I’d hate to disparage buffalo wings, but I sometimes think they’ve unfairly cornered the market on chicken wings. Of course I enjoy them, but when you consider what makes a good buffalo wing experience, two-thirds of the equation (sauce and, well, MORE sauce for dipping), the chicken sometimes gets lost. Plus, if I’m going to take the time to make wings at home, I don’t want to undo all the hard work with a gallon of hot sauce.
My other bone to pick with buffalo wings is that their seemingly inflexible association with sports. Sure, it’s great manly food and is part of an historical sports bar experience, but have you ever tried to eat buffalo wings on your own couch while watching football? It’s stressful. Mostly because my home team is the Washington Redskins, but also because I’m trying hard not to re-paint our living room walls Buffalo Orange.
Why do we feel obligated to only eat wings during sporting events? Chicken wings deserve a shot at being a part of a nice balanced dinner plate. They’re always relegated to the appetizer menu or being part of a “basket” with French fries. Is it too much to put wings on a plate like a civilized human being? Is it too much to ask that wings be served with real side dishes besides fried potatoes? Is it too much to ask that we just show chicken wings a little respect for once?
Just so we’re clear, I AM still going to eat these guys with my hands. Fork-and-knifing it would be insane.
Enter, Sophisticated Chicken Wings. It’s as if fried chicken and a buffalo wing had a tuxedo-wearing baby. And even though that baby might forget to send a birthday card once in a while, he still appreciates his roots, he just wants a life that isn’t obsessively caked in breading or drowned in orange sauce.
There are tons of great fried chicken methods out there, but we like this one because it’s fairly easy and doesn’t require loooooooong overnight brine times. Also, it has fairly simple flavors. The wings aren’t caked in batter, so the skin has a chance to crisp up and work together with the flour dredge. (My stomach just growled after I typed “crisp up” so now I’m really wishing I saved a few leftovers for lunch…)
We don’t own a deep fryer, as we see it as a “gateway appliance” that would lead to other harder, unhealthy life choices (like fried candy bars and bacon weaving). So, partially out of necessity we pan-fried the wings. Sure, we could’ve still found a way to deep fry them, but there’s a comfort in seeing pan-fried chicken. You have to put some effort and a little more time into frying them, so by the time they’re cooked, you feel like you’ve been building up to this moment for decades. (Seriously should have saved one for lunch…) These have a nice kick from the cayenne without being what I would consider truly hot. If I were to make a nice dipping sauce with cooling properties (think Dill Ranch), I’d probably double the cayenne.
Also after having eaten some of the best fried chicken of my life at Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco, I really like the idea of adding fresh herbs. Since we have lots of Thyme overflowing on our windowsill, it was a pretty easy choice this time. (As a side note, I’m not joking about Wayfare having the best fried chicken of my life. We ate there on our wedding night and there’s a picture of the restaurant in our house as the first thing you see when you walk in. The chicken clearly made an impact.)
But enough about herbs and weddings…I won’t delay the inevitable any longer…
I give you, Sophisticated Fried Chicken Wings:
Weird looking chicken wings, right? That’s because those are portobello mushrooms.
Okay, so I’ve been watching Game of Thrones, so I wanted to throw in a twist (but one that didn’t involve murder). Which brings me to the last reason why these are sophisticated: You can swap out the chicken for portobello mushrooms for a vegan option. Even my vegetarian wife misses fried chicken, so this helps ease those cravings a bit.
As a carnivore, there is nothing that can replace the crunchy fried chicken skin, BUT these mushrooms are still crunchy, tasty, delicious.
But seriously, here is the finished chicken all sophisticated and on a plate with grown-up sides like cauliflower mash and asparagus. Chicken wings and asparagus?!
Recipe: Sophisticated Chicken Wings
- 12 Chicken Wings OR 4 Portobello Mushroom Caps
- 1/2 Cup Flour
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
- 1 tsp Fresh Thyme
- 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
- Vegetable Oil (for frying)
1. Combine the flour, salt, cayenne, onion powder, thyme, and black pepper in either a plastic Ziploc bag or bowl with a lid. Now, this is important: Taste it. Do you like it? If so, proceed to the next step. If you prefer more spice or salt, then keeping adding more until you’re happy.
2. If you’re using mushrooms, clean them up softly with a damp cloth. Tina likes to trim them so they’re in squares and/or triangles, and you get a better crust-to-mushroom ratio versus keeping them whole. (Don’t throw away the trimmings! You can still use them even though they’re not “pretty.” ) Next, score the mushroom squares like you would a fish to allow the flour to get some penetration.
3. Toss all of your wings or mushroom caps into the flour mixture. Get your hands dirty and massage the flour into all the nooks and crannies.
4. Seal up your bag or bowl, place in a refrigerator and WAIT at least an hour. There’s a science behind why this helps the crust form (osmosis or mitosis or something). If you fry right away, some of the flour falls off and the crust doesn’t reach its full potential. You could probably let sit overnight and that wouldn’t hurt, but who wants to wait 12 hours for fried chicken?
5. The last step is to fry those suckers up. Fill your favorite frying pan with enough oil so that the wings/shrooms will be about halfway submerged in the oil. Heat on a medium flame and once hot add said wings/shrooms. Fry until the underside is golden brown and flip; it should be about 10-12 minutes per side for the wings and 3-5 minutes per side for the mushrooms. The mushrooms can quickly turn from “almost done” to “too late,” so keep a close eye on them.