The Buffalo Wing’s Impressive Signature On Fanciful Dishes

Time was, you knew where you could find Buffalo chicken wings. They’d be lurking in the freezer of almost every beer bar, just waiting to be dropped into the Frialator. Once they were fried, those wings—which were segmented at the joints into “flats” and “drumettes”—were flipped from the fry basket into a steel bowl. At that point, they’d be tossed in a combination of vinegary hot sauce and melted butter. Just before serving, the now fiery orange wings were piled onto a plate next to crisp sticks of celery and cool blue-cheese dip. Trust me on this one. This is a sinful dish—obviously dirty, and perfectly delicious.

The naughty pleasures of Buffalo chicken wings have not escaped the notice of several talented local chefs who are adapting the dish’s basic touchstones—acid, heat, dairy, and herbaceous celery—into fanciful variations. Here are some favorites:

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Primary’s chicken-thigh variant

Buffalo Chicken at Primary Food & Drink:

At Primary Food & Drink, MasterChef Graham Elliot’s Greenwich, Connecticut, venture, the kitchen offers an elegant riff on the dirty bar food that’s not out of place on tony Greenwich Avenue. Says Chef Merlin Verrier (Graham Elliot’s partner), “We use chicken thighs—which I firmly believe is the tastiest part of the chicken; we debone them, and then we form them into a nice cylindrical roulade. We salt and pepper the thighs on the inside, too, which is nice—any time you can season the internal part of a protein, it really helps out—and then we set that roulade in plastic wrap so it can hold the shape and no water can penetrate. We sous vide the roulade—cook it at about 185 degrees until it’s almost all the way cooked. Then, for service, we deep-fry the roulade so that its skin gets nice and crisp and the roulade is cooked all the way through. We douse it in a whole bunch of house-made hot sauce and then serve it over a slaw that is essentially a celebration of celery. In it, we have celery ribs, celery seed, celery root, celery leaf, and celery salt.” The dish is then served with crumbles of tangy Roquefort.

Polpettina’s variant, with chicken hearts

Matzoh-Crusted Buffalo-Style Fried Chicken Hearts at Polpettina (Larchmont):

Polpettina Larchmont’s newest hire, Chef Jimmy Merker, comes to Westchester via the renowned Mile End Deli, a New York City restaurant that celebrates the Jewish cuisine of Montreal. In this special appetizer, Merker replaces the usual light, floury dredge on Buffalo wings with a brawnier matzoh-meal crust, while swapping out the usual flats and drumettes for sticky, tender chicken hearts. Happily, Merker’s fiery nuggets are cooled on a bed of creamy blue cheese dip. The dish is garnished with fluffy, pale-green celery leaves and celery bits that contribute freshness and crunch.

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The Parlor’s version

Buffalo Bone Marrow at The Parlor:

The reason that Buffalo chicken wings are so successful is simply because they make culinary sense. Chicken wings offer crunch countered by creaminess, acid and heat countered by cooling dairy. Meanwhile, watery celery washes all that slicking oil from your palate. The impeccable cooking logic of Buffalo wings is followed in The Parlor’s Buffalo bone marrow. Here, the huge half-pipes of molten marrow are doused with tart/hot wing sauce; dotted with blue cheese; and served with a crisp, acidic slaw. What was its inspiration? “We spent so much time eating chicken wings and there’s a reason it works: it’s hot, it’s got the cheese, acid from the tabasco, and then there’s the fat. It all just makes sense,” says The Parlor’s Chef David DiBari. “So one day, we were trying to do something with chicken thighs and Buffalo chicken sauce, and I had this tray of marrow bones. I looked at them and I looked at the sauce and I thought, ‘I’m just going to give this a go.’ I made it, and I brought the dish out to my cooks. They all looked at me like I was a moron. But they tasted it and then looked at me again, saying [with jealousy], ‘I hate you.’” 

To pair with the Buffalo bones, DiBari skips celery for slaw. “We just do a simple salad. What would normally be your carrots and celery is fresh cabbage at The Parlor because we have it and it was in season when we invented the dish. We also use a little bit of shaved fennel, a carrot julienne, a little bit of quince vinegar, olive oil, and that’s it. So here you are with this rich, fatty bone marrow; the cheese; the hot sauce; and then this fresh little salad next to it. It’s amazing. It does what it’s got to do, which is break up the fat and the heat.”

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