Do buffalos have wings?
Now We Know: The weekly column that answers the foodie questions you didn’t know you had
Buffalo wings. The recipe originated in Buffalo, New York. Photograph: Getty Images
There was a marvellous moment in the early noughties reality show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica where pop singer Jessica Simpson politely declines the offer of a bowl of Buffalo Wings. “No, thanks,” she says. “I don’t eat buffalo.” Her dinner dates are aghast. “Didn’t you ever find it weird that buffalos don’t have wings?” they ask her, incredulous. Poor, sweet Jessica.
She raises a fair point, though. Why are these spicy chicken wings called Buffalo Wings? It turns out it’s a geographical rather than a zoological conundrum; the origin of Buffalo Wings leads us back to Buffalo, New York. There are a few claims out there as to who was the first to douse un-breaded deep-fried wings in a signature hot sauce. But Teressa Bellissimo at The Anchor Bar seems to have a fairly good claim to being the first to fry up chicken wings, previously either discarded or used to make chicken stock, sometime in the mid-1960s.
So what exactly is in Buffalo Wing sauce? I put in a call to my friend Myles Lamberth, chef and owner of Shells Cafe in Strandhill, Sligo, and a known chicken-wing aficionado. “The most important question you have to ask yourself when it comes to wings” he says, “is are you the type of person who likes to eat with your hands? If your answer is yes, then wings are for you.” Myles loves the versatility of chicken wings, and his current favourite is a cornflake-crusted, deep-fried and roasted wing finished with a sweet barbecue sauce. If he’s looking for a healthier option, he’ll go for wings roasted in a teriyaki-style sauce.
Myles remains a fervent fan of the classic Buffalo style. The basic recipe is hot sauce bubbled up in a pan with maple syrup (a New England staple as well as a Canadian specialty), sugar and butter, and some add a splash of vinegar, too. And what’s Myles’ top tip for a crispy wing? After marinading the wings in a salty brine, lay them on a baking tray leaving space between the wings. Sprinkle the wings with a pinch of baking powder before roasting. Serve with a cooling blue-cheese sauce and a crunchy palate-cleanser of celery sticks.