If I say “Chicken Wings” what comes to mind? Oh, Buffalo Chicken Wings. Deep red in color, fiery hot, and addicting. We have a favorite restaurant nearby in New York City, a place called Walkers with a classic tin ceiling, wonderful staff, and the best wings in New York. At the table next to us last week, a man ate an entire serving for two by himself with just a glass of water. And then he ordered a second plate. Brian and I left before they had to call 911. No man can endure such heat.
Next weekend is the greatest single party weekend of the year. It’s Super Bowl and around the country, around the world, people will gather to watch and to eat. Brian and I are having our traditional party and we are having wings. And, yes, there will be some wings with heat. But there is life beyond Buffalo.
And that’s a statement from someone who went to college in Buffalo and has oh-so-fond memories of winters there.
No, there many alternatives to “hot” wings. For a party, it’s a clever idea to have a wing smorgasbord, a variety of wings. Some hot for people like that guy in Walkers with the asbestos digestive system and some with other flavors that are truly enjoyable.
There is a little book, Wings Across America, by Armand Vandersitgchel — a distinctive name to be sure — that came out in 1999 in hardcover and then in 2003 in paperback. You can still find it at Amazon and tucked away in back shelves at book store. The book has 150 ideas for how to do wings, some classically hot and some very different:
- Ole Mole Wings with chocolate — for those with other addictions besides heat
- Ancho Fire Wings — for those who think Buffalo wings are for wimps
- Barrel Wings — named for using Jack Daniels whiskey which spends time in oak barrels
- Southwestern Peanut Wing — made with peanut butter, coconut milk, and chipotle
Brian is thumbing through the book, pointing, and I’m testing. As lovers of cilantro, this recipe for Onion Cilantro Wings struck both of us as interesting. We had no idea how it would turn out, and we ended up very pleased.
Here’s the essential idea: put cilantro and onion in a blender and create a thick, very, very green sauce. The sauce goes in a bowl, the wings go into the sauce to marinate for hours in the fridge, and then you cook. There’s just a little heat in this recipe. The wings are baked, not deep fried, which is a plus. Baking is healthier and much less mess.
And the taste? It’s wonderful. That cilantro flavor has time to penetrate way beyond the skin. It’s not overpowering, but the meat has a distinctive cilantro tinge. It’s a whole new way to wing it.
If you are partying soon and want to have a bevy of different wings, then this version is truly one to consider.
Cilantro Onion Wings
Yield: 20 wings
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- ½ cup finely chopped red onion
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 20 trimmed and separated wings
In a food processor or blender, combine the onion, red onion, cilantro, salt, pepper, hot sauce, olive oil, lime and lemon juices, and sugar. Blend until pureed. Transfer with a rubber spatula to a large mixing bowl.
Add the wings, coating them thoroughly. Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°. With tongs, spread the wings evenly over a buttered 2-inch deep baking dish. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until brown and cooked through. Transfer to a platter and serve.
Source: Wings Across America by Armand Vandersitgchel
Coming in the next few days are some recipes for chicken wings. Now, for many of us, the wings are incidental. It’s the dip that matters. And for many of us, the “dip” has to be cheesy. Thing is, blue cheese dips are often, shall we say, harsh. They have a bite that could wake the dead. And if you survive that taste overload, the salt content can drive you to an IV to save your life. What the world needs is a good, a great blue cheese dip that does not shock your taste buds or dehydrate you.
And here it is. From Wings Across America by Armand Vanderstichel, this recipe has some terrific features. First of all, it is subtle, not shocking in taste. It’s so smooth that you’ll find many uses for it beyond chicken wings: chips, veggies, even a salad. It’s a multi-purpose dip that you can create in just moments.
This dip uses sour cream, mayonnaise, and buttermilk. It’s a balanced combination that gives you a smooth base, with a hint of sourness, but is still gentle on your tongue.
Of course, this recipe is totally amenable to your personal tastes. You can add more buttermilk, toss in some onion, some hot sauce, chili powder, … Do yourself a favor though and first make this according to the recipe. You’ll fall in love and perhaps have a partner for life. And, in the end, that’s what we all want, right? [I did not put this last sentence in just to please my wife. Things are going well.]
In Wings Across America, this is called a Roquefort Dip because Armand suggests using Roquefort cheese. I’m a blue man so I substituted Saga Blue and the result was excellent.
Smooth Blue Cheese Dip
Yield: 2 cups
- 1 cup sour cream
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 garlic clove, mince
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
In a medium bowl, add all the ingredients. Mix well. Refrigerate. Serve with pride.
Source: Wings Across America by Armand Vanderstichel