Chef Mario Batali, repping Tabasco, chatted with us about the most important feast second to Thanksgiving: "The Big Game." Along with sharing this nine-spice chicken wings recipe and the proper way to season with hot sauce, he offered up his go-to margarita recipe, the five recipes everyone should learn how to make, and, most importantly, the sneaky ingredient he adds to almost every pasta dish.
POPSUGAR: Your wings recipe has Chinese five-spice powder. Can you explain how that seasoning complements Tabasco sauce?
Mario Batali: I think Tabasco brings me pure heat and Southern kind of familiarity, along with the vinegar and the barrel-aged spices. The Chinese five-spice works really well in the quantity that I used. It makes it almost imperceptibly just a little bit sweeter without making it really sweet or really even that Asian flavored. It still accentuates that delicious, rich tang of Tabasco.
PS: What's the best way to season food with Tabasco?
MB: There's three ways to add it, in my opinion. When you use it in the marinade, it kind of infuses everything. When you use it in cooked foods, it changes [the Tabasco flavor] a little bit; it loses a little bit of the bright acid that you love on it, but you get that more cooked heat and chile flavor down. Then when you add just a little bit at the end, what you taste is the spectrum between the cooked chile flavor and the kind of nearly raw, just kind of fermented chile flavor at the end. So you taste the whole distance between those two points.
PS: If you accidentally make a recipe too spicy, is there a way to fix it?
MB: I would boil some potatoes and allow them to sit and cook all the way through, then toss them in with the stuff that's too spicy. They'll soak up some of the spice.
PS: What cocktails and drinks best balance out really spicy game-day food?
MB: My favorite thing is always a nice, inexpensive draft beer, but if someone wants something a little more complicated than that, then I'd like a Michelada, which is where I take beer and a little bit of either a spicy or not-so-spicy Bloody Mary, mix it like six to one [ratio], so it's kind of a red beer. For me, I'm also a big fan of margaritas, 'cause I like them to be tangy [and] bright. I like a little sweetness to them, and I don't like them to be that strong. I think too strong wrecks it for me.
PS: Could you share your perfect recipe for a margarita?
MB: The perfect recipe for a margarita is 2 ounces tequila, 2 ounces fresh lime juice, 1 ounce Cointreau, and a tiny splash of some kind of an agave or orange juice.
PS: I want to switch gears and ask you about the new Eataly Boston. Which feature are you most excited about?
MB: I'm a big fan of featuring all of the local shellfish and seafood provided. I'm pretty confident that the seafood from the Northeastern Atlantic is one of the most delicious and unique in the country, so that we can represent that in a way that the Italians like to represent things. If you talk to a chef from Pula and you talk to a chef from, say, the Veneto, neither of them would agree on a seafood recipe for zuppa de pesce, because they would only use the fish that [are] local to their regions. [If] we can celebrate that in a way that celebrates our love for New England as well as our love for the Italian culture as well as the American culture, then we've done something that's really good and supporting these fishermen who are doing the right thing in sustainability . . . paying attention to make sure we don't overfish our world.
PS: I want to talk recipes! What five dishes do you think are really important that young people learn how to cook for themselves?
MB: I would say they should learn how to make a simple minestrone soup (vegetable-based). They should learn how to roast a chicken. They should learn how to make a simple pasta like linguine with clams. They should learn how to grill something, whether it's a pork chop or a steak or a chicken thigh, and they should learn how to make one single dessert. If you could learn how to make a perfect lemon tart then you got a story. If you don't feel like that, make a perfect chocolate chip cookie, but have five go-to dishes like that and you can move them around, change them up just a little bit, and always have something in the can.
PS: What is the most surprising ingredient you like to add to your pasta?
MB: I like anchovies, and I don't tell everybody about them. Almost every time, they don't even notice. They just think, "Why is this so good?" and I'm just, "Oh you know, cut meat."
PS: And what ingredient should you never put in pasta?
MB: Cream. I don't put cream in any pasta noodles ever. I would use a little butter, but I don't ever use cream. I might use milk if I was using a touch of milk to make like a lasagna or a baked pasta. But cream? That is totally not the way they do it in Italy, and it's not a very good thing. It's kind of a blanket for flavor.
PS: What was your favorite food memory from 2016?
MB: We went to Zermatt, skiing. The first place we went in the town of Zermatt was a place called Restaurant Du Pont, I believe. It's 200 years old. We had a simple classic Swiss fondue with the local Fendant white wine. It was just like the heavens opened. It was like — oh my God, these people are eating so simply, so delightedly, so traditionally, so regionally. Everything was right and we had skied all day.
Before hanging up, Mario updated us on what else we have to look forward to in 2017. He just opened The Tapas Bar at La Sirena that he hopes will "change the way New York appreciates Spanish food." Mario told us he's planning a second season of Moltissimo, his cooking show on Vice (hopefully his pal Gwyneth Paltrow will join him on one episode). And lastly, Eataly Los Angeles is set to open in May or June, so us West Coasters can finally get our fix!
- For the white barbecue dipping sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Tabasco Chipotle Sauce
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon salt
- For the wings:
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño finely chopped, with seeds
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Tabasco Original Red Sauce, plus 1/4 cup
24 chicken wings (I like the drumette separated from the flat and the tip, which are left attached, for a total of 48 pieces)
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
- To make the white barbecue dipping sauce: In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the barbecue sauce. Cover until ready to use or keep cold in the refrigerator.
- To make the chicken wings: In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients and the chopped jalapeño and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the oil and 1/4 cup of the Tabasco Sauce, then add in the wings and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle liberally with the spice mixture and toss to distribute spices. Put the whole shebang in a plastic zipper bag, seal, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to 24 hours.
- Grill the wings over medium-high heat until the meat is no longer pink near the bone, about 18 minutes. Make sure to turn them every few minutes to get an even, dark char. Remove the cooked wings from the grill and toss them in a clean bowl with the remaining Tabasco Sauce and the scallions until evenly coated.
- Serve the wings with the white barbecue dipping sauce.
- Poultry, Appetizers
- North American
- Serves 6-8