Look What I Made: Buffalo Wings

Buffalo wings with broccoli sticks (photos by Travis Awalt)

Football season is nearly over. In a couple of weeks, we’ll have had all the big hits, wild finishes and exhaustive periods of waiting around while every scoring play gets reviewed over and over. Gone, too: the tailgating, the lighthearted Sunday binge drinking, and the wings.

Buffalo wings are as integral a part of the culinary fabric of gridiron fandom as nachos or dogs are a part of baseball’s. Same goes for hockey and, well, I whatever it is hockey fans like. Molson’s? Sushi? No idea. But there is little doubting the supremacy of the humble buffalo wing as a preferred snack of the couch-bound Sunday masses.

A little about buffalo sauce: it’s margarine mixed with hot sauce. The end. Obviously, I like buffalo sauce, but margarine and hot sauce – really margarine and anything – is a fairly horrifying combination to wrap my head (or stomach) around. To that end, I thought I would change things up a bit (I’m sure that you are shocked, SHOCKED, that I would do such a thing). This recipe is as uncomplicated as Eli Manning; it stays true to traditional buffalo wings – certainly in spirit, if not necessarily in the details.

 

Sriracha and butter: your culinary backfield

First thing’s first: Margarine is the Fredo of spreads – well intentioned but tragically dim. Margarine’s out. Butter is in. Next, I’ve replaced regular, cayenne-based hot sauce with Sriracha*. No real motive there – I dig hot sauces of many stripes – I just thought Sriracha sounded like a tasty, if admittedly obvious, departure from the norm.

The last little change is where things get weird. Usually, you will get celery sticks on a plate with wings. I don’t understand the link between raw celery and human consumption, let alone that between raw celery and buffalo wings. But I am all in favor of something that was recently a plant joining the mix. Enter broccoli sticks. Sounds weird, sure, but if you like broccoli (and/or hate celery), it’s a leap of faith that’s well worth it.  Here I used the stalks, which are much sweeter than the florets, with a firmness in-between carrots and celery.

Broccoli: the anti-celery

That’s it. Let’s do this wing.

 

Sriracha Buffalo Wings

(makes 16 wings, medium heat)

8 whole chicken wings
2 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp Sriracha or other hot sauce
2 broccoli heads, florets removed and reserved for another time**
salt
squeeze of fresh lime juice
blue cheese*** or ranch dressing for dipping
oil for frying ****

1. To fry or not to fry? I was going to bake these wings, but I usually make these recipes on my lunch breaks from my actual job and frying is quicker, so that’s what I went with (baking instructions below). If you’re frying, heat at least 2″ of oil between medium and medium high.

Cut whole chicken wings into drumette, flat and tip

2. Cut up your wings, so that you have a drumette and a flat piece. To do this, take kitchen shears and snip off the wing tip (I save these in the freezer for making stock). Now you have an asymmetrical V shape. There’s a joint in the crook of that V – cut straight through it and you’ve got your familiar drumette and flat. It’s kinda weird finding and cutting through that joint the first time, but you get used to it real quick.

3. With a veggie peeler, peel the outer  part of the broccoli stems. Don’t worry about being too thorough – the outer part is certainly edible, just less tender than the inner part of the stalk. Cut them into sticks like you would carrots.

4. When the oil is hot, drop in the wings. Cook about 10 minutes, then pull from the oil and drain on paper towels for a minute or two. The wings will be cooked through but flabby; now they need to be crisped. Drop them back in the oil and crank the heat up to between medium-high and high. Fry 2-3 minutes, then drain on paper towels and hit them with some salt.

5. Whisk together Sriracha, melted butter and lime. Right before you’re ready to serve, toss the wings in the sauce. Right before. This is important. Buffalo wings are like a bowl of cereal. The crispy element and the liquid element will co-exist only briefly. You pour milk in cereal and let it sit there, and before you know it the cereal has absorbed the milk and has no crispy texture left. That’s what you’re doing when you toss wings in sauce – adding milk to cereal. Treat it thusly and eat right away or end up with a flabby wing.

Fresh out of the fryer again and crisped

Baked version:

The baking method is just as reliable and crispy as the fried method. To bake, preheat oven to 400. Oil a wire rack and set it on a cookie sheet. Salt the wings and bake on the wire rack until they’re golden, with some darker brown edges, about 35-45 minutes.

We’ll miss you, football…

*Yes, I know it’s obnoxiously trendy to use Sriracha in everything, and I deeply and sincerely do not give a crap. Trendy or not, Sriracha tastes good.

** I would suggest blanching the florets for three minutes, cooling them down in ice water, then freezing them and using them just as you would…wait for it…frozen broccoli from your grocer’s freezer.

***I made my own blue cheese dip of crumbled roquefort and Greek yogurt. It tasted fine, but it was too thick. Regular yogurt would have been a better choice for dipping.

****Do yourself a solid and buy some peanut oil. I don’t know why or how peanut oil does what it does to enhance the flavor of chicken, but it’s the reason that you and everyone else you know is mildly obsessed with Chick-fil-a (even though you might hate the company).