A Wish For Wings That Work
edited: Friday, August 05, 2005
By E D Detetcheverrie
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2004
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Ed Detetcheverrie has been questing for the best wings for years!
I cook, therefore I eat.
I also eat out quite a bit. Not that I'm made of money or anything, but my haphazard schedule doesn't always allow me to shop, let alone cook sometimes, thus eating out has become a bit of a pastime with the Lady Em and me. To save money and to avert future purchases of clothing in larger sizes, appetizers are often our entree. In this bountiful and richly wasteful land, America (God and The Food Network bless it!) mere appetizers are often large enough to feed two or more people as an entire meal! For instance, one of our favorite sports bar/eateries serves chicken nachos. Big deal. You order this appetizer, and soon thereafter you are presented with a platter large enough to hold an entire roast turkey with all the trimmings but containing instead enough hot fried nacho chips to feed several impoverished Mexican families at once, topped with the deboned carcasses of at least four whole chickens, two pounds of melted gooey cheese goodness plus three seperate plates which just hold the extra toppings! Minutes later, the startlingly slim, smiling waitress returns to pout when you gaze at her aghast after she asks if you're ready to place your actual dinner order yet!
But, nachos are another topic entirely, yes? Si? You know it...
Wings are the order of the day. Originally they were one of the cheapest parts of the bird you could buy, and now they can be one of the most expensive if you're making them at home. May I recommend the purchase of a bulk quantity for freezing? And then what do you do with them? Traditional Buffalo-style? Nay. Wings now have almost as many recipes for them as chili does on the Internet. I'm unaware of any cookbooks dedicated solely to them, but perhaps my dear aspiring author and wife Emma will produce one in the near future (hint, hint!). The last time I bought bulk wings, they ranged in size anywhere from Waitaminute, They Hafta Throw 'em Back When They're That Young, Don't They to Hey, Hey HEY! YEAH! Unfortunately, there were more pipsqueak wings than bulked-up mighty wings in the bag, though most seemed of average size. There were a few feathers, too, I recall. I guess that's what happens when you buy meats from a very cheap Mexican grocery that specializes in whole hog's heads, chicken feet (these haven't yet caught on in most restaurants I understand, but can be quite useful in Voodoo) and goat. Truthfully, I'm quite partial to goat, but that's yet another article and specialty cookbook, hmm?
The best wings I used to get were back in Maryland at a friend's Cajun/Irish bistro. They were the biggest, meatiest, most ulcer-aggravatingly delicious hot wings I'd ever had...and then they bought smaller ones. Damn. What a shame. Thus, I judge my quest for the best wings ever on size, meatiness, and overall flavor. Different people prefer different variations of the Buffalo-type wing, so what I prefer may not please you. However, while seeking the best-ever chicken wing appetizer I've learned there are so many different flavors now available that to limit myself strictly to "hot" wings would prevent me from exploring a whole world of these tasty tidbits split from the original New York recipe.
A small South American-style eatery in a strip mall serves what they call "rooster wings" which are small, but fairly meaty, tender, and fried without batter (my preference), then served in a light glaze of an almost sweet, spicy, smokiness I've not found anywhere else. Good wings, but not the best I've had. A chain called Rio Bravo used to serve wings 20 minutes from here. They were fall-off the bone good! (Side note: Meat cooked to the point it falls off the bone is a GOOD thing. I used to work in a restaurant where fussy old ladies would bitch & moan about improperly cooked meat falling off its bones. Then again, fussy old ladies tend to bitch & moan about anything, don't they?) They offered a cookbook for sale near the exit, so I grabbed a copy and quickly memorized the technique which produced such amazing tenderness. Turns out they used my own rib-cooking technique of cooking the meat wrapped securely in foil for the bulk of the cooking time, followed up by a quick turn or two over the grill flames. Very tasty, but small. Not breaded. Many Rio Bravo restaurants have since closed down, but if there's still one near you and you enjoy good wings, do try them! Another family-owned joint in a strip mall offers a heat index that goes as high as Hellacious. This level is not on the menu. You have to already know about it to ask about and order it. The wings are medium-sized, but who really cares? When a co-worker and I attempted to share a plate of them, he tried one and quit, then spent the rest of my nibbling time laughing at the shade of red my face was turning and the sweat running down it. The ones that didn't get eaten were left in the take-out styrofoam carton they'd arrived in, and good ol' Sidney promptly drew biohazard labels all over it so no one else would be tempted to commit suicide with them.
