Chicken wings go beyond the Buffalo
Chicken wings are hot right now and have become a staple on appetizer menus in pizzerias across the country. And, why not? They are a great complement to a robust pizza menu and the ingredients for a flavorful wing sauce may already be in your kitchen.
During Super Bowl XLVIII last year, the National Chicken Council (NCC) estimated that 1.25 billion wings were consumed during the championship weekend. Not all of those wings devoured were smothered in a hot and spicy Buffalo sauce. Barbecue, teriyaki and sweet and sour scored big with football fans, according to NCC’s research.
It’s time to look beyond that classic Buffalo sauce. There is a world of flavors waiting for you to experiment with to create original, unforgettable chicken wing sauces.
Seventy-five percent of the wings that Frato’s Pizza in Schaumburg, Illinois, sells are not Buffalo-style, according to chef Edward Musto. And Frato’s goes through a lot of wings — 15 to 20 percent of its overall sales come from chicken wings, president Michael Kudrna adds.
“Habanero Garlic and our new Sweet Pineapple Heat are currently our biggest sauces with Parmesan Garlic, Ghost Pepper BBQ and Inferno Mustard Sauce all tied behind that,” Musto says.
Garlic and spice are big with Frato’s demographic near Chicago, and have strong appeal nationwide, Musto says.
“Habanero Garlic is our flagship sauce. It’s hot, but not too hot, so a wider audience will try it,” Kudrna says.
Finding the right balance of heat has been the key for Frato’s. “To me, a good pepper is always needed and I love experimenting with them to find a good balance of heat and flavor,” Musto says. “The heat can be as hot as military-grade pepper spray, but it has to taste good or people will not enjoy it. If you get a strong flavor to work with the burn then it is a great wing.
“Sweet Pineapple Heat is a wing sauce that is extremely sweet and has a strong pineapple flavor, but also gives you the burn from one of the hottest peppers in the world. Sweet sauces, to me, seem to be on the rise. I’ve noticed sauces with fruits that have some heat to them are becoming quite popular.”
Frato’s makes all of its wing sauces in house. “We’ve found significant savings on wings and bigger margins from making our own unique sauce with handmade/handcut wings if you already have the labor,” Kudrna says.
Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge in Stowe, Vermont, sells 190 to 200 dozen wings a week and more than 50 percent of orders are not Buffalo sauced.
“We keep it simple,” Chef Jonathan Nelson says. Piecasso offers five wing sauces — Spicy Hot Buffalo, Teriyaki, Chipotle Barbecue, Spicy Brown Sugar Rub and Baby Rays BBQ. Limiting the sauces allows the pizzeria to sell $1 wings, he adds, while still having variety.
Nelson jazzes up premade sauces like barbecue to create flavor-packed wing sauces like its popular Chipotle barbecue. Be aware of the potency of the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, he cautions. To bring the spice level down, Nelson suggests removing the seeds, a method that can be used on other hot peppers, as well.
Dry rubs offer a ton of intense flavor to chicken wings. Piecasso’s Spicy Brown Sugar Rub infuses paprika, sugar, brown sugar and the pizzeria’s secret pizza spice packet that was designed specifically for the operation. The great thing about a rub, Nelson says, is that you can do whatever you want. Smoked salts and powdered ginger are trending.
Creative sauces can stretch much broader than chicken wings. Think salads, sandwiches and pizza. The versatility of your sauces are endless, from using a chipotle barbecue sauce on a barbecue chicken pizza to incorporating a teriyaki sauce into an Asian salad. Or, how about dressing a prosciutto panini with a Parmesan garlic sauce? Finding other applications for your wing sauces across you menu will excite your customers as well as help your bottom line.
Courtesy of Frato’s Pizza, Schaumburg, Illinois
5 pounds jumbo chicken wings
2 pounds all purpose flour
2 cups corn starch
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup black pepper
1/2 cup corn flour
6 whole large eggs
Enough oil to deep fry
Mild Garlic Wing Sauce
2 cups hot sauce
1/4 cup meted butter
1/2 cup fresh garlic chopped
Mix all dry ingredients together and place in two different bowls. Crack and beat all eggs in a third bowl. Dredge the chicken wings in flour mix, then the egg and then the flour mix again.Make sure the wings are completely covered.
Heat oil to 350 F and cook the chicken to 165 F.
In a frying pan, heat butter until melted on medium heat. Add the chopped garlic. (Do not brown the garlic.) Add in the hot sauce and mix well. Add the fried chicken wings and toss until completely coated in sauce.
Serve immediately while hot with bleu cheese or ranch dressing.
Courtesy of Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge, Stowe, Vermont
2 gallons barbecue sauce
1 8-ounce can of chipotle in adobo sauce
Use an immersion blender to mix peppers evenly through sauce.
Note: For a milder flavor, remove chipotle pepper seeds before blending.
Denise Greer is associate editor of Pizza Today