Chicken wings have always been a popular choice whatever the occasion, with numerous ways of preparing, cooking and serving them; they are great for sharing, or as an indulgent snack on their own.
Traditionally wings were usually used as scraps along with the back and neck parts of the chicken for stock pots, soups and factory processed junk food outlets.
Deep fried, un-breaded wings coated in a vinegar-based cayenne pepper hot sauce, were first said to have been created by Teressa Bellissimo, along with her husband Frank, and served at the Anchor Bar which they owned, on October 30th 1964, in Buffalo, New York.
It was widely thought that their son, Dominic, with several of his friends from college turned up to the bar, late at night with a case of the munchies. Teressa needed a quick and easy snack to present to her hungry guests. It was then that she came up with the idea of deep-frying chicken wings and tossing them in a cayenne pepper hot sauce…the rest as they say was history.
Her son Dominic Bellissimo takes the legend further, serving the mostly Catholic patrons of the bar after midnight on Fridays (when they would be able to eat meat again) with deep fried chicken wings tossed in hot pepper sauce as a goodwill gesture for their custom.
Even though the general consensus is that Buffalo wings originated from the Anchor Bar, there are some who dispute this claim. Calvin Trillin stated in his 1980 New Yorker article that a man named John Young also claimed credit for serving chicken wings in a special “mambo sauce”.
Chicken wings in mambo sauce became the specialty at his Buffalo restaurant in the mid-1960s. Young had registered the name of his restaurant, John Young’s Wings ‘n Things, at the county courthouse before leaving Buffalo in 1970.
A word about the sauce….
The specific hot pepper sauce used is an issue that is hotly debated by die hard wing fans. Some prefer Durkee (formerly Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce), yet others swear by Crystal.
Some believe that Anchor Bar Wing Sauce have the perfect blend for a rich smooth sauce. After experimenting with a few brands I found that Franks Original Hot Pepper Sauce hit the mark with me.
Over the next 25 years or so wings became a culinary craze all over America and it wasn’t long before cafes, bars and restaurants were creating their own versions of chicken wings to feature on their menu, with variations such as honey BBQ, sweet & tangy, teriyaki, garlic with ginger, orange glaze and lemon drop… just to mention a few.
Buffalo wings have become a bit of an American institution, they are considered the official snack food when watching the super bowl as well as being used in competitive eating events, such as Philadelphia’s Wing Bowl and at the National Buffalo Wing Festival held in Buffalo, New York, with an estimated crowd of 85,000 wing enthusiasts in attendance and over 555,000 wings served – that’s over 37 tones of chicken wings!
Authentic spicy Buffalo wings are not for the faint hearted, as they really do pack an astonishingly passionate punch of heat and zing that will leave you yearning for more. The only respite being, are the traditional accompaniments of celery and blue cheese dip, both of which are said to ease the heat of the wings.
I first came across Buffalo wings whilst working in a ‘Soul Food’ restaurant in London, before that I didn’t really know what they were all about. They were hugely popular, and getting them right was imperative, as they were an integral part of the menu. Some customers complained because they found them too hot…one of the owners moaned because he didn’t find them hot enough! So what was it that made the authentic Buffalo wing?
After researching the topic of Buffalo wings extensively and picking the brains of any American friends, relatives, contacts, which was frankly anyone American that I bumped into… as well as trying to satisfy numerous opinions of the self-proclaimed ‘Buffalo wing aficionados’ that owned and managed the restaurant, I found that it really did come down to a matter of personal taste.
The real ingredients were the ice-cold beers, a jovial atmosphere, the banter with your friends, whilst getting your hands dirty and finger licking the sauce which happens to get all over your clothes no matter how many napkins you use!
Here is my take on this classic recipe. I am using Franks Original Hot Pepper Sauce; however you can use a milder sauce if traditional cayenne pepper sauces are too hot, as most of them do have a range these days.
1 Kg chicken wing pieces (split at the joint, one wing makes 2 pieces – the “flat” and the “drum”)
¾ Teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ Teaspoon hot smoked paprika
¼ Teaspoon onion powder
¼ Teaspoon garlic powder
250g All-purpose flour
Peanut/Groundnut oil for deep frying
12oz Bottle of Frank’s Hot Pepper Sauce (or an alternative Louisiana hot pepper sauce)
1) Soak the chicken pieces in the brine “813″ solution using a non-reactive container for 3 – 6 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine “813″ solution, pat it dry with paper towels.
2) Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, and then add the hot pepper sauce. Heat through gently for 3 – 5 minutes, using a whisk to ensure the butter and the sauce has been thoroughly mixed together. Keep warm on a low heat or bain-marie.
3) Combine the flour, onion powder, and garlic powder, smoked paprika and black pepper thoroughly and place in a plastic bag. Add the chicken wings, and then shake to coat evenly. Remove wings from the bag, shaking off excess flour
4) Deep fry the wings at 170°C for 7 – 10 minutes until they are golden brown and cooked through. Remove the wings from the fryer and drain off any excess oil.
5) Immerse the wings in the saucepan of wing sauce (prepared in step 2), ensure that they are coated evenly, remove and serve with blue cheese dip and a selection of carrot and celery sticks. A cold beer or two wouldn’t go a miss either…enjoy!