The idea behind this dip is a good one, I think. Chicken wings are messy to prepare and the demand for them has gotten to the point where only boneless, skinless chicken breasts are more expensive on a per pound basis so they no longer fit into the “finest cheapest” category. If we can avoid the mess and expense and create a dish that can be easily carried to the ubiquitous Super Bowl party without sacrificing any of the delicious attributes of chicken wings all the better. But I can’t take total claim for the idea. My friend, Ian, adapted a version from a recipe he found on Chowhound and I’ve tasted his version but don’t have his actual recipe so today I’m piecing together my own version.
But what are these “delicious attributes” of which I speak? Well, wings have a relatively intense chicken flavour because they are active, high-twitch muscles so we’ll have to use dark meat. Some recipes actually call for canned chicken. Yes, I too, vomited a little in my mouth when I read that there are people who eat canned chicken. Instead, I’ve opted for chicken leg quarters. Other recipes like ones mentioned in this Chowhound thread use whole chickens.
I know it’s not spicy enough and too vinegary for true chili heads but Frank’s Red Hot Sauce combined in a 50:50 ratio with melted butter makes the original Anchor Bar Buffalo wing sauce. Oh, I know, many claim that the original contains margarine and not butter but I don’t care. I really don’t get the compulsion that leads some to blast their taste buds with overpowering capsaicin (except if we consider that capsaicin triggers an endorphin rush similar to that associated with much harder drugs) and the vinegar helps cut the chicken fat that is already there and the butter that we are adding so Frank’s is fine with me. If you need more heat swap in the Extra Hot version or do as I did and add some cayenne at the end.
The accoutrements in the wings basket–carrots, celery and blue cheese dip–are all essential so we’ll have to find a way to integrate everything but the red-and-white checked waxed paper into this creation. If we construct a dip and use celery and carrot to eat it that seems like a half-measure because the idea here is that everything goes into one bowl so finely diced carrots and celery it is. To get the best flavour and avoid any stringiness I’m only using the hearts (whitest parts) of the celery stalk. This is a trick I picked up from the excellent shrimp quesadilla at the now-closed Rosedale location of MBCo.
For the blue cheese dip I’m using Cook’s Illustrated’s Rich and Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing recipe.
There is a final element that all other recipes I could find omit. I think one of the wing’s great attractions is that it has such a high ratio of skin to meat. The chicken goes on the bottom of this dip so if we just left the skin on it would lose its distinct crispness under all that blue cheese dressing. Fear not because with a little extra work the skin can be separated, made extra crispy and distributed as a garnish on top. After getting some excellent advice from MattKantor on Twitter I had considered making chicken skin bowls for the dip by laying the skin over the top of an inverted muffin tray and baking. At the eleventh hour I chickened out and decided this recipe was already over the top enough.
The finished dip tastes really delicious and is a great homage to the basket of chicken wings. If you’re really concerned with having a firmer texture for easier dipping do as some recipes do and find a way to sub cream cheese into the dressing. I prefer to go with the more authentic dressing texture and would rather just use a lighter hand when pouring it so that the finished dip is mostly chicken.
Buffalo Wings Chicken Dip
Blue cheese dressing recipe adapted from Cooksillustrated.com
- 3 chicken leg quarters, about 2.5 lbs.
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/3 cup plus 2 TB Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
- 2 TB canola or other neutral cooking oil
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 celery stalks, whitest parts only, very finely diced
- 3 carrots (about an equivalent amount to the celery), very finely diced
- 2 1/2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
- 3 TB buttermilk
- 3 TB sour cream
- 2 TB mayonnaise
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1/4 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp dry mustard
The butter needs to be softened in order for it to mix with the liquid hot sauce. If, like me, you forget to leave some butter out and have to rely on that dielectric kitchen monster remember that smaller chunks of butter soften more evenly than one big ones. Once the butter is softened use a fork to mix in a roughly equal amount of Frank’s and then throw this in the freezer for fifteen minutes so that it firms up.
paWe’re going to be pushing the hot sauce butter under the chicken skin so we first need an access point. I find that with leg quarters this is best accomplished by turning the pieces skin-side up with the leg pointing away from you. Start at the flat edge closest to your body and have the chicken cough while you gently work a finger between the skin and the meat. Once the skin is loosened push about half the butter mixture (divided equally amongst the three pieces of chicken) between the skin and meat. Put the chicken in the fridge for two to six hours to marinate. Reserve the rest of the butter mixture.
I find it is essential to take extra care making sure the celery and carrots are finely diced. Otherwise the vegetables’ texture overwhelms while their water content simultaneously dilutes flavour. Reserve the diced vegetables.
The blue cheese dressing recipe, borrowed from Cook’s Illustrated, calls for three tablespoons of buttermilk. Small amounts like these tend to be inconvenient (except, I guess for those who frequently make biscuits or drink buttermilk for breakfast) so the recipe offers the idea of substituting an equal amount of whole milk. An even better buttermilk substitute (that I’m pretty sure I have read about in other Cook’s Illustrated recipes) is to add a dash of lemon to milk and let it stand at room temperature for about an hour to create clabbered milk.
Mash the crumbled cheese into the buttermilk (or substitute) until the milk begins to thicken and breaks up a bit more. Add the other ingredients (sour cream, mayo, vinegar, sugar, garlic powder, and dried mustard) and stir to combine. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Heat two tablespoons of canola oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat for three minutes. When the oil begins to shimmer and is almost smoking add the chicken legs full-skin-side down. Cook for six or seven minutes before flipping and cooking for an additional five minutes. Place half of the remaining butter in a small roasting dish and the partly-cooked leg quarters on top. Smear the rest of the butter on the chicken and roast in the oven until the meat reaches 170°F–about twenty minutes.
Soon after the chicken comes out of the oven carefully remove the crisped skin from the meat and lay it flat on a plate. I found that an upturned teaspoon is the best tool for this job. Refrigerate the skin.
After the meat has cooled further, remove it from the bone and cut into bite-sized pieces. Combine the pieces with about one tablespoon of the buttery drippings from the roasting pan, the extra two tablespoons of Frank’s and the cayenne pepper.
Lay the pieces of chicken skin on your toaster oven’s well-greased broiler pan and place the pan in the toaster oven. I can’t stress enough how much careful attention matters at this point because toaster ovens are, I think, the most variable of all kitchen tools. For me, one cycle at the medium setting worked perfectly but yours’ will probably be different. You want the fat to bubble and the skin to crisp up without getting much darker. Use a knife to cut the skin into a crumble.
Layer the sauced chicken pieces into the bottom of a serving dish. For easy transport with style a glass tupperware dish like the one I received as a gift from good friends is absolutely ideal. Garnish with diced vegetables and the crumbled chicken skin just before serving on crackers, tortilla chips, or warm bread.