Why Takeout Fried Chicken and Sparkling Wine Is the Ultimate New Year’s Eve Dinner

published Dec 28, 2019
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Credit: Bijou Karman

Ask any wine pro about their favorite food and wine pairings, and fried chicken and Champagne is going to be up there on the list. There’s just something about that combination of crispy, crunchy skin; warm, savory, juicy chicken; and tart, fresh, chilled bubbly that is pure magic. The combo has become something of a modern food and wine cliché, but some clichés exist for a reason, and this one deserves a place in your holiday plans.

While there are, of course, plenty of food traditions surrounding the New Year, in modern times they seem a little easier to deviate from than, say, traditional Hanukkah foods or grandma’s biscuit recipe that has to be on the table at Thanksgiving. New Year’s Eve isn’t quite as family-oriented or steeped in can’t-break rituals. 

Also, as fun as the holidays are, they can bring a lot of stress, responsibility, and emotional baggage. By the time a lot of us get to New Year’s Eve, we’re just done. So if you’re going to have people over for one last holiday shebang, don’t stress yourself out doing a seven-course meal using all Thomas Keller recipes. Now is the time to outsource. 

Credit: Faith Durand

My good friend and former roommate has been the source of some of my best ideas (her breakup was the inspiration for my book, after all), and in the five years we lived together we came up with an unbeatable holiday party formula that’s perfect for a New Year’s Eve spent in fuzzy socks instead of a crowded club: takeout fried chicken and Champagne (or the less-expensive sparkling wine of your choice). 

Invite all your friends to your house for New Year’s Eve. Find a local wine shop and buy at least a case of sparkling wine. I say at least a case because that’s usually when the discounts kick in, and if you have a smaller gathering and end up with a few bottles left over, well, I think starting out 2020 with a few bottles of bubbly in your refrigerator door is probably a good idea. (It’s an election year. We’ll need it.)

What bubbly should you buy? In the United States, different regions will have different importers and distributors serving them, so when it comes to which cheap bubbles are best, it kind of depends on where you live. If you have a local wine store you like, ask them for advice. If you’re shopping at, say, Trader Joe’s, the store’s private-label North Coast Brut is $9.99 and pretty gosh darn good. If you’re splurging on real Champagne this New Year’s Eve, good for you! One of my favorites for the last couple of holiday seasons has been Agrapart’s 7 Crus. Chalky, pure, and lemon zesty, it’s ridiculously good with anything fried and crispy.

For the fried chicken portion of this program, I hesitate to make any firm recommendations, because people have strong opinions about fried chicken. I’m partial to Popeye’s fried chicken and biscuits. (Ask for extras of all their dipping sauces!) But if you’re a Royal Farms enthusiast or you have a local place you love, have at it. Just be sure to order ahead.

Can you add other dishes and snacks to this spread? Sure. Over the years I’ve made sparkling cocktails with the bubbly, I’ve added homemade macaroni and cheese to the fried chicken and biscuit assortment, but honestly? It was wasted effort. Don’t mess around with sugar-rimmed glasses or garnishes or fancy side dishes. Keep a few bottles of a non-alcoholic beverage around, but otherwise, don’t complicate things.

The other thing I recommend adding to this party formula is durable glassware. For years I’ve loved GoVino, and their flutes are great because they look nice for being plastic and inexpensive, they come in a dishwasher-safe variety, and they’re not breakable, just in case people have a little too much fun. But I’m trying to reduce the amount of plastic I buy, so if you are too, consider investing in inexpensive wine glasses that aren’t so precious you’ll be upset if one breaks — like these from IKEA. A fun, simple activity is also great for a party like this (think: themed movie marathon, or a so-bad-it’s-good Pinterest craft).

Got it? Congratulations, you’re ready to party! Blast some music, put on something (a sweatshirt?) with sequins, and get ready for a stress-free, delicious New Year’s Eve, thanks to one of the all-time great food and wine pairings. 

Are you a fan of fried chicken and bubbles? What will you be serving/eating this New Year’s Eve? Discuss in the comments below!