CAUTION: THIS RECIPE MAY HAVE ORIGINATED IN A STRIP CLUB IN ATLANTA
Food writer Eric Kim grew up in Atlanta. This New York Times recipe was accompanied by this story. The loss of a basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers was laid at the feet of guard Lou Williams. Lou broke Covid protocols when he visited Magic City, one of Atlanta’s premier strip clubs. In the brouhaha that ensued, Lou claimed he only went to the club for its lemon-pepper chicken wings. Lou was immediately branded “Lemon Pepper Lou”. Lou, Eric says, is not alone in his passion for Lemon Pepper on its wings. Eric admits you can use the store-bought version–dehydrated lemon rind, black pepper, sea salt, onion, garlic, lemon oil, and citric acid. Eric makes his own. He rubs oven-dried lemon zest into coarsely ground pepper. Citric acid boosts the tartness. Sprinkled over the wings, lemon pepper adds big bursts of flavor. Here’s the recipe:
TO MAKE THIS WITH STORE-BOUGHT LEMON PEPPER (WE DID), SKIP STEPS 3 AND 4 AND PROCEED
Eric Kim's Lemon-Pepper Chicken Wings
Atlanta's gift to the world of Chicken Wings...these crispy lemony peppery wings are sensational.
- For the Chicken: 2 pounds chicken wings, whole or separated into wingettes and drumettes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- For the Lemon Pepper
- 2 lemons
- 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- 1 packed teaspoon dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon citric acid (optional
- see Tip)
- TIP: Citric acid is the secret ingredient in most commercial lemon-pepper seasonings. An organic compound found in lemons and other citrus fruits, it is sold powdered (sometimes as sour salt) in the baking and spice aisles of supermarkets as well as online. It gives you an electric tartness without fresh juice. But if you don’t want to go this route, be sure to spritz the chicken wings with the lemon wedges right before serving (and do this anyway, even with the citric acid, as the sharpness is exhilarating).
- Step 1 Make the chicken wings: Heat oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. On the sheet pan, pat the chicken wings dry, and toss with the olive oil and salt until evenly coated.
- Step 2 Roast until the chicken skin is golden brown and crispy, turning once halfway through, 40 to 50 minutes.
- Step 3 Meanwhile, make the lemon pepper: Finely grate about 2 teaspoons zest from the lemons onto another parchment paper-lined pan (a considerably smaller one works). Cut the lemons into wedges and set them aside for serving. Add pepper to the zest, mix to combine, and spread in an even layer. When the wings are done roasting, transfer them to a large mixing bowl and turn off the oven. Place the pan with the lemon zest and black pepper in the still-warm oven, letting the lemon zest dry out and the black pepper toast in the residual heat, for 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn or brown the zest. It may darken in shade slightly but should still be a vibrant yellow.
- Step 4 In a small bowl, use your fingers to mix together the toasted lemon zest and black pepper with the salt, brown sugar, garlic powder, and citric acid (if using) until well combined. Be sure to break up any clumps of sugar. Sprinkle 4 teaspoons of the lemon pepper over the wings and toss until evenly coated. Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon pepper as desired. (You can store the rest of the spice blend in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month.)
- Step 5 Transfer the seasoned wings to a large platter and garnish with the lemon wedges. Serve immediately.