It's hard to tell just how many people will be watching the final presidential debate at 8 o'clock tonight. If the A.C. Nielson ratings are any indication, 70 million Americans tuned in the Reagan-Mondale presidential debate Oct. 7 and 66 million watched the Bush-Ferraro vice presidential debate Oct. 11, so we can certainly expect a few million viewers tonight.
What would be more appropriate than to have an impromptu debate party with food to match the spirit of this final battle? The food, of course, would have to combine the spicy and sweet, hot and cold, crusty and smooth, and be colored red, white and blue to give things a patriotic hue.
This Express Lane menu meets all those taste and texture requirements with three different finger foods: red hot chicken wings and, for spreading on crackers, sweet pepper butter and blueberry ginger jelly with cream cheese.
The recipes are easily doubled or tripled, depending on how many friends are able to accept your last-minute invitation. Depending on your political palate, you can use liberal or conservative amounts of the flavors that count: red pepper flakes on the chicken, garlic in the sweet red pepper butter and ginger in the blueberry jelly.
So long as you have salt, pepper, flour, oil and butter on hand, this menu will get you through the Express Lane and back home with plenty of time to curl up in front of the set.
EXPRESS LANE LIST: Chicken wings, red pepper flakes, red pepper, garlic, blueberry jelly, ginger, cream cheese, crackers. RED HOT CHICKEN WINGS (4 servings) 16 chicken wings Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 1 to 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes 3/4 cup flour Oil for deep frying
Wash chicken wings, pat dry. Season and let sit for 10 minutes. Toss red pepper flakes in the flour and put in a paper bag. Shake wings in the flour, coating well. Pour 3 inches oil in a heavy pan. Heat to 350 degrees. Add chicken. Deep fry 10 minutes, browning well on each side. SWEET RED PEPPER BUTTER (Makes 1 cup) 1 sweet red pepper 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold 1 clove garlic Crackers of choice
Blacken red pepper directly over a gas flame or in a broiler, turning as necessary to char entirely. Place in a paper bag for 5 minutes to sweat, then rinse under cold running water and skins will slide right off. Halve, scoop out seeds and coarsely chop. Place in food processor fitted with a metal blade, along with butter and garlic. Process until mixture comes to a ball. Fit into a crock and rechill. Serve with crackers. BLUEBERRY GINGER JELLY WITH CREAM CHEESE (1 cup) 1 cup blueberry jelly 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger 4 ounces cream cheese Crackers of choice
Mix ginger with jelly spoon into an attractive bowl. Soften cream cheese to room temperature and serve in another attractive bowl. Use jelly separately or with cream cheese over crackers.