Former S. Pasadena Kid (and Little Bro) Wins Today Show Chicken Wing Challenge + Recipe

The award-winning Apricot-Shellacked Ghost Chile Wings
The award-winning Apricot-Shellacked Ghost Chile Wings
Malcolm Bedell/From Away

Malcolm Bedell, a food blogger from Rockland, Maine, was the big winner in the Today show's first Super Bowl chicken wing cookoff today, with his Apricot-Shellacked Ghost Chile Wings. Why, exactly, is this so unspeakably thrilling? Because he is my little brother!

I never would have imagined, when my little bro was a porky young lad who used Pepto-Bismol as the "secret ingredient" in the chocolate-mint milkshake he once made me, that one day he would win a nationally televised chicken wings contest precisely for his genius at combining unusual flavors.

Yet that is exactly what Bedell, 34, did before 4.5 million viewers this morning.

Bedell not only won the first annual Golden Chicken prize for his Apricot-Shellacked Ghost Chili Wings -- the contest was not even close. Judge Sunny Anderson, a chef and Food Network personality, quickly dismissed the other two contenders' Asian Scorpion Pepper Wings and Wicked Wasabi Wings, saying, "I would go back 1,000 times over, I would eat the whole chicken farm of [Bedell's] wings....It's finger-licking goodness. The Today show wing-off winner, baby!" Plus, Bedell got to meet Air Bud. And Kevin Spacey. Recipe after the jump.

Malcolm Bedell, the chicken wing king
Malcolm Bedell, the chicken wing king
Today Show

The secret to his winning wings, Bedell said, is the ghost, or bhut jolokia, pepper from India. "It's eight times hotter than a habanero," he explained to NBC's Matt Lauer, who was too much of a wuss too cautious to try one. Bedell tempered the fiery flavor with apricot jam, honey, brown sugar and Bourbon, he said.

A globe-trotting childhood thanks to a Merchant Marine captain father doubtless did much to influence the development of young Bedell's garbage pail sophisticated palate -- he lived in Singapore, Egypt, Cyprus and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all before the age of 12. Although he might claim that it was his exposure to chiles while living in the Mexican Yucatan, it was clearly the time he spent exploring the finest of Southern California cuisine with his fascinating older sister while attending South Pasadena Junior High that set Bedell on the long and winding path toward Today show chicken-wing glory.

Herewith is his winning recipe.

Apricot-Shellacked Ghost Chile Chicken Wings

Makes: About 3-4 dozen wings; serves 4-6


3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon honey

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 stick salted butter

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 teaspoon ground bhut jolokia chile

1 cup apricot preserves

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup Bourbon

5 pounds chicken wing sections, room temperature and patted dry

Peanut oil, for frying chicken


1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, honey, garlic, butter, ketchup, chile, apricot preserves and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring almost constantly.

2. Reduce heat to a simmer, add Bourbon and stir. Simmer until sauce reaches desired consistency, up to one hour.

3. Pat chicken wing sections until they are very dry. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring peanut oil to 350 degrees. Fry wings, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

4. When all wings are cooked, toss a few at a time in a bowl of the apricot ghost chile sauce to coat evenly. Serve (with a glass of milk, just in case).

Spread your wings and fly, little bro!

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