Chicken wings with garlic and paprika are a traditional Spanish tapas dish, with a sticky, lemony, boozy sauce. Our only regret is that the recipe doesn’t make more. These are seriously good.
After making this outstanding chicken wings recipe more than once—lots more than once—we came to understand that certain instructions in the recipe be followed precisely in order to ensure finger-licking results. Here, the three most critical quirks: Rule 1. Use a large skillet. Cramming too many wings into a teensy pan all but ensures soggy skin. Rule 2. Don’t be tempted to light the brandy on fire, as is tradition with pollo al ajillo. (Just to be clear, we’re not sissies. We simply found the flavor to be superior without the drama.) Rule 3. Be prepared to stand at the stovetop, making batch after batch, seeing as they’re so good. Which brings us to our only complaint about this recipe, which you probably already guessed—that it doesn’t make more.–Renee Schettler
Chicken Wings With Garlic and Paprika ~ Pollo al Ajillo
- 8 whole chicken wings cut into wings and drumettes
- 1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons oak-smoked sweet Spanish paprika
- Pinch sea salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves coarsely crushed
- 2/3 cup Brandy de Jerez*
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Place the chicken wings in a large nonreactive bowl, sprinkle with the paprika and salt, and rub as evenly as you can over the skin. Add the lemon juice and toss. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Heat the oil in a large, preferably 12-inch, skillet until almost but not quite smoking. Add the chicken, nudging them in a single layer or working in batches if the pan seems crowded. Cook until crisp and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Reduce the heat, add the garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Carefully add the brandy to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Cover the skillet with the lid left slightly ajar, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot, drizzled with the pan juices.
*What can I substitute for Brandy de Jerez?Some rendition of pollo al ajillo, or chicken with garlic and paprika, seems to find its way onto almost every tapas menu in Spain. While this recipe calls specifically for Brandy de Jerez, you can substitute nearly any good quality Spanish brandy. If for whatever reason you can’t get your hands on any, substitute Cognac or Armagnac.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
The smoky Spanish paprika is such a wonderful contrast to the brandy de Jerez. The garlic adds a bit of a, well, garlicky kick. And then the lemon juice adds the needed acidity for a perfect balance overall. If you love chicken wings, you’ll love this version of sticky goodness and awesome flavour. I’ll definitely double or triple the amount next time around.
The chicken took about 6 minutes per side to brown properly in a smoking-hot cast-iron skillet. I added the brandy to the chicken without igniting it, as I’ve had trouble with that situation in the past and am not brave enough to repeat it.
Wow—what a dish from just six ingredients. As stated, it was simple, fast to prepare and delicious. I browned the chicken wings for about 5-6 minutes per side, and I didn’t flame the Cognac because I wasn’t that brave. We used a baguette to sop up the pan drippings.
I’d suggest handing out lots of napkins—the wings were sticky and messy, but their slight sweetness and garlic flavor made them so good. I’ll keep this recipe around for our next party.
A light, smoky garlic sauce gives these chestnut-coloured wings a lustrous coating of savoury flavour. These are a perfect accompaniment to a glass of dry wine or a cold beer.
A couple of notes: I tried to rub the wings with the paprika, and instead of coating the wings, it coated my fingers. A better way to do this would be to place the wings in a dish, put half of the paprika into a small sieve and gently sprinkle it over the chicken, then turn the wings over and repeat with the remaining paprika. Then you can drizzle on the lemon juice.
If you’re going to flame the alcohol, be aware of your surroundings—1/4 cup of brandy makes for a big fireball. I can’t comment much on the amount of servings, but the two of us were almost fighting over the last wing.
These chicken wings are fairly easy to make. If I were to change anything, I’d add more seasoning for both ease of use and for a smokier flavor, as it takes some stretching and a bit of determination to get the small amount of paprika rubbed over all of the wings.
The timing of the garlic makes for a good balance of flavor in the final product, and the boozy sauce is a flavorful garnish for these tender, appropriately messy wings. They’d make a great game-day snack, but we served them with garlic and sour cream mashed potatoes for lunch. The juice was a wonderful alternative to gravy. I just might make these wings again for the Super Bowl, and try the sauce with other hot appetizers.
Originally published January 30, 2011