A few weeks ago, I was digging into a plate of Buffalo wings at Bunny's in South Orange. We had gone there to watch a Steelers game with our neighbors, one of whom is from Pittsburgh. I'll admit I had my back to the TV and was far more interested in the food than the football. I don't care much about football, though I've spent most of my life living near and with people who do.
Bunny's deep fried Buffalo wings are really good, one of the restaurant's top sellers, along with the pizza and garlic salad. Sadly, I had to bolt those wings down and leave some behind to go pay a shiva call. I spent the next few days craving wings and decided I'd use Super Bowl XLVI as an excuse to make them– not that I was actually planning to watch all that much of the game.
My brother played football in high school and my younger son plays it now, but while my brother and father had their eyes glued to the TV on Sundays, my mother and I went to the ballet. Even now that I have two sons and three nephews who are avid Giants fans, I can't commit to sitting through a game. (On my birthday, my husband and sons went with my brother and his family to watch the Giants lose to the Redskins while my mother and I saw My Week with Marilyn.)
I love the Super Bowl commercials and the half-time show and the stories surrounding the teams: Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka's grandfather was assassinated while prime minister of Uganda, and for a while there was a rumor going around that Eli Manning and his wife were looking at a big house in town and moving in (they didn't.) But usually, I just glance at the headlines and hand the Sports section to my kids.
Given that the Giants have made it to the Super Bowl and everyone I know with a heartbeat plans to watch them (hopefully) beat the Patriots again, to not be fully invested in the game is a little shameful. To compensate for my lack of interest, I'll put some football-friendly food on the table – and not just because this column comes out on Sundays and that’s what most of you will be doing. Hopefully, the food will be good enough to distract everyone from the fact that I'm upstairs catching up on the first few episodes of the second season of Shameless.
Because I knew wings would go over well and because my craving for them hadn't been satisfied, I decided to track down a recipe to make for the Super Bowl. I tried to persuade Leslie "Bunny" Pogany, the third generation owner of Bunny's, to give me hers. She was cheerful and chatty but like any self-respecting proprietor, would only share a few key ingredients. (Pogany's grandmother, Amelia Cucciniello, had 11 children and started the restaurant in 1933, shortly after Prohibition ended. She was one of the first people in Essex County to get a liquor license.)
"They're fresh wings and we marinate them a little bit in fresh spices and after we fry them we toss them with some Def Con sauce," said Pogany. She added that Def Con is now the official hot sauce provider for the New Jersey Devils and that the founder, John Dilley, who hails from Maplewood, originally asked her to partner with him to sell the sauce but she said no. "Who the hell would know it would take off like that?" she laughed.
It was an interesting story but I still needed a recipe. I emailed my foodie friends and family to see if they had any wings and other crowd-pleasing, Game Day dishes to share. My neighbor, the Steelers' fan, said that her husband made wings all the time and used a "ton of butter."
My friend Julie, who lives in California and is a whiz at making low-fat, great food, told me to check out the Skinny Taste site. There was a a recipe for "Skinny Buffalo Wings," which called for broiling the wings, instead of deep frying them, and not using butter at all (see recipe below). I found a recipe for a relatively low-fat blue cheese dressing, and my friend Lolly told me about a dish she makes for her grown kids – sliced hot dogs cooked in mustard and black currant preserves. This may sound bizarre but the combination is wonderful – I was sneaking spoonfuls of the jelly-mustard mixture out of the pot all afternoon.
My mother-in-law emailed a recipe for mayonnaise-and-artichoke dip, the delicious, old fashioned kind you grew up eating. Then my sister-in-law Lorien, who lives in Berkeley and is not a football fan but knows how to cook for a crowd, sent a recipe for an artichoke frittata that she had made both for her son's first birthday party and a friend's potluck wedding. My younger son, who would be in Indianapolis if he could, wandered into the kitchen as I was taking out the ingredients for these dishes, and helped cooked them up.
The no-fat wings were excellent, as was the blue cheese dressing. (If you want a more traditional recipe for deep-fried Buffalo wings and blue cheese dressing, see the ones from Epicurious below.) The artichoke frittata was shockingly delicious – easy to prepare and impossible to ruin. I overcooked it, didn't use the right cheese (I substituted Parmesan for Asiago), poured it into a casserole dish that was too deep, and skipped the bread crumbs. Still, it was perfect. As Lorien said, "Can't lose with that much cheese."
Whether you are watching the Super Bowl today or avoiding it, let's hope the Giants bring home a win.
Lorien's Artichoke Frittata
One 16-ounce jar, marinated artichokes
1 bunch of green onions (scallions), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup bread crumbs (can omit)
¼ teaspoon salt and pepper
dash of Tabasco
½ pound grated cheese (mixture of Jack and Asiago)
½ cup grated Romano
Saute green onions, garlic and parsley in olive oil and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, pour out oil from the artichoke hearts into a bowl. Chop up the artichoke hearts. Beat the eggs and add in the bread crumbs, salt and pepper, Tabasco, and grated cheese. Add in artichoke hearts and greens and mix.
Grease a 8-inch dish and cook at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until lightly browned and eggs are set.
Lolly's Hot Dogs with Mustard and Black Currant Jam
Traditional buffalo wings are deep fried and made with lots of butter. These are broiled to reduce fat and calories and we eliminated the butter altogether. You can adjust the heat to your taste. Great for appetizers, lunch or dinner!
Servings: 9 • Serving Size: 2 chicken wings •
Calories: 204 • Fat: 5.4 g •Carbs: 2.3 g • Fiber: 0.6 g
3 pounds (about 18) chicken wings
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp Franks hot sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tbsp oregano
4 tsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp chili powder
salt and fresh pepper
2 celery stalks, sliced into strips
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into strips
In a large bowl combine chicken, 2 tbsp hot sauce, vinegar, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder salt and pepper. Mix well and let marinate for 30 minutes.
Place wings on a broiler rack and broil on low, about 8 inches from the flame for about 10-12 minutes on each side. (All ovens are different so be careful not to burn and make sure it is cooked before removing.)
While chicken cooks, heat the remaining hot sauce until warm. Toss the hot sauce with the chicken and arrange on a platter. Serve with celery and carrot strips and blue cheese dressing or dipping.
3 to 4 tablespoons hot sauce such as Frank's or Goya
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
In a bowl whisk together mayonnaise and yogurt and stir in blue cheese (dressing will not be smooth). Dressing may be made 8 hours ahead and chilled, covered Cut celery into thin sticks. Soak celery in a bowl of ice and cold water at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Cut off chicken wing tips, reserving for another use, and halve chicken wings at joint.
To grill wings: Preheat grill.
Pat wings dry. In a bowl rub 2 tablespoons oil onto wings and season with salt. Grill wings on an oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals until cooked through and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes on each side.
To deep-fry wings: In a large (5- to 6-quart) deep heavy kettle heat 6 cups oil until a deep-fat thermometer registers 380° F. Just before oil reaches 380°F, pat dry 6 or 7 wings. Carefully lower wings into oil and fry, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, golden, and crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon transfer wings to paper towels to drain. Pat dry and fry remaining wings in same manner, returning oil to 380°F between batches.
In a large skillet melt butter over moderately low heat and stir in hot sauce, vinegar, and salt to taste. Add grilled or fried wings and toss to coat.
Serve chicken wings warm or at room temperature with dressing and celery sticks.