Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Recipes for REAL Men - Volume 12, Lard Ass Buffalo Wings

So the bowl game is over, and I've finally perfected my Buffalo wing recipe (actually during halftime in fact). There was much winged love goin down, though I maybe mixed them a bit too hot for my crowd... which means they were damn near hot enough.

Actually they weren't entirely perfect, initially I included less Habenero and a tablespoon of cayenne powder, but it made for a slightly unpleasant after burn (cayenne powder stays in your mouth and on your lips for a loooong time; and adds a kind of bitter heat without adding much flavor). I also included a bit too much mustard, and I used prepared yellow mustard (frenches). For this recipe I eliminated the cayenne powder entirely, upped the habanero content, and substituted powdered mustard and apple cider vinegar.

NOW it's perfect.

4lb bag of extra large, segmented frying wings
1 cup (3/4 of a 12oz bottle) of Franks Red Hot sauce
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons Arizona Gunslinger habanero pepper sauce (optional)
2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar to taste
2 tablespoons powdered yellow mustard
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper (finely ground)
Juice of one lime
You are also going to need the following:
8lb, or 4 quarts frying medium (lard or rendered beef fat (tallow) preferred)

Large thick walled deep pot (a cast iron chicken fryer, or dutch oven work best) or a professional quality deep fryer with at least a six quart capacity and a 400+ degree temperature control

Frying thermometer capable of reading at least 400 degrees farenheit

A steel mixing bowl large enough to comfortably toss all four pounds of wings in with plenty of room to spare

1 cup of cornstarch and a large plastic bag (optional)

There's only one way to cook real buffalo wings, and that's deep frying them. None of this baked wing crap.

Welllll... unless that is you want to bread the wings and then bake the flavoring in AFTER deep frying; and that can work pretty well, but it isn't necessary, and it isn't really a buffalo wing then.

So before we start, you have a choice to make, to starch or not to starch.

When you deep fry anything unbattered or unbreaded, it should be perfectly dry before you put it in the oil. If the wings are frozen, you should either defrost and dry them completely, or you should roll or shake them in cornstach wixed with salt and pepper (or do both). You MIGHT be able to get away with not starching the wings if there's NO ice on the surface of the wings.

Now, if you DO starch the wings, you are going to end up with a light breading effect. This breading will soak up more sauce, but it will also hold in more grease, and it tends to clump, burn, and get soggy. Also if your oil isnt hot enough the cornstarch will clump off the wings, cloud the oil, and burn.

Obviously, in general I prefer to put the wings in bare.

While you are prepping the wings, heat the frying medium to 400+ degrees, but be careful not to smoke your oil.

Oh and related to that, another one of those decisions; what do you want to fry the wings in? Since you're cooking chicken, it would make sense to use chicken fat right?

Well, not really because chicken fat burns and smokes when used as a deep frying medium. Plus, bulk chicken fat is kinda icky, and can taste kinda funky unless you cook it fr quite a while.

Basically it's just not suitable for deep frying, though it CAN be good for shallow frying depending on what you're frying with it (like frying goose liver, it's just plain good, though goose fat is even better - oh and it makes a good spread with salt and garlic. Schmaltz can be yummy if made properly).

The ideal frying medium for flavor is either bacon grease or rendered beef suet (tallow), mixed with butter; but that gets expensive very fast. Plus butter starts burning at around 250 degrees, and smokes at 400 degrees, and bacon grease starts to burn at around 350; so you can't really deep fry in it (though shallow frying is aaawwww yeah good).

Beef tallow alone would work; but unless you have a good butcher around, it can be hard to find food grade tallow (and obviously candlemaking supplies arent food grade), and you have to be careful of your smoke point.

That leaves lard; and lard is a pretty darn good choice, because it doesn't start burning or smoking 'til WELL over 400 degrees (commercial lard anyway. Gourmet lard is usually not as "pure" and so it smokes at lower temperatures, but has better flavor). It's the highest smoke point animal oil you can get, which makes it almost ideal for deep frying. Also lard has less cholesterol than butter, and no transfats like most high smoke point vegetable oils have (including frytex and other solid oils sold for use in professional deep fryers), plus it doesn't taste bad for frying.

