Super Bowl MVP party takes wings

Posted: Sunday, February 05, 2006

This Sunday’s Super Bowl party demands two pieces of kitchen equipment — a slow cooker and a deep fryer.

The slow cooker is for the quarterback of any Super Bowl party, the chili. Every other food item revolves around that big warm pot of beans, meat and spices. Recipes abound, and it seems everyone has his “secret” ingredient. My advice is to aim for flavor rather than heat.

The real MVP of football food, though, is Buffalo Chicken Wings. And that’s where the deep fryer comes in.

W hen I first moved to Florida, I was stunned to find that no one, nowhere sold wings.

It’s hard to imagine today. But this was back in 1979, when bars had only one TV — there wasn’t any ESPN in those dark ages, either.

Under the tutelage of an old girlfriend’s brother, I learned to make the wings Southern Style (with breading). My relatives from Buffalo scolded me when they heard of this atrocity.

I used my little Fry Daddy cooker and Pete’s Louisiana hot sauce brought in by relatives when they visited from the North. I served the wings to my pals Mike and Boyd, making Mike’s apartment the only wing joint in all of Jacksonville, Fla. Little did I know that I was sitting on a gold mine. Now wings have become such a sports bar staple that they can cost cooks more than chicken breasts.

Wings are the perfect warm-up snack before the game. I advise that you set up your deep fryer outside on the patio or in the driveway.

Hot oil is dangerous and very flammable, so you shouldn’t cook in the garage or too close to cars. And cooking your wings inside makes the house smell like Hooters for a week.

You can use a turkey fryer, but the cost of the oil will make these some pretty expensive wings. I prefer the smaller, electric deep fryer, so the wings can be done in smaller batches and not so much peanut oil is needed. If you have guests with fryers, set up two or three to keep the wings coming.

Preparing wings is simple. Wash the wings and then cut and dispose of the flipper (I hate wing places that are too lazy to cut off the flipper). Then cut the joint to separate the drumstick from the wing.

Pat dry. Never put damp food items in hot oil — it causes the hot oil to splatter violently.

Drop a small pinch of flour in the oil. If it immediately sizzles, the oil is ready. If it just floats, wait. The oil isn’t hot enough and will leave the wings very greasy.

When the oil is ready, put the wings in and let them cook until they float to the top. I like mine crispy, so I let them float for a minute or two before I remove them to drain on paper towels.

For the sauce, pour a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce into a pot with one tablespoon white wine vinegar and warm on the stovetop. Cut the heat with butter. The more butter you add, the milder the sauce.

Ladle some sauce into a plastic bowl with a lid, drop in a few wings, cover and shake. Serve with blue cheese, carrots and celery sticks and an ice-cold beer.

Enjoy, but remember to save some room for that chili when the game starts.

Dan Macdonald is a food columnist for the The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville.

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