Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Recipe: Cast Iron Skillet Buffalo Wings

Buffalo wings ready for serving


Buffalo hot wings were invented to use up an otherwise hard to sell chicken part. Despite these humble beginnings... hot wings, when prepared correctly, are a divine experience on a par with tandoori chicken, oysters on the half shell, and fried calamari. This recipe provides a clear path to buffalo wing divinity.

Buffalo wings would be nothing without their accompaniments: blue cheese dip plus celery and carrot sticks. This recipe details a tasty from-scratch blue cheese dip. If you need help with celery and carrot sticks... then perhaps ordering takeout from your local pub is a better idea.

WTF? "natural butter type flavor"?
When I made this recipe, I was in a pinch on ingredients because it was Super Bowl Sunday. I used Frank's RedHot Wings Sauce because that's what we had. I'm not actually a fan of how they describe one of their ingredients: "natural butter type flavor". In the future, I would recommend a simpler hot sauce like Tapatio or Cholula. After all, we're adding butter... we don't need whatever chemicals comprise "natural butter type flavor."

This recipe makes a dozen wings, and serves 2-4 as an appetizer. It takes about 40 minutes to make. It can be doubled, tripled, or sextupled... you'll just need a large enough skillet and/or multiple skillets to avoid over-crowding in the oven.

Similar to when I barbecue... I find that the best way to get a flavorful glaze on the meat is to constantly re-baste it during cooking. Timing on that is provided below.

I've also left the degree of spiciness up to you. This recipe produces buffalo wings of a spiciness you'd expect if you ordered "regular" buffalo wings at your local pub. Add 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper per dozen wings for each degree of "hot", "super hot", "on fire", and "nuclear" spiciness that you wish to inflict on yourself or your guests.

Ingredients


Wings:
  • 6 whole chicken wings (these will be cut into 12 pieces)
  • 7 ounces hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Bleu Cheese Dipping Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (gorgonzola, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Celery Sticks:
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into sticks
  • 2 carrots, cut into sticks

Procedure

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees F.

While the oven is warming, cut the joints of your wings so you end up with three sections: 1) a meaty single-boned section... the part closest to the breast on a whole chicken, 2) a smaller two-boned section... the "middle section" one joint farther from the breast on a whole bird, and then 3) the tip. Discard the tips.

While the oven continues to heat, make the dipping sauce by combining all ingredients. If you're starting with a block of blue cheese or things seem too chunky, feel free to pulse the sauce in a food processor for 10-15 seconds to smooth it out. Taste your sauce. Each brand and style of cheese comes with different salt content. Make sure you adjust seasonings as necessary to develop an outstanding dipping sauce. Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and refrigerate (covered) until serving time.

Wash and cut the celery and carrots into sticks, and refrigerate (covered) until serving time.

Constant turning over and re-basting of the wings with
hot sauce as they cook is the key to a flavorful glaze
Once the oven is almost at 500 degrees F, place oil and butter in a medium cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and begins to bubble, toss in your raw wings, and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir things around for a minute or two, and then add enough hot sauce to coat all the wings thoroughly (2 ounces).

Put the skillet in the 500 degree oven, and let the wings cook for 2-3 minutes. Pull them out, turn each wing over with tongs, and baste the top of each wing with more hot sauce. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes. Continue the cycle of cooking, turning over, and re-basting the tops for about 20 minutes. At this point the wings should be fully-cooked.

Prepare your serving plate with celery and carrot sticks, blue cheese dip, and a spot for the wings.

Cast iron buffalo wings plated, garnished, and ready!
Pull the wings from the oven, add another plentiful splash of hot sauce (2-3 ounces, enough to thoroughly coat all of the wings), stir things around, and then place the wings on the serving plate for immediate consumption.

If you really want to pro it up, garnish the dipping sauce with a sprig of celery leaves, or parsley.