… what grows together goes together.
My husband is from Rochester, NY, and I’m pretty sure that means it is required by upstate NY law a baby’s first food must be Buffalo Chicken Wings. Well, at least by the time they get teeth. Or at a minimum parents are required to douse their child’s rice cereal with Frank’s Red Hot.
Either way, Buffalo Chicken Wings are an upstate NY original and an American pub staple. And by buffalo I’m not referring to the animal, but instead Buffalo, NY, the city where these indulgent treats originated at Anchor Bar.
In fact, the very first restaurant hubby and I ate at following our wedding was Anchor Bar, so I could get my first taste of the food that became a national favorite. Not kidding.
And as much as we love to go eat wings here in Portland (Fire on the Mountain baby!), we also learned this year how to perfect them at home… on… the…. (wait for it)… smoker!
Why yes, that would be hubby, smoking wings in the snow on New Year’s Day.
We’ve spent the last ten months experimenting, lots of trial and error, and creating amazing “why didn’t we make 500 of these” wings. We finally figured out a few secrets to making the perfect, smoky, juicy, crispy, and mouth-watering wing.
And yes, there’s a wine for that, which just so happens to also be from upstate New York.
Did I mention these wings are a much “lighter” alternative to the deep fried restaurant versions? Plus they’re smoked, which makes them so much more flavorful!
- 12 - 18 Chicken Wings (or “Party Wings” as you’ll sometimes see them called)
- Olive Oil, to coat
- Salt and pepper, to coat
- 1 cup Frank’s Red Hot hot sauce (it's gotta be Franks!)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- This success of this recipe is ALL in the technique. Well, that, and the Frank’s. But seriously pay attention to the technique!
- Rinse wings in cold water and pat dry (this is a good habit to get into when cooking any kind of poultry).
- Place a drying rack over a cookie sheet and place wings on top.
- Place into a refrigerator, uncovered, for up to three hours to dehydrate. ***This is crucial to the end texture of the chicken. This process will prevent the wings steaming when you cook it, which creates a rubbery texture. We’re going for crispy here, trying to emulate the texture of fried wings.
- When ready to cook, preheat smoker to 225 degrees.
- Toss wings in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper (approx 1 tablespoon each).
- Put wings on the smoker for one hour.
- Then increase heat to 350 and let wings cook another 30 minutes. Conditions can change which can lead to more time. The key is to not pull the wings off until you get that crispy outside. You can tell by touch. Feel for the crispiness!!!
- Remove from smoker and toss immediately with sauce and favorite dipper (hubby requires blue cheese, but I’m a ranch fan).
- Bring butter and sauce to simmer (not boil!!) and remove from heat. Place into a bowl. *see notes
The first, most important step, is cleaning, patting dry, and then dehydrating your wings in the fridge. If you don’t do this you run the risk of your wings steaming in the smoker, creating a rubbery skin. Who wants wings with rubbery skin?! I see very few recipes recommend this, and you know what? Those recipes result in rubbery skin. Gross.
If, when they are fully cooked, you don’t see a nice char or crispy outside, feel free to adjust the temperature on your smoker. I like to jack up the heat for a few minutes to give them a burst of heat helping to create a crispy outside.
The sauce. Watch the temperature you melt the butter at. Slowly simmer this and don’t melt at a high heat. We’ve made this mistake before. If you melt the butter at too high a heat, and then add the Frank’s, the result is oily and the Frank’s does not integrate with the sauce. Instead the hot sauce separates from the butter. It’s a sad oily mess, and the sauce doesn’t stick to the chicken. No bueno.
In the wine and food pairing world, they say “what grows together goes together”. Well my two favorite things from Upstate New York (besides my husbands family!) are the wings, and the wine. And yes, they actually do go quite well together.
Look for semi-dry Rieslings from the Finger Lakes region. They have lovely crisp juicy apple, peach, and apricot aromas, lively acidity, and a cooling sweetness that will refresh and cool your palate from these wings.
People are always recommending sweeter wines (like sweet Rieslings and Gewürztraminer) with Thai food. And while, yes, that works, the whole idea is that they pair well with spicy food in general (not just Thai). I say pair them with Buffalo Wings.
Why is this so?
Because these wines have a small amount of residual sugar in them, leaving a slightly sweet and refreshing feeling that cools the palate. When your mouth is hot from spicy food, what do you want? Something to cool it. It’s the same thing that happens when you take a sip of an ice-cold beer after a bite of something spicy, which is why beer is the typical drink of choice for most wing enthusiasts.
Just to note, the wings from this recipe aren’t super spicy. I’m not into the crazy ear-bleeding eye watering spicy wings. Instead I prefer them on the “medium” side. So the touch of sweetness from the wine, combined with its fresh juicy aromatics and flavors, will perfectly cool your palate from each slightly spicy acidic bite of these smoky, juicy, and crispy delicious wings.
I recently tried this recipe with three different Rieslings from the Finger Lakes Wine Region and the results were pretty darn spot on. The first two wines were lacking in the acidity that I love and appreciate from the best wines of this region, but it incidentally made them good candidates for the dish. They had a softer mouthfeel (not crisp or acidic), which enhanced the sweetness and fruit in the wine, cooling the palate from each spicy bite of wings. I didn’t love the wines on their own, but with food they shined.
My favorite of the lineup was the Lakewood Vineyards Dry Riesling. It is one I’d happily drink on its own, since it had the necessary acidity to balance out the sweetness and fruit plus it was strong enough to stand up to the wings. Yum.
- 2012 Lucas Vineyards Semi-Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes
- 2012 Knapp Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes
- 2012 Lakewood Vineyards Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes (my favorite of the tasting and a great value at around $13)
To me, this meal is one of my favorite ways to honor and embrace where my hubby came from while adding our own personal twist. Geez, all this talk of upstate New York and family is making me want to plan a return visit!
What’s your favorite beverage to drink with wings? And more importantly, where is your favorite place to eat wings throughout the country?
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