Last year’s National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival healthy wing contest winner has a confession to make.
“I do like a good wing if it’s done right,” said George W. Schaeffer, “but after 15 years of selling Frank’s Hot Sauce and tasting a lot, a lot, a lot of chicken wings, I really don’t eat wings very often.”
Schaeffer, 72, subject of today’s What are you Eating? feature in WNY Refresh, is a member of the board of the WNY chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association.
Before he retired, he worked as a regional manager for Durkee Foods, which bought the Franks Tea and Spice Co.; that’s how he fell in love with Frank’s Hot Sauce. He later worked for Unilever, which also bought Franks and other portions of his company.
The Healthy Changes Every Wing Contest, sponsored by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of WNY, wasn’t Schaeffer’s first wing contest win. He won a similar contest sponsored 30 years ago by The Buffalo Evening News, going head-to-head against five other finalists in a taste-off at Fantasy Island.
In 1984, judges dipped his wings in a sour cream-blue cheese mix; last year, he used a blend of plain Greek yogurt with dry blue cheese crumbles.
His entire recipe is below. But first, who makes the best wings in Buffalo?
“It’s really a toss-up,” said Schaeffer, who lives in Snyder. “Everybody says the Anchor Bar but there’s a couple of places I think are really good. One is the Wellington Pub on Hertel Avenue. They make very good wings. Duff’s makes good wings, but some of the smaller places do, too.”
Last year and the year before, Schaeffer was among the judges who collectively picked Quaker Steak & Lube as best at the wing festival. This year's fest takes place today and Sunday at Coca-Cola Field. (For more info, click here.)
“The real key is, and I learned this from Dominic Bellissimo, who is the owner of the Anchor Bar, you have to dehydrate the wings,” Schaeffer said. “What they do is get the fresh wings in, split ‘em and take the tips off, then put ‘em in a bucket and drill holes in the bottom. Another bucket would capture the blood and water draining out, under refrigeration, so the skin got drier and when they were fried, they got nice and crisp.
“My recipe is pretty much the same thing. I put ‘em in the refrigerator."
What makes chicken wings unhealthy? “It’s the chicken fat and the deep fryer fat,” said Schaeffer, so he uses a gas or charcoal grill.
Healthy wings, Buffalo style
• 5 rounds and 5 flats ( 5 wings in total)
• Bay leaf, black peppercorn, clove of garlic
• 1 cup or so of Frank’s Hot Sauce
• 2 tablespoons Promise margarine
• Cucumber chunks, celery and carrot sticks
• ½ cup plain Chobani fat-free Greek yogurt with ½ cup dry crumbled blue cheese
• 1-2 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
• Pinch of cayenne pepper
1. In a dutch oven fill with water, add bay leaf, peppercorns and garlic – bring to a boil
2. Add wings and par boil until cooked through
3. In another sauce pan, add hot sauce and margarine
4. Bring to a low simmer
5. Drain parboiled wings and immerse in simmering hot sauce/margarine combination – coat well
6. Crisp wings up on a hot grill
7. Serve with yogurt dip and veggies