Earning that degree and avoiding debt were good things, of course, but my greatest reward was being in on the ground floor of the Buffalo Chicken Wings craze. Life doesn't get any better than that, you know? Okay, yeah, it does, but I wasn't getting much of it back then. Whatever.
Buffalo Chicken Wings were created at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. The story goes that the owner was asked to come up with filling snack to feed a group of late arriving hungry guests. She deep fried a bunch of chicken wings--normally used to make stock--covered them with a special hot sauce and served them up with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing. The guests loved it and it soon became a staple item on their menu.
This was all well and good and the story might have ended there, but my boss stole their recipe (some say "recreated" but my money's on "stole") and the bar where I worked became the second in the city to serve Buffalo Chicken Wings.
Today, Wings are a standard bar food item all across the country. Sometimes they're good. More often they're mediocre. The problem is that people get too fancy. They bread them. Or they bake them. Or they add too many spices. People, don't do that! Wings are a simple recipe and generally the less done to them the better.
Here's my recipe for Wings 'n Things straight from the now-defunct tavern where I used to work:
- Prepare blue cheese dressing in advance by mixing crumbled blue cheese with sour cream. I use about a cup of blue cheese to one 16 ounce container of sour cream. Add a smidgeon of salt--usually I use celery salt and/or garlic salt. This is best made at least a few hours ahead so the flavors have time to combine. A day ahead is better. Note: You may prefer to mix the blue cheese with equal portions of of mayo and sour cream. I don't. For Dawg's sake, though, don't ever, ever substitute ranch dressing for blue cheese. Ranch dressing is anathema. If you substitute ranch dressing you might as well top off your wings with cilantro, in which case you're out of the will and I will hunt you down like a dog and call you a bad name to your face before insulting yo mamma.
- Wash and pat dry a bunch of celery stalks, then slice them up into even more celery sticks. Keep them in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Disjoint a mess of wings, saving the wing tips for the stock pot. If you don't know exactly what "a mess" means, ask someone who loves wings. And if you don't know how to disjoint a chicken wing you're hopeless and should just buy your wings from Dominoes and save yourself a bunch of work.
- Deep fry the wing sections in small batches. You don't want the wings touching. This occurs in a deep fryer. If you don't have one, you might try using a cast iron skillet with about an inch of oil heated up to about 350 degrees. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, order your wings from Dominoes.
- They're done when they float. Flip them over to make sure they're cooked on both sides, then remove them with tongs and drain on paper towels.
- Once drained, place them on cookie sheet and stick them in a warm oven.
- When all your wings are done cooking, remove them from the oven, place them into a large, lidded container (like a Tupperware container) and add equal parts softened butter and Frank's Hot Sauce--about two tablespoons worth of sauce and the same of butter for about ten to twelve wing sections. Adjust ratio until you get the flavor and heat you're looking for.
- Shake and swirl the wings around in the container until they are coated with the hot sauce.
- Plate your wings and serve with celery sticks, blue cheese dressing and plenty of napkins.
- Don't forget to take your cholesterol pills first. These things are loaded with fat and every bite takes about eleven minutes off your life.
There's another little tradition we do in Buffalo just before we gorge ourselves on wings on Super Bowl Sunday. A little background first.
You know, the Bills were the only NFL team ever to advance to four straight Super Bowl games. They are also the only NFL team ever to lose four straight Super Bowl games. They should have won the first one, but nooooooo. Someone missed a 47 yard field goal with eight seconds left. Someone named Scott Norwood. So every Super Bowl Sunday, after we say grace, but before we chow down, we all gather around in a circle and and stick voodoo pins in Scott Norwood bobble head dolls. It's childish, I know. But it's football. And a true fan never forgets the highlights and never forgives the lowlights. You doubt me? Just ask Bill Buckner.