Hotter is not necessarily better. The hottest wings I ever tried to digest were made by myself one Halloween. I've heard of Nuclear, 911, Hellacious, and the like, but at least those are all EDIBLE! I do honestly happen to be near-ulcerative, though I seldom have problems with the condition (it's mostly stress-related, not diet-related). When the gut acts up, I lay off the wings for awhile. I should have done that for that particular Halloween. I was still in my make-em-myself experimenting stage, and I wanted 'em HOT, damnit! I ate three, wisely quit, drank some milk to try and quell the volcano beneath my esophagus that was screaming for a nice bland virgin to placate it, and felt pretty darn sick for the rest of the night. I call these hottest ever hot wings DISINFECTANT 'cause I'm pretty sure you could've used the sauce to wipe down a used operating theatre at any quality hospital, and it would've undoubtedly killed every known pathogen or hint of bacteria by touch if not by fume!
We moved from Maryland to Florida back in 2001 and discovered to our dismay that what most Floridians consider "hot" isn't hot at all unless you're talking about the general climate. I can't recall how many times some well-meaning waitress has brought a tray of so-called hot wings to our table and told us, "Whew! These wings are hot, boy! They're making my eyes water now!" Upon tasting these eye-stingingly hot wings, we have far more often than not discovered them considerably bland. A chain down here that claims to be famous for its hot wings and even sells T-shirts to those who wish to advertise that they survived an order of them has some of the smallest, blandest waste of bird appendages ever! Maybe you actually have to be geographically closer to Buffalo to know and appreciate a really hot wing...
JR's Floribbean Barbecue has some of the most flavorful wings ever. They smoke 'em! They're naked, of medium size, always served fresh and hot, and marinated in something just a little hot to the tongue, but mostly just flavorful all the way through the meat to the bone. 'course, they don't always have 'em available, which is a big strike against an otherwise outstanding eatery. I don't know why they don't always have them. We always want them, but sometimes the waitress shakes her head and says, "Oh...we don't have those today." In the meantime, we've been lucky enough to discover Gran'pa Johnson's Barbecue, which not only has medium-large sized, meaty, naked, smoked to the bone flavor, but also happens to be within two minutes of our cabin. Excellent, dude! Of course, there's always Hooters. I can't eat there. The wings are okay...but I look at all those beautiful, skinny girls serving them and just know not a one of 'em has ever tried them before! A co-worker thinks they do get to eat them sometimes, but they all order one single wing and split it with the whole shift so nobody gains any weight. The other minus with me is that they're breaded. The wings, not the girls. And if hot girls serving hot wings is your thing, I'll admit I prefer the wings of WingHouse, though they still aren't that hot to the palette. The wings, not the girls.
A great little place called Gators (only 300 places called Gators in Florida, I think, and most of 'em have nothing at all to do with each other) served a flavor called Brandon which included vinegar in the sauce. It was tangy, not hot, but quite flavorful. Back in Maryland, anywhere you go on the Eastern Shore you can get wonderful grilled roadside chickens seasoned solely with salt, pepper, vinegar, and whatever they neglected to clean off the grill last time they used it. So, vinegar brings out a "comfort-flavor" for me if you will. If you don't, I will, and I hope you won't mind. Gators closed after we'd eaten their wings maybe a dozen times. Not the same wings over and over again, of course. That would require some tricky manipulation of physics and time travel. If I was that knowledgeable and advanced, I wouldn't be sitting here with a mild headache typing this drivel this late at night, now would I? On New Year's Eve, we dined at another placed called Gators, interestingly enough, which had nothing to do with the Gators which closed down and did not offer Brandon wings. The wings we ate there were of the medium size and meatiness variety, nicely messy and flavorful, and quite obviously fried. They were worth the long drive to Treasure Island. And now, while I grow punchier as the night begins to ease back into morning once again, I'll tell you that the wings at one of our favorite eateries (in a strip mall) are best if you ask them to blend the garlic sauce with the teriyaki. We get them there with that flavor combo and at the place with the Trough-o'-Nachos I mentioned earlier. Garlic teriyaki has a wonderful sweet/hot flavor that warms the mouth, but leaves a spicy, yummy aftertaste that makes you crave another bite. After smoked & marinated and the elusive vinegar-based Buffalo, garlic teriyaki is definitely the way to go with wings, baby! And if you're lucky enough to find yourself just south of St. Augustine, may I highly recommend that you stop in to Bill Murray's Caddyshack restaurant and grab yourself a plate of their huge, naked, garlic wings. Magnifique! Tell 'em Eddie sent ya. They won't know who the hell you're talking about, but the next time I go there, I'll mention I'm Eddie, and maybe they'll give me a free plate of wings. I'll share 'em with ya...let's go now...I think we can get there by breakfast!
The quest goes on...