Next to Rudolph and Santa or rum and eggnog, champagne and hot wings rank as a somewhat less traditional holiday pairing. Which is exactly what helps to separate the annual early-December bash held by Devin Connell — who co-founded Toronto’s Delica Kitchen and now runs the lifestyle blog Crumb — from other events on busy seasonal social calendars. The inspiration for Connell’s original party, which she held six years ago, was merging her and her husband’s favourite indulgences: sparkling wine and spicy poultry, respectively. “You don’t have to just serve beer with wings and serve oysters with champagne,” she explains. “You can combine classy and crass, and get a mix that’s unexpected and fun.” Connell credits this high–low fusion for her party’s distinctive “beyond awesome” ambiance. “Things don’t feel too fancy or precious — it’s more like an old-fashioned house party you would have gone to when you were 20. But with champagne.” Here’s her guide to recreating the same vibe at your own holiday mixer.
Red-hot wings, plus creamy sides
Last year, Devin Connell’s wing order from Duff’s in Toronto clocked in at 70 lbs, accompanied by “about 20 bottles” of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. To round out the feast, she cooks up the accompanying mac and cheese herself. Here’s her recipe.
Photo by Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriot.
Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Boil 340 g macaroni for 5 min. Add 1/2 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped, for an additional 3 min. Drain and set aside.
3. Bring 2 cups whole milk to simmer in medium pot. Add 4 cups cubed butternut squash (1″ pieces) until very tender (15 min). Whisk in 2 tbsp flour.
4. Combine pasta and cauliflower with milk and squash in a large bowl. Stir in 1 cup grated cheddar plus 1 cup grated mozzarella.
5. Pour into dish and top with 1/2 cup grated mozzarella. Bake for 15 min.
Hip hop and disco
Ditch overplayed holiday carols (sorry, Mariah) and opt instead for a combo of heavy bass and classic dance tunes. Below, Connell’s five must-plays.
“Juicy” – Notorious B.I.G.
“Le Freak” – Chic
“Christmas in Hollis” – Run-DMC
“Renee” – Lost Boyz
“More Than A Woman” – The Bee Gees
The cool effervescence of champagne actually works wonders for toning down the heat of fiery wings. Connell recommends filling big metal ice buckets and popping open a few of the bottles in each before guests arrive so that they aren’t too intimidated to dive right in. Her personal favourite fizz: Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Brut Rosé.