An American Classic: Buffalo Hot Wings
Hot wings are very likely the pinnacle of snack food, whether you’re watching the Super Bowl game, enjoying a cold beer at the local bar or just feeling hungry for a spicy snack. You’ll find hundreds of versions, baked, grilled, shallow fried, breaded, not breaded, but the people at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, where hot wings originated, will tell you that the only true hot wing is deep fried. The legend is that back in 1964, Teressa Bellisimo received a shipment of chicken wings by mistake and developed a method of serving them. “These are just too nice to toss in the stock pot,” she mused. And voila! The birth of Buffalo Chicken Wings. The Anchor Bar has been serving them ever since. Many claim they’re the best wings anywhere.
So what is it that makes you crave a big batch of these spicy morsels? Some would say it’s all in the sauce; true, but the quality and handling of the wings is also key. You want fresh, large, meaty wings, preferably from a poultry dealer. If you don’t have access to one, buy a top quality brand. Rinse them in cold water, pat dry and cut them at the two joints, discarding the wing tips or saving them for stock.
Place them on a rack on a pan and refrigerate them overnight. Drying them out under refrigeration will make them much crispier, once deep fried. In a deep fryer or a 5 or 6 quart heavy pot with a thermometer, pour the oil. Heat the oil slowly to 365 degrees. Depending on their size, deep fry the dry wings from 6 to 10 minutes in small batches. Place on paper towels to drain off excess oil. Hold them in a warm oven as you go along. Be sure to return heat to 365 degrees between batches.
Toss the wings in just enough hot sauce to coat them. A “suicidal” version calls for 1 part Tabasco sauce to 4 parts of the hot sauce. Place in a large bowl and serve along with blue cheese sauce and celery sticks. Lots of napkins will be useful.
3 lbs chicken wings
Peanut oil for deep frying
1 stick sweet butter
1 bottle (12 oz.) Louisiana Hot Sauce*
1 T cider vinegar
1/8 t garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in remaining ingredients.
Blue Cheese Sauce
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 T finely grated red onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix together and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld.
4 celery ribs cut into thin sticks. Soak celery in a bowl of ice and cold water for at least a half hour and up to 1 hour.
*Franks Red Hot Sauce and Wingers Original are popular.
Victor Weighs in on America’s Top Bar Food:
Do Buffalo Have Wings?
Whenever my Mom roasted a chicken, she would save the wings for me. They’ve always been my favorite part of the bird. I just love the way the skin gets extra crispy on a wing. And I adore a challenge – so getting at the meat is especially satisfying for me. I guess you can imagine, then, that a whole plateful of chicken wings is right up my alley. But I’m not talking about my Mom’s roasted wings here. Of course, I refer to Buffalo-style Wings. When I’m around them, they fly right off the plate fast and furiously.
This is the season when “wings” come into their own. Oh, we enjoy them all year round as bar food, appetizers and even as snacks. But there’s something about a good football game, especially the “Big One,” that insists on buckets-full of hot wings and cold beer. I’m fairly flexible when it comes to my wings. I’ll take them just about any way you offer them to me – drummies or flats – especially when you’re doing the cooking. As a certified foodie, though, I do have my preferences.
Standard Buffalo-style Wings are deep-fried, unbreaded. I know, fried foods for some are a no-no. But there’s just no getting around that. After a crispy run in the fryer, the wings are tossed in a mixture that almost always consists of melted butter and a vinegar based hot sauce. Really simple. Accompaniments, as you know, are usually comprised of icy cold celery sticks and a creamy blue cheese dressing. This balances the spiciness of the sauce.
Now, that’s the basic recipe. I like it a lot. From there, though, you can really allow your imagination to run – or fly, since we’re talking wings – rampant. And that usually peaks my interest when food is concerned. I’ve been known to fry, toss in sauce, and then fry again. I end with another coating in sauce. This produces a more intense flavor and extra crispness that I really enjoy. Some of my friends like to dust the wings with flour before frying. They claim that it helps the sauce adhere much better. OK by me. A little flour never hurt anyone. Others will marinate the wings in buttermilk with a few drops of hot sauce. They then proceed to coat the wings in breadcrumb before frying. When all is crunchy and done, the wings take a tumble in the sauce. I have to admit, I like this one a lot. The texture of the breadcrumb coating adds another dimension to the wings, and the sauce holds fast to it.
No one says you have to stick with a vinegar based hot sauce here. You really can go with anything you like, especially when it’s nice and spicy. Asian inspired sauces are particularly adaptable to wings. Usually soy sauce based, I’ve tasted everything from fresh ginger to Five Spice to Szechuan chili pepper in these versions. With extra sauce for dipping, they’re mighty good. Or you can go with Tex Mex inspired ingredients, including chili powder and lots of heat from Serrano or jalapeno peppers. The hotter the better for me. You can even add a little sweetness to your sauce by including some honey in the mix. I’ve tried that with a spicy mustard sauce. A nice contrast.
Before I head off, I should mention that my cousin likes to bake her wings. Says it satisfies both her tastes and her sensibilities. They’re actually quite good. Lots of marinating and basting ensures concentration of flavor. Keep an eye on them, though. You want just the right doneness. Offer a good dipping sauce and everyone will enjoy.
The game is just about to start. I’ve got my bowl of wings, an icy beer, and my honey sitting right next to me. I ask you…what could be better?