It’s easy to revert back to the same old chicken recipes—especially during quarantine, where every day feels a bit like waking up in “Groundhog Day.” As if by magic, you simply find yourself plucking out those trusty pantry staples, grabbing a few thighs or breasts or whichever chicken parts you prefer before getting to work in the kitchen, slicing and dicing by rote. But this routine is also, well, a bit boring.
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However, chicken lovers can rejoice in James Beard Award-winning writer Cathy Erway’s ode to weeknight dinners with her cookbook, “Sheet Pan Chicken.” Here, Cathy offers 50 ways to cook chicken, armed with just a humble baking sheet. You can say adieu to that mere slab of unseasoned breaded chicken, thanks to Cathy’s globally inspired recipes: chicken katsu daubed with plum sauce, Nashville-style hot chicken with bacon collard greens, and crispy bang bang chicken. Chicken promises never to be dull again.
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Below is Cathy’s recipe for cumin five-spice chicken wings, bathed in the Chinese spice blend she grew up eating in her mom’s cooking. For this recipe, she dresses the wings in a blend of Chinese five-spice, cumin, and Sichuan peppercorns, then arranges them on a sheet pan, along with hunks of eggplant and sweet potatoes. While the wings roast in the oven, move to the stove to make the glaze, one buoyed by brown sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, and more Chinese five-spice powder. When the sugar has dissolved and starts to bubble, remove from the heat and smear on everything.
Recipe courtesy of SHEET PAN CHICKEN: 50 Simple and Satisfying Ways to Cook Dinner. Copyright © 2020 by Cathy Erway. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Cumin Five-Spice Chicken Wings Recipe
The union of Chinese five-spice and chicken wings was simply meant to be. This warm, herbal spice blend gets rubbed all over the generous skin of a wing, and when roasted over high heat, it completely soars. I loved the flavor combo in my mom’s five-spice Hongxiao chicken stews when I was growing up, and while stewed wings are great if you appreciate the jellylike texture of the skin, you can instead get it nice and crispy in a hot oven. I’ve added a Western Chinese–inspired blend of cumin with a touch of Sichuan peppercorn to the dry rub here (it may make your nose twitch just a little, which is a good thing) and crisped sweet potato and eggplant spears on the same pan. Served with a glaze to splatter over everything, this is next-level Super Bowl party snack territory. Feel free to make this using any piece of bone-in chicken, increasing the oven time and chopping your vegetables into larger pieces to accommodate that.
Cumin Five-Spice Chicken Wings
- 8 whole chicken wings, or 1 to 11⁄2 pounds bone-in, skin-on drumsticks or thighs
- 1 1⁄4 teaspoons whole cumin (or 1 teaspoon ground)
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns (substitute black peppercorns)
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as vegetable oil
- 1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch-thick wedges
- 1 (1⁄2- to 3⁄4-pound) Asian eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch-long segments
- For the glaze: 1⁄3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1⁄4 cup ketchup
- 1⁄4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1⁄4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1⁄2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Coarsely crush the Sichuan peppercorns and whole cumin seeds, if using, in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
- In a large bowl, combine the wings, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, 1 teaspoon of the salt, ½ teaspoon of the five-spice powder, ½ teaspoon of the Sichuan peppercorns, ½ teaspoon of the chile flakes, the garlic, and 1 tablespoon of the neutral oil. Stir to incorporate evenly. Arrange the wings on a sheet pan.
- In the same bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, eggplant, remaining ¼ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon five-spice, ½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, ½ teaspoon chile flakes, and 2 tablespoons neutral oil. Toss to coat. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer between and around the wings on the sheet pan.
- Roast for 15 minutes, then toss the vegetables around on the pan and flip the wings. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the glaze: Combine the brown sugar, ketchup, water, soy sauce, and five-spice powder in a small pot and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to bubble and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil.
- Drizzle the glaze over the vegetables and wings, garnish with the cilantro, and serve.
Header image courtesy of "Sheet Pan Chicken."