With the college football season upon us, one of the most important times of the year, I would like to turn my attention to a wonderful and much-maligned snack you can serve to your guests that will literally drive them crazy with adoration for your cooking skills. But first things first. When I say college football, what I really mean is Michigan Wolverine Football. Before reading any further, submit yourself to the notion that the Wolverines are the finest college football program in the history of the sport. If you've previously rooted for some other school as a result of your college education or geography, now is the time to make the switch. Start by waking up tomorrow morning and dressing yourself head-to-toe in maize and blue. You'd be surprised how good it can make you feel.
But let's get on to talking about Buffalo wings, my purpose today. We've all had them, we all love them, but the vast majority of the time they are not as good as they could be. By way of background, allow me to state that in addition to cooking professionally or teaching cooking to future chefs, I lived in Buffalo for seven years, from ages seven to fourteen—prime chicken wing eating years as far as I'm concerned. My parents, reasonable folks, would order our family ludicrously large pizzas and buckets of wings on a weekly basis. For a family of four boys this was just what the doctor ordered. It was the eighties, and people didn't worry about all the senseless chatter you hear nowadays about eating local or organic, much less healthy. Not in Buffalo, at least. Incidentally, I still to this day favor the pizza I grew up on. Pizza in Buffalo is really heavy on the sauce, lighter on the cheese, which is exactly the opposite of what most prefer, in my experience.
But on to the wings. One major advantage that a restaurant has over the home cook with regards to Buffalo wings is the use of a deep-fat fryer. If you have a fry daddy or some other such contraption, or are the kind of demented soul who likes to torture yourself with deep frying at home, don't even bother. I've got a technique that will produce the best wings you and your guests have ever had.
First, buy the right kind of chicken wings. There are basically three kinds of wings you can purchase in most grocery stores. First, there is the kind that is frozen that is presauced, in some cases even pre-cooked. Under no circumstances should you purchase this product if you're goal is to serve real Buffalo wings. If you want to serve "Buffalo" style wings that are pre-sauced or coated with barbeque sauce, you might as well root for a team like Ohio State. The second kind of wing to avoid is the frozen, still-raw wing that comes in the five pound sack with some kind of colorful packaging. This is the most cost-effective, but the problem is that these wings are too large. They come from old hag chickens that have run around the barnyard for too long. They are simply too tough to chew on and do not produce a desirable product for you or your Wolverine-loving guests. Here's what you have to do. Go to the fresh meat section and pick up some small styrofoam packages of small fresh, raw chicken wings. They should be about three inches in length. If you're not sure if you're getting the small, tender ones, compare them to the frozen bags of wings. In terms of size it's night and day.
Bring your wings home. Feel a bit of pride at what you are going to engage in. Here's where it gets all culinary. Instead of simply cooking your wings, borrow a technique from classical cookery of duck. Duck, like chicken wings, contain a great deal of fat in the skin. In order to open the pores to allow the fat to run out during cooking, it's necessary to blanch them very briefly in rapidly boiling water. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Dunk your chicken wings, only a few at a time, into the water for no more than 10 seconds. Any longer and you will cook them, which is not the point.
After blanching, turn your oven up to a ridiculously high temperature—as high as it will go. Lay your wings out on sheet pans, preferably on a rack to allow air to flow around them as they roast, in a single layer. When oven is smoking hot, slide in the wings for about ten to fifteen minutes, or until you're confident they are done. They should have a light golden to brown crust on them. While they are roasting, prepare the sauce!
Here is the only kind of sauce you should coat chicken wings with if you want them to be Buffalo wings. Best case scenario, order some online from the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. This stuff is an almost neon orange, probably toxic and very delicious. Short of that, buy some sauce like Frank's Red Hot, Crystal, or Tabasco. The goal here is not just pure heat, but tang. Mix whatever sauce you buy with equal parts melted whole unsalted butter and place in a large bowl. Keep it warm.
When those wings come out of the oven, slide them right into that bowl with the sauce and toss, toss, toss. Use the bowl to toss so that the sauce sloshes out all over your kitchen counter and your freshly-pressed Michigan shirt. I wouldn't have it any other way. Next, slide your wings onto a platter with celery sticks and homemade blue cheese dressing.
Homemade blue cheese dressing? I thought we were done J Not quite. Never buy this pre-made, it's too easy to make yourself. And never, ever serve Buffalo wings with Ranch dressing. Talk about a tragedy. For blue cheese dressing, buy some quality genuine blue cheese. Make sure you have plenty of store-bought but full octane mayo on hand, more Crystal or Tabasco sauce, Worcesterschire sauce, fresh lemon and salt and black pepper. Basically add blue cheese to mayo until very chunky. Keep seasoning until you can't taste mayo anymore, which is one of the golden rules of using pre-made mayo for a sauce. I can't guarantee that your blue cheese dressing will taste as good as mine, but I've had lots of practice. Most often what it needs is more salt, lemon juice, Crystal, Worcesterschire and pepper.
Take control of your life today. Get your supplies, including Wolverine shirt, Buffalo wing ingredients, lots of cold canned beer and bloody mary fixings. Wake up tomorrow morning, brush your teeth, put on your Michigan gear, fix a bloody mary, make your wings. Take a moment to step outside in the glorious sunshine, beer in one hand, bloody mary in the other. Then retreat into a dark cave, and see how the other half lives.