Buffalo wings were invented on March 4, 1964 when a bartender and his friends got hungry. His name was Dominic Bellissimo and he worked at the now-iconic Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. Bellissimo asked his mother, Teressa, to make a snack. So she deep-fried chicken pieces, usually reserved for stock, then tossed them in a “secret sauce.” That’s how Anchor Bar tells it, anyway. America has been Buffalo wing-obsessed ever since.
But there’s one part of the formula that isn’t crucial: the chicken. I know, I know. Just hear me out. If a food is: fried, crispy, salty; dipped in a spicy, vinegary, buttery sauce; dunked in creamy, tangy dip—of course it’s going to be good. That’s the beauty of the Buffalo treatment. You can apply it toward whatever you have around—just like Teressa did.
Well, almost whatever. I touched base with food writer Arthur Bovino, who is working on the book, Buffalo Everything, slated for May 2018. The title, he wrote me, speaks for itself:
“I've Buffalo-ized everything.” Really, everything, and it doesn’t all work. “Trust me when I say you don't want to line your tube pan with blue cheese dressing when making monkey bread.”
We trust you! To keep Buffalo wing adaptations in the same spirit as the original—so,
munchies snack fare—follow the template: fried, saucy, dunkable. From there, the combinations are endless. So, how do you pick? Here are some starting points:
Tastes Like Chicken
Chicken wings are minimalist—dredged in flour, dropped in hot oil. You could do that, or you could dip in a buttermilk (optional: and egg) bath, then dredge in a flour (optional: and cornmeal) mixture for extra tang and texture. Chicken wings are usually deep-fried (think deep end of pool, where you become completely submerged) but depending on what you pick, you may only need a shallow-fry (other side of pool, where you can sit in the water but need someone to flip you with a pair of tongs to get soaked). Possibilities:
- Chicken fingers, steak nuggets, or meatballs
- Oysters, shell-on shrimp, or scallops
- Artichoke hearts, cauliflower, or broccoli
- Hushpuppies or tater tots
Classic Buffalo sauce has two ingredients: hot sauce and melted butter. The chosen hot sauce: Frank’s RedHot, which prides itself on being “the secret ingredient in the original Buffalo wings.” It’s cayenne-based with distilled vinegar, water, salt, and garlic powder. Less of a kick to the back of the throat like, say, Tabasco, more like that friend who “affectionately” punches you in the arm anytime you say something funny. Bovino recommends a 3 to 2 hot sauce to butter ratio. I go a little spunkier with 2 to 1. Between us, you can do no wrong. Play around with the ratio. Even play around with the hot sauce—try smoky chipotle, blended harissa, or just whatever you have around.
Take a Dip
This is where things get interesting. You won’t find many people who say Buffalo wings shouldn’t be made with chicken wings or Buffalo sauce. But, you will find a bit of a controversy when it comes to dunking: funky blue cheese versus herby ranch. I’ll go out on a limb here and say there are probably more blue cheese fans out there (am I wrong? Comments section is below, friends!). Ranch makes a good point, though. It’s creamy and cooling. Which are the only requirements for your Buffalo sidekick. Some possibilities:
Where to start with all these options? We’ll go first. We dreamed up two, not-wing, just happen to be vegetarian Buffalo recipes to face-off. (A snackdown!) Teressa would be proud. But, what do you think? Follow our Instagram stories leading up to game day and vote on your favorite.
No one claims Buffalo cauliflower like Anchor Bar claims Buffalo wings. This adaptation started popping up on recipe sites and restaurant menus around the same time that cauliflower started popping up, well, everywhere. Sometimes, it disguises itself as rice. Other times, chicken! Here’s how we did it:
Chicken-fried. It doesn’t get much more simple than this—a buttermilk-and-flour dredge. Season both with a big pinch of salt and, if you please, a little cayenne. Break the cauliflower into chicken wing-sized florets—dunk in the liquid, tumble in the dry, then carefully drop into fry oil. A shallow-fry works well here.
Buffalo sauce. 2 to 1 hot sauce to butter ratio. For half a head of cauliflower, starting with ½ cup hot sauce does the trick—but scale up or down depending on how spicy and saucy you like it.
Blue cheese dressing. This cauliflower is halfway to chicken, so let’s keep it classic. This recipe is a great starting point.
Who doesn’t love frickles? (You know, fried pickles.) These materialize as chunky chips or, less commonly, long spears. (Has anyone ever seen a whole fried pickle? Is that a thing?) For our purposes, chips work best. Which type is up to you—sweet bread and butters or tart sours. I like the former, to counter the cayenne.
Cornmeal-fried. Another defining feature of southern frickles: adding cornmeal into the dredge. Cornmeal’s coarse grind creates a sturdy, crunchy crust—just right for petite pickle chips.
Buffalo sauce. Same ratio as above. The hot sauce is an easy way to mix it up. Try Louisiana-style Crystal. Like Frank’s, it also contains aged red cayennes, distilled vinegar, and salt. But, that’s it—no garlic powder. To the point, it’s totally addictive.
Ranch dressing. When I lived in North Carolina, I met many a frickle on a bar menu. They were always served with a sassy but creamy sauce—so, ground spices and fresh herbs are all welcome. Comeback sauce is a Mississippi-based cousin to Louisianan remoulade; both great options. I opted for ranch, which offers similar spunk—and has already established itself with Buffalo fans.
Which one would you serve at your game day party? Tell us in the comments below!