Oh and one more thing, lard is CHEAP; as in about $4 for the 8 lbs you'll need for deep frying (which can be used and reused repeatedly if filtered and not burned); and thats if you buy it in the SMALL tubs. If you get the economy sized 5 gallon buckets you pay damn near nothing, especially in comparison to peanut oil (which is about the best deep frying vegetable oil and which runs about $20 a gallon, though can cost as little as $5 a gallon in bulk).

Oh and in case you didnt know, the proper way to season your new cast iron pans is to sand the cooking surface mostly smooth, thoroughly wash the pan, then rub the entire cooking surface with lard to cover it with a thin layer, and carbonize the stuff at 450-650 degrees for from 30 minutes, to two hours depending on the size of the pan, and the heat of the oven. Then you take the heat down to about 300 degrees for a half hour, then 200 for an hour, then shut te heat off and let the pan cool in the cooling oven until it has reached room temperature. You WILL set off every smoke alarm in the neighborhood during this process; so unplug yours, get a fan, watch out, and keep a fire extinguisher handy.

Now, on to the actual prep work.

Defrost and dry the wings, then rub fine flake or crushed kosher salt and pepper into them, and if you feel adventerous lightly sprinkle a little cayenne powder over them (it's not bad here, it just doesn't work too well in the sauce).

When the oil is over 400 degrees, place all the wings into the oil as quickly as is safely possible. It's important to distribute evenly.

If you put frozen wings into the fryer, the temperature is going to instantly drop from about 400 degrees, to about 200 degrees, and it won't go back up to browning temperature (about 280- 300 degrees) until all the excess water from the wings cooks off. That takes about 20 minutes, and you end up with crispier, greasier wings with drier meat. They arent at all bad that way, but if you want a plumper wing with more meat and meat jucies, you want to use thawed wings.

If you use the thawed wings, the temp is still going to plummet down to between 250 and 300, but it's going to come back up to 350 or so much quicker.

Fry the wings until golden brown, basically the degree of brownness you'd want in a chicken you were roasting in the broiler. It should take about 15 minutes AFTER the temp of the oil climbs back over 280. Dont let the oil climb over 400, or start to smoke (there will be LOTS of steam and splattering oil however so be careful).

Once the wings are all thoroughly browned, drain them individually back into the fryer (just let them drip dont pat them off), and throw them into a large metal mixing bowl with some of the wing sauce on the bottom...

Ohh yeah, we have made it yet... well here is,

The Sauce:

Alright, when it comes to wings, sauce is the key right? How hot, how sweet, how sour, how smoky... How about VERY, a little bit, a little bit more, and not very much...

Some folks like to include a lot of sugar, molasses, smoked barbecue sauce, or god forbid liquid smoke (Actually I shouldnt be that hard there are actually some tasty liquid smoke flavors these days) but really none of that is supposed to go on buffalo wings.

Buffalo wings are supposed to have three strong flavors:

1. Cayenne Pepper Sauce
2. Vinegar
3. Butter

Thats it. They aren't smoked, glzed, honey seared or anything else. Yeah those kinds of wings taste great, but they aren't buffalo wings. Save the other flavors for times when you don't want buffalo wings.

So, first step, your Cayenne sauce. Now there are some folks who swear by tabasco for their wings, and lord knows I do love tabasco sauce, but it isn't really the right flavor or consistency for buffalo wings. Then there Daves gourmet "cool cayenne pepper sauce" which would work really well, hell maye even great... maybe even better than Franks... but for my money it isn't a buffalo wing if it isn't made with Franks Louisiana Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce.

That's right, I said it; it HAS to be FRANKS.

Yeah I know, Franks is too sour, too astringent, too thin, not hot enough etc... Ehhhh forget about that. If it's a buffalo wing, it's got to be Franks. Anything else is some other kind of wing.

Now, that said, there's no law against combining Franks with other things; and therein lies the secret of good buffalo sauce.

