Okay, great chicken wings aren't strictly an invention of Buffalo, New York, but around the Super Bowl it's easy to forget that there's any other way to make them other than the way the upstate city made famous. The hot-sauce-drenched and bleu-cheese-dunked snacks are ubiquitous across Super Bowl menus. But at the risk of being sacrilegious, classic Buffalo wings are kind of boring. You can eat them every Sunday for the entirety of football season (and literally any other time). So for the Super Bowl, literally the Big Game, you should give your guests something they can't get every day.
Don't Just Fry
The reason Buffalo wings work so perfectly is that chicken wings take especially well to frying. "The wing holds so much flavor and texture, due to the fact that it’s mostly bone and connective tissue with some meat and a little fat. If you are frying, the relatively large surface area of skin makes it the crispiest piece of the bird," says Chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok. But because of that connective tissue, wings take well to many other methods of cooking. Boiled, "the bone, skin, and connective tissue add flavor and body. Grilling works equally well, as does steaming. The meat does not dry out the way breast meat does." However you cook them, be sure to give them plenty of time — cooked too fast at high temperatures, wings have a tendency to get tough.
Don't be Afraid of Flavor
Chicken-wing meat works great in soups and curries, as it has the "concentrated flavor of the bird," says Ricker, and thus can handle big flavors. Buffalo wings prove they can definitely stand heat, but to deviate from the norm, perhaps coat the wings in sriracha or green chili sauce instead of regular hot sauce. Ricker says he uses them chopped in "red curry of pickled bamboo shoots," and they could easily be served alone with a coating of red curry sauce.
Marinade is Your Friend
To lock in even more flavor, Pok Pok marinates their Vietnamese fish-sauce wings. They use sugar, fish sauce, salt, and a lot of garlic and bathe the wings in them for at least four hours. If that isn’t your thing, try marinating the wings with lots of herbs, worcestershire, and paprika, or even maple syrup. Any flavor you like, wings can handle. So this year, see what else wings can give you. You can always do Buffalo… literally any other time.
Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings from Pok Pok
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup Vietnamese fish sauce
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar
- 2 lbs medium-size chicken wings (about 12), split at the joint
- vegetable oil for frying
- 1 cup rice flour
- 1/4 cup tempura batter mix (Ricker recommends Gogi brand)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1 tbsp chopped mint
- Optional: 1–2 tsp naam phrik khao soi (roasted chile paste)
- In a bowl, whisk the fish sauce, sugar, and crushed garlic. Add the wings and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 3 hours, tossing the wings occasionally.
- Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wok. Add the minced garlic; cook over moderate heat until golden, 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
- In a large pot, heat 2 inches of oil to 350°. Pat the wings dry on paper towels; reserve the marinade. Put the cornstarch in a shallow bowl, add the wings, and turn to coat. Fry the wings in batches until golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and transfer to a bowl.
- In a small saucepan, simmer the marinade over moderately high heat until syrupy, 5 minutes. Strain over the wings and toss. Top with the cilantro, mint, and fried garlic and serve.
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