Here is the thing about Buffalo Chicken Wings, they are everywhere. I mean that literally. Personally, I have seen them on menus from Delhi to Detriot, Cape Town to Cambridge, from Miami to Manilla. I seriously doubt if anyone ever knew the reach of these little gems when they were merely a small staple of bars near Lake Erie, in the US.
Over the past 30 years or so I have been working on perfecting a wing sauce ever since we moved away from the shores of Lake Erie. My wife and I both went to high school in the tiny town of Fairview a suburb of the only slightly larger city of Erie, Pennsylvania. Geographically Erie is pretty much equidistant from Pittsburgh, PA, Cleveland Ohio, and Buffalo NY. Each of these much larger cites definitely have an influence on Eire. Buffalo brought the Buffalo Chicken Wings and a HUGE waterfall in Niagara.
WHAT IS A CHICKEN WING, REALLY?
Technically, a chicken wing is a leftover part of a chicken, well it was anyway. Now it is a global thing. In 1985 my family moved from Los Angeles to Erie, I was a sophomore in high school, a bit of a culture shock, to say the least, the first night in Erie we saw Buffalo Chicken Wings on a menu. My father said, “Chicken wings, don’t you throw those away?” We tried them, and they were, well Buffalo Chicken Wings, so they were amazing. Throughout my high school years, there were several places the students would hang out. Stacks Wings, Aggies Subs, and our favorite Lucky Man’s the King of Wings. We ate a lot of wings. Especially on all-you-can-eat wings every Tuesday at Lucky Man’s.
While each wing shop had its own twist on a recipe, they were basically the same. Some were sweeter, and some more tangy, other than a tiny bit of artistic license, they were all the same basic thing. That is to say, not the myriad of flavors and heat profiles you find today. There were no Buffalo Honey Glazed Teriyaki Bar-B-Cue things you can find on menus today.
Buffalo Chicken Wings were just that, delicious without any retooling. Because the sauces were only slightly different, yet the recipes closely guarded, the term Buffalo was more a reference to the size of the wings, not the sauce. Putting Buffalo wing sauce on small wings was not an option. There was one wing tavern in Findley Lake New York, which is now wine country, that had the largest wings we have ever seen. We used to cross the border to NY and get these seemingly prehistoric sized Andalusian wings.
PERFECTING THE BUFFALO SAUCE
As I mentioned, I have spent a long time perfecting the sauce. My goal was to recreate the Buffalo Chicken Wings sauce from the original chicken wing shop in Buffalo, the Anchor Bar. It is wing mecca, if you are ever in Buffalo, make the trip. It is a small franchise now, there is one in the Buffalo airport, and Las Vegas, among others. You can even order their sauce online. (Which I have done to really perfect this recipe). Put this recipe and their sauce side by side, they are almost identical in favor, just this has no preservatives.
My first attempts were awful, I kept making them more and more complex. They got mildly better, but soon I had a recipe that looks more like a complex french recipe than bar food. It was right after I lost a just for fun “best wings” competition at my work in San Diego that I realized I was going about it all wrong. After taking a breath, I regrouped, centered my chi, and started from scratch. Take a look, the neatly printed recipe was my last attempt under the guise that more is better. The handwritten version is the super tasty one I make now, and what you find here. I think this is the basis for a modern Aesop fable…
GETTING IT RIGHT
Luckily after all the years of experimentation, I knew several things. First, the hot sauce is based on “Franks Red Hot” period, that is it. Second its equal parts butter and sauce. Third, you can’t break the butter or it becomes acrid and salty. Fourth, it has garlic in it, and fifth, cayenne pepper is hot, finally, a bit of apple cider vinegar provided a bit of bite.
So that was it, that is the entire recipe. It’s fantastic, a guaranteed winner.
BUFFALO CHICKEN WINGS
Try to use fresh wings, but if you prefer the frozen or bulk wings certainly they can work. In this regard, I have found that the frozen “wing segments” are sometimes mildly freezer burned, and can be of poorer quality. Either way, you are dousing them in a spicy sauce, it will cover most any sin.
We grill our wings, its sort of a nod at healthy, but also we love the taste. The final advantage, your house will not smell like chicken for days on end. Plus, grilling is easier.
A good number of chicken wings cut at the joint the tips discarded. I try to make 6-8 segments per person
Buffalo Chicken Wings
One thing almost everyone agrees on, french fries or tater tots should accompany. There are few things better to dunk, dredge, and drive through the residual sauce then a potato. Serve with blue cheese and ranch dressing, and often carrot and celery stalks will accompany the wings to clear the palate.
- A good number of chicken wings cut at the joint the tips discarded. I try to make 6-8 segments per person
- A hand full of flour
- Olive Oil
- 1/2 cup 150 ML Franks Red Hot sauce (It is available in the UK at Tesco, South Africa we found it at US markets, in America pretty much every market.)
- 1/2 cup 1/2 ML unsalted butter room temp not melted
- 4 tsp cider vinegar
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 + tsp cayenne pepper the more you add the hotter it will be
Set your grill on high.
Place all of the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan, while the butter warms to room temperature.
Prepare the Wings
After cutting the wings into segments, rinse, and pat dry with a paper towel. If frozen, thaw, rinse and pat dry.
In a large bowl, coat the wings in a small amount of olive oil, then sprinkle with flour until the wings are coated and sticky. This will require tossing. and take care, not to overcoat or they will taste floury. Just a nice coating on each until they are sticky.
Place wings on the hot grill spreading them out. Reduce heat to the lowest setting, and grill 18 min, turn over and grill 18 more.
Turn the grill to medium-high, flip the wings again, and grill for 3-5 min per side, taking care not to burn them. They will be dripping very heartily at this point.
Remove to a large bowl.
While the wings are cooking gently warm the saucepan over medium heat and stir gently to incorporate. When just a few small bobs of butter remain in the pan immediately remove from the heat. Stir to finish melting and incorporation.
Naked or Tossed - What are we talking about? Okay, this entire section has double entendre, maybe it's the nature of bar food. Some, my wife included, like naked wings and sauce on the side, so she can sauce them as she likes. She likes a saucy wing. Others like to have them tossed in the sauce before serving. You can choose. Generally, for a party I like to toss the wings in sauce, but sitting around in front of a game, I'll sauce them myself thank you! Either way, if you are tossing, toss the sauce sparingly and put some on the side for those who like more, the saucy tossers.
WINE (ALE) MATCHING
Wine? You can’t go wrong, red white rose, whatever, these are chicken wings. Probably whatever you were drinking before the wings are served, I’d stick with that. Wings are beer food, IMHO. My personal favorite is a mildly bitter IPA. If you can get a “hazy” or also called New England style IPA, I think this is a perfect match. The bitter hops and resiny dankness are ideal for wings. For those who like a less crunchy beer, try amber or blonde. Both ales will cool the palate but offer mild malty undertones.