My choice is a moderately sized but nice and plump wing. If the wings are skinny, set them aside. Nobody likes an anorexic chicken.
** Freshly ground breadcrumbs from a stale baguette are ideal. I frequently have nubs of leftover baguette growing stale on the counter (this is not a strategy, just a statement of fact), which I pulse in a food processor and then freeze to use at a later date. However, if you’re using purchased bread crumbs (which is absolutely fine), some tend to be so finely ground that they are almost powdered or have the texture of cornmeal. Set those aside and go for the crumbs that have a bit of body.
If your chicken wings are fully butchered and all you have is a glorious mess of drumettes and flats, move on to the next step. However, if you have whole chicken wings then you will need to separate them into pieces.
Start by wiggling the skinny wing tip until you can see and feel where the joint is. Using sharp kitchen shears or a small, sturdy and sharp paring knife, cut the wing tip away. You can discard the tips or freeze them to use later for chicken stock.
Next, squeeze the chicken wing in towards itself (like you’re closing the wing) and pull the skin taut so that you can see where the joint articulates. Coming from the top, or ‘elbow’ of the wing, run your knife over the joint until it starts to split apart, and then open the wing up fully and slice through the skin to cut through the ball and socket from the bottom. Or, if you’re using kitchen shears instead of a knife, just snip the little bugger at the joint. It’s not as clean, but it does the trick.
Wash the chicken pieces thoroughly with cold water and pat them dry. Lay the chicken in a single layer on a rack, ensuring that the pieces are not touching so that you get full air circulation. With the rack set over a tray to catch any potential poultry drips, set the wings in your fridge, uncovered, for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight. The goal is to really dry out the skin as much as possible.
Peel all the garlic cloves from the bulb and puree them in a blender with your olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes until a smooth sauce is formed. The pepper flakes add just a bit of mild heat and interest to the wings, but certainly will not turn them into hot wings. That’s fine though, because we don’t want hot wings, we want delicious and fattening gar-par wings!
Add the egg and 2 tsp of lemon zest to the garlic mixture and pulse it until smooth again. Juice the lemon and add one tablespoon of lemon juice at a time to the oil, pulsing it lightly until combined. You don’t want to have the motor fully running at this point, because we want to make a thin garlic sauce rather than a mayonnaise.
Put the bread crumbs into a medium sized shallow bowl. Grate the cheese into the bread crumbs and add the dried oregano. Stir until combined.
Preheat your oven to 400ºF with your racks in the upper third.
Dip the dry wings one at a time into the garlic sauce and brush off the excess, making sure that the wing is full coated. Roll the now wet wing into the bread crumbs and press them gently to adhere. Place the wing meaty side up back on the rack, and repeat until all of the wings are breaded.
Bake the wings in a hot oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you prick the thickest part of a drumette.
Serve the wings immediately, piping hot, with carrots and celery on the side and your favorite dipping sauce. I made up a super fast creamy dill sauce with yogurt and low fat sour cream, but feel free to dip away in whatever is your preference. I happen to think that these would be perfectly scrumptious with a thick, chunky blue cheese dressing as well.
There is a definite depth of garlic in these baked wings and a nice salty punch from the parmigiano, but with a crispy crust that will keep you licking your greasy fingers until the plate is clean.
Mike promised you that I’d keep sharing football friendly foods until the Superbowl, and the big taste in these breaded wings bring that deep fried flavor without the side effects of a smoky and odoriferous deep fryer clouding your view of the game. What an easy way to add some Pub Night into your next Sunday afternoon gathering to watch the game. I don’t really care what game, I’m just hoping that there’s some sort of game on because, frankly, I only ever show up for the buffet and apps!