Now, you can do this two ways, either in the microwave without simmering, or in a small saucepan, simmered. Simmering melds the flavors together more, brings them out more, takes longer, is harder to clean up, and singes your nostrils something fierce. Microwaving is faster, and doesnt stink up the place.

I recommend simmering personally.

So, start by melting the butter in the bottom of the pan, then when the butter starts to brown add in the red hot sauce. Bring that sauce up to just below simmering and add the rest of the dry ingredients, and the vinegar, stirring thoroughly.

Keep stirring at jsut below simmer for about 4 minutes. At this point you want to set your sweet and sour balance, by adjusting the vinegar and the brown sugar to suit your taste. Make it just a bit less sour, and a bit more sweet than you'd like the final product to be, because we'll be adding more flavors in the next step.

So now a few minutes ago I said that Tabasco isn't right for Buffalo wings, and now I'm telling you use it? Why do I speak such crazy moon language...

Basically, because I love tabasco, and it has a distinct fermented pepper flavor that you dont get with Franks. A couple tablespoon is all it takes to give your wings jsut a HINT of that distinctive Tabasco flavor. If you want more tabasco flavor, go ahead and add more tabasco; it can't hurt.

Now the fun part, the REALLY hot stuff. Here's where you decide if you want your wings mild, hot, or WILD.

For traditional mild to slightly hot buffalo wings (the wings from your local pizza joint proably rate less than mild so if you can't handle those... what the hell are you doing making buffalo wings?), dont add anything else. The dominant flavors will be slightly sweet, sour vinger, and a slightly sour spicy pepper bite.

If on the other hand you want some HOT wings, now's the time to break out the habenero. I listed Arizona Gunslingers hot habanero sauce above, but you can substitute any habanero hot sauce to taste. Gunslinger is appx. equal in heat to Daves Temporary Insanity sauce, and about half as hot as Daves Insanity sauce; with Total Insanity falling somewhere in between. My recommendation? Start with one tablespoon of the sauce, stir it in and simmer for three minutes, then try it out. If it's not hot enough, keep adding more sauce in half a tablespoon at a time.

If you really want to get insane, put in 4 tablespoons of Daves Insanity sauce; but if you do that I recommend serving the wings with a yoghurt based dip (tsatziki for example), and glasses of whole milk. Oh and really, honestly, dont serve this to anyone who isn't a serious chilehead, you might hurt them badly, or make them sick (no I'm not kidding).

Importantly, no matter how hot you want it, you need to balance out the heat with the sourness of vinegar, and the sweetness of the brown sugar; so after you've reached your desired degree of heat, simmer for three minutes, and make a flavor adjustment with sugar and vinegar; but leave it jsut a bit less sour, and a bit less sweet than you really quite want.

Finally simmer for three to ten minutes after you've made your final adjustments and let stand; and whatever you do don't boil or burn the sauce.

This sauce is best if it's prepared the night before and allowed to mellow overnight; then heated up to just below simmering just before tossing; but it's not necessary to do so. You can just make it and toss the wings in with it and it's still damn good.

The final step before tossing is to add the fresh squeezed juice of one lime (unless of course you don't like citrus in which case, leave it out), and then stir throughly.

Final Prep:

So, sauce the bottom of your large mixing bowl, and toss a layer of lightly drained wings into it. Then pour more sauce, and drop more wings in until youve got all of both in the bowl; and throughly toss the wings in the sauce, coating all of the wings completely and evenly. Let stand for about 3 minutes, and toss again before serving.

My personal preference is to serve straight out of the bowl, with baby wipes, and paper towels kept handy. Serves four as an appetizer or 2 as a meal. Have milk handy.

And be sure to check out:

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 12 - Lard Ass Wings
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 11 - Bacon Double Macaroni and Cheese
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 9 - Labor Day Potatos
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 8 - It's a pork fat thing
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 7 - It may not be Kosher...
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 6 - Andouille Guiness Chili
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eazza the Ultimate Pizza
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - Two Pound Meat Sauce
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 3 - Highbrow Hash
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 2 - MuscleCarbonara
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 1 - More Beef than Stew