Crispy Wings for March Madness

`While in Florida earlier this week, my husband and I had a quick dinner one night at a taco restaurant. We ate at the bar where two giant TV screens were broadcasting the current games kicking off March Madness. The place was packed and everyone seemed to be glancing at the matches while nibbling on spicy fare. It reminded me that the crispy wings with a Creole dipping sauce I created for a recent cooking class would be perfect to serve during this month of frenzied sports watching.

The chicken wings are marinated in Tabasco-scented buttermilk, then seasoned with both cayenne and black pepper before being coated with yellow cornmeal. Skillet fried until golden and crunchy, they are served with a classic rust-hued Creole sauce that is traditionally used for shrimp, but works equally well with chicken.

This sauce, which includes green onions, celery, paprika, ketchup, vinegar, and mustard, takes only minutes to whiz together in a processor or blender and can be put together two days ahead. It is mild by some heat lovers’ standards, but you can easily kick it up with extra Tabasco and cayenne. The spicy wings are best offered warm, but I noticed plenty of people grabbing seconds (that had cooled down) during my class. These wings are definite winners!


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Spicy Cornmeal Coated Chicken Wings with Creole Dipping Sauce

Creole Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup canola oil
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup coarsely chopped green onions (including 2 inches of the green stems)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped celery
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 drops hot pepper sauce such as Tabasco
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp ketchup
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar (cider vinegar works too)
2 tbsp horseradish mustard or Dijon mustard

1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tsp hot pepper sauce such as Tabasco
1 tsp kosher salt plus extra if needed
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Scant 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups yellow cornmeal plus more if needed
10 whole chicken wings (about 1 1/2 pounds)--wing tips removed and wings split at the joint into two pieces (See note.)
Canola oil for sautéing the chicken
1/4 cup green onions (including 4 inches of the green stems) sliced thinly on the diagonal
for garnish

1. For Creole Sauce: Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Taste and add extra drops of Tabasco and an extra pinch or two of cayenne, tasting as you add each addition, if you want a hotter, spicier taste. (Sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate). Makes about 1 cup.

2. For Wings: In a large shallow bowl or dish, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and Tabasco sauce until well blended. Combine the kosher salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper in small bowl. Spread the cornmeal on a dinner plate.

3. Add the split wings to the bowl of buttermilk, tossing to coat well. Set aside for 5 minutes. Remove and drain the wings in a strainer. Season them with the cayenne/black pepper mixture. Coat the wings in the cornmeal, shaking off any excess.

3. Add 1/4 inch canola oil to a large, heavy skillet with a lid (cast iron works particularly well) set over medium heat. When the oil is quite hot, add enough wings to fit comfortably in a single layer, making sure to leave space around each wing. Sauté, turning several times, until the coating is golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes.

4. Reduce the heat to low and place the lid on the skillet lightly ajar. Cook until the wings are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove wings to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Discard the drippings from the skillet, and when the pan is cool enough to handle, wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Repeat adding more oil to the pan, cooking the remaining wings the same way. If you prefer, you can use two skillets to cook all the wings at the same time.

4. Arrange the sauce in a bowl and place on a serving platter. Surround with the wings. Sprinkle with sliced green onions, and if you like with some extra salt. Serves 6.

Market note: Many supermarkets sell chicken wings with the tips removed and the wings split into two pieces at the joints. If you can’t find them split, ask the butcher to do this for you. (If you split them yourself, save the wing tips for making chicken stock.) Whole Foods air-chilled wings are particularly good in this recipe.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2015

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