(We’ll call them “Hot Sauce and Butter” Chicken Wings for the mourning Jets fans out there)
The NFL playoffs are here, so it’s time to start planning for the uniquely American holiday that is Super Bowl Sunday. Thanksgiving and Christmas are over, and the time for high minded traditional cuisine and fine china has passed. Super Bowl Sunday is for bar food and paper towels, and Buffalo Chicken Wings are my weapon of choice.
Over the years this chicken wing recipe has been cobbled together from a number of different cooking science sources. My goal with wings is to make a light crispy crust that readily soaks up the buffalo sauce without being too greasy. Achieving this and properly cooking the little temperamental chunk of chicken underneath can be a bit of a juggling act. These three tricks help balance it all out.
Trick #1 – Buttermilk brine
The first trick is soaking the wings in a buttermilk brine for about an hour. The lactic acid and salt will begin to denature the proteins in the skin and upper layers of meat without overdoing it or adding unwanted flavors like an vinegar or wine based marinade with a lower pH can do. With some protein already denatured, the muscle fibers will contract less during cooking, thus retaining more moisture.
Trick #2 – Coat with a mixture of Wondra® / potato starch / all purpose flour
For those unfamiliar with Wondra®, it is flour made by Gold Medal that has undergone a pregelatinization process which opens up hydrogen bonding sites to allow more water interaction. Essentially, this makes it a much more water soluble flour. The process also results in a significant reduction in protein/gluten content per volume compared to all-purpose flour. Combined with potato starch this allows for a coating that will cling well to the chicken and has lower gluten content which leads to a crispier coating.
Trick #3 – Add a bit of baking powder to the coating
Combined with the acidity of the buttermilk, baking powder will activate to form little bubbles of carbon dioxide in the coating which lightens the skin and makes room for more buffalo sauce to sink in.
Makes 20 pieces
10 Chicken Wings (tips removed, drumette and flat separated)
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1-1/2 tbsp Morton® kosher salt
1/2 cup Wondra® flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground dried thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Peanut Oil for frying – *see note on frying oil
In a large bowl mix the buttermilk and salt and place the cut chicken wings in it. Allow them to marinate for about 1 hour.
Preheat the frying oil to 375°
In another bowl combine Wondra®, potato starch, all-purpose flour, baking powder and spices. Whisk together to blend.
In batches of 6-7 pieces, remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk, dredge in the flour mixture making sure to coat well, and carefully place into the frying oil. Fry each batch of 6-7 wings for about 7 minutes. Remove from the oil onto a surface lined with paper towels. While frying the other batches, you can keep the cooked wings warm in a 200° oven.
Toss the wings in your favorite buffalo sauce and serve with celery and blue cheese dressing.
* Note on frying oil
Peanut oil is the best choice for this application as it is stable and maintains a relatively neutral flavor at 375°. For the peanut allergic, canola (rapeseed) oil is a good second choice, but with a lower smoke point is a little more prone to developing off flavors. Peanut oil has about 18% saturated fat (the really bad one) while canola has only 6%. For the health conscious… well, we’re about to slather them in hot sauce flavored butter, perhaps buffalo wings are not the most prudent choice.