Everyone Likes It Hot
Editors’ Note: Please welcome new ES contributor JR Moreau. The talented blogger behind Not So Literal is branching out to share his eating experiences with us.
This past summer I moved to Boulder, Colorado, home of the Colorado University Buffs (Buffaloes). This is destiny because I do in fact love all things Buffalo. Buffalo meat is tasty, Buffalo sauce is yummy, and Buffalo, New York is… kinda cool.
But as I sat and contemplated the awesomeness of anything prefixed by the word “Buffalo” I suddenly felt sad. I felt remorseful that I could enjoy home-made hot wings made out of chicken and other carnivorous materials and my vegan and vegetarian friends couldn’t share the experience. So I slept on it, ate hot wings at restaurants with friends, drank beers and put as much of my spare brainpower into how I could create an imitation hot-wing experience that would do justice to what I love about hot wings. It came to me on a mountaintop, in the middle of a thunderstorm, with Beethoven’s 9th blaring….
I was going to make hot wings for my friend’s weekly potluck gathering 2-ways. Meat-friendly and vegan-friendly! Both from scratch too. Here’s how I did it (it wasn’t that hard really).
The first thing to get started on is the chicken. You’re going to want to pre-heat the oven to about 450 degrees as you lay out your wings and drumsticks next to one another on a greased baking sheet, being sure to leave some space between them. Season the chicken however you want, keeping in mind they’re going to be swimming in hot sauce in about an hour. I like to use standard salt and pepper with maybe an extra dash or two of cayenne pepper to give the meat a little kick.
After you throw your chicken into the oven, turn your attention to the tofu. Open up the package, drain out the water and remove the whole block of tofu. Take two of your heavier plates and place a paper towel on top of one. Lay the tofu on top of the paper towel, then lay another paper towel over the tofu block. Take your other plate and lay it on top and let it sit for a bit. At least 10 minutes. This is going to remove some of the water stored in the tofu and help it fry and crisp up better. As the tofu releases some of it’s moisture, you can get your sauces ready.
Using two medium saucepans, pour 2 cups of hot sauce in and turn the heat to medium-low. The vegan hot wing sauce is going to have hot sauce and Smart Balance and the original hot wings sauce will consist of hot sauce and real butter. For optional extra flavor and texture, I added a cup of finely diced onions to both pots. Let the Smart Balance and butter melt completely in both pots and simmer for 10 minutes to thicken up a bit.
For my original hot wing recipe, I opted to use pre-made blue cheese salad dressing because I was running short on time and didn’t feel like buying a $15.00 hunk of London Fog and mashing it into dipping sauce (although in retrospect, it would have been glorious). For the vegan dipping sauce, I used a mayonnaise substitute called “Nayonaise.” I added three tablespoons of rice vinegar, one tablespoon of garlic powder, one of onion powder, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a half tablespoon of black pepper and the juice of half a lemon.
After about 50 minutes, your chicken should start peeling away from the bone and be very crispy. When it looks like they’re about done, take your dried tofu and cut it into one-inch diameter strips while you heat some vegetable or olive oil over medium high heat. Place the strips in and fry them to a golden brown on all four sides, about 2 minutes each side.
The key to a good coating of hot wing sauce is that you toss the chicken (or not chicken) when it’s as hot as possible, like right out of the oven or frying pan. Toss them around a few times (using tongs to put them in and take them out), shake off the excess sauce and send them off to the crowd to devour.