Winging It.

Before I begin, I would like to make a bold statement: never again will I have a brilliant writing concept as I'm falling asleep and assume I will recall it the next day. I would like to tell you all right here and now that forever forward I will keep an adorable little notebook and a nice pen on my person at all times. Even in bed. Especially in bed.

That said, I promise this will still be just as great as my brain flower seemed last night, while half asleep and a few glasses of wine down the hatch.

I know this because I want to talk about wings. And, really, who doesn't like wings?

Actually, for the better part of my possible wing-eating adult life, I have been slightly repulsed by them. Wing consumption can appear a little desperate, a little cannibalistic, hands in face, both covered in cloying, sticky sauce, gnawing away at that tiny little bit of meat. I found the meat-to-bone ratio unnerving.

But I've been sheltered. I have not been around wings much. Wings are usually served in bars. To be specific, wings are usually served in bars with beer and sports and boys in baseball hats. And while I am a fan of sports and boys and baseball hats (though not necessarily together), you won't often find me with a beer in my hand. I am a wine drinker through and through. And the bars I just mentioned, often at these bars, when I ask what sort of wine they serve I hear, “Both kinds. Red and white.

Call it lack of exposure, call it association, but you can clearly see why I'm not a wingophile. But a few, perhaps six or so, years ago, my then boyfriend (who always wore a baseball hat, followed sports (if they were New York teams) and drank beer in the appropriate bars with others like him)) noticed a blurb about wings in an issue of Saveur I was reading. The recipe was the original from the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. He was very into all things New York, being from Jersey himself. And so he tore the page out, shopped for the ingredients, including some ubiquitous and authentic cayenne pepper sauce, and made a batch of Buffalo wings that, to him, tasted like 'home.' I think he may have even smiled.

And you know what? More importantly, I liked them just fine. Even better, I secretly basked in the carnivorous, sloppy-faced, blue cheese dressing soaked process of it all. But I still paired mine with wine. A crisp white, I believe.

He made the wings once or twice more before our relationship ended. Funny thing, when he moved out, I'm almost positive he took that hot sauce-stained-ripped-out magazine page with him - and not a whole lot else.

In the years since, I've had very few wings. Until now.

It's summer, and Fred (who rarely wears baseball hats or goes to bars, but does enjoy his sports) not New York teams, however)) is back in full-on grill mode. And, in addition to all of the steaks, pork tenderloins, salmon, veggies, brick chickens, shishito peppers, and the like, Fred has been grilling wings.  A lot. About five or six times, now. Each time he has riffed and each time he has done something slightly different, be it in the marinade, the dipping sauce or the garnish. But every single time, with my sticky fingers and my smiling face, messy like a five year-old playing in the mud, I look down at my plate of carnage, my mountain of tiny, little chicken bones, and the cloth napkin, so dotted with sauce it resembles a Pollock painting, and exclaim how much I absolutely love wings. With a crisp, white wine, of course. I'm not an animal.

And I always want at least one more.

So, after all of this, I still don't remember what my brilliant, masterpiece brain flower was from last night. But I do remember I was thinking about the concept of 'winging it', and that I thought I had some extraordinary watershed concept with regard to that phrase. And, I suppose since it had dissapeared completely by the time I opened my eyes this morning, in writing this today, I did in fact, 'wing it'.

But I'm still keeping an adorable little notebook and a nice pen next to my bed from now on.

BBQ Buffalo Wings with Avocado-Ranch Dip

Serves 2-6, depending on your appetite.

(Recipe adapted from Hank Shaw)

3 pounds chicken wings
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons Texas Pete's, Tabasco or hot sauce of your preference
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon black pepper

To make the sauce, mix all of the ingredients together in a small pot set over low heat and stir constantly until the butter melts. Once the butter melts, take off heat and whisk the sauce vigorously and set aside. It should remain liquid, but if it starts to solidify, heat it up just enough to melt it, whisking all the time. Never let it boil.

Toss the wings with the vegetable oil and the salt, and arrange in one layer on the grill set over low heat. If you are using charcoal or wood, set your fire on one side of the grill and arrange the wings on the other side, away from the direct heat. You want them to cook slowly. Cover the grill and cook for 30 minutes.

Turn the wings and baste with sauce. Close the grill and cook for another 30 minutes. Repeat the process, painting the wings every 15 minutes or so until the wings are cooked through. Make sure you have a little leftover sauce to toss the wings with at the end. Serve with the avocado-ranch dipping sauce.

Avocado-Ranch Dipping Sauce:

1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon diced red onion
1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (like Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt & pepper to taste

Place the avocado in a food processor and add hot sauce and lime juice. Set the food processor to puree or high, and puree the avocado for 30 seconds or until it is a smooth paste.

Lift the lid from the food processor and to the avocado add buttermilk, mayonnaise, red onion, cilantro, garlic, sugar, and 1 pinch each of salt and pepper.

Replace the lid on the food processor and pulse the ingredients 5 or 6 times for about 15 seconds each time until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. It may need a few more pulses if the garlic is not chopped finely enough.

Check the dressing for salt and pepper and adjust if required. You can add a bit more hot sauce at this point as well, if you want it a bit spicier.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Four years ago: Vichyssoise

1 comment:

  1. That is good looking chicken. I have also heard there is great chicken in Schaumburg, IL. restaurants. I can't wait to try it.