I despise chain restaurants, particularly those of the Applebee’s/TGI Friday’s/Outback ilk. But they do keep popping up more and more, even in a recession (is it official yet?). They’re drawn primarily to malls, either indoor or outdoor, where they sit smugly across the way from a Barnes & Noble or Circuit City, licking their chops as trans-fat craving citizens stroll through the double-wide doors, wedge themselves into booths, and order deep fried, uber-sauced mystery proteins from the flair-laden waitress that just returned from digging at that zit in the middle of her forehead and is focused more on the beer pong game she’s gonna kick Jenna’s ass at that night than whether or not you want curly fries.
These places have as little to do with good cooking as British Petroleum has to do with good oil well management (oh yeah, getting all topical, that’s right). It’s all about our copious amounts of sugar and grease at those “neighborhood” eateries, and they churn out platter after platter of pseudo-food that keeps American palates stupid and American asses lumpy.
Even so, there’s one menu item at every one of these joints that’s able to transcend the thoughtless sauces, bad spices, and even the deep fryer in need of an oil change: chicken wings. Mr. Wing brings a quiet strength to every plate, accepting the fact that he’s probably been done wrong in the kitchen, yet confident that no matter how he’s been abused, his true greatness will shine through. And he’s almost always right.
Wings are a great balance of moist (unless the kitchen staff really screwed the pooch) white meat and skin, and each bite is as close to perfect as possible. Please don’t think that they only belong in the bar food or appetizer category (although they acquit themselves well in either role). Because wings work well for any meal, either as a main or a side, they’re awesome hot or cold, and travel well to your favorite wing-ingestion locations anywhere.
Wings are perfect, and I’ve got two great ways to take them way beyond what you get when by dropping them in a fryer and serving them with celery (why celery, why?) and a crap blue cheese sauce.
When I was a kid, my happiest culinary moments came when I walked into the kitchen to find my mother making the chicken wing recipe that had been passed to her by my grandmother, Muddie (no, I do not know where the name came from – in fact, no one knew how old she was either). Muddie’s wings have an orange-based sauce. They’re stupidly sticky and flavorful, and the meat falls off the bone (sometimes on the way to your mouth). It’s simple, delicious, and still makes me dizzy with happiness (or over-winging) when I eat my way through a pan.
For the citrus-haters out there, I’m giving up my non-buffalo spicy wing recipe. Why non-buffalo? Because Buffalo wings usually suck. Nothing against the city or anything, and the original incarnations may have been great, but nowadays it usually means wings with a ton of really hot sauce that lacks subtlety. So that’s not for me. Instead, these wings stay moist, have enough heat, and aren’t doused in generic hot sauce.
Either one of these can be massaged as you wish to meet your personal wing sauce requirements. As I think I’ve made clear, as long as you’re not an idiot about it, wings will take what you give them and return greatness. Just stay out of those crappy restaurants and you’ll be fine.
Read Muddie’s sweet orange chicken wing recipe.
Read the spicy non-Buffalo wing recipe.