As far as my grandmother was concerned, the duster was de rigueur. She had a closet full. As a paradox, there still hangs on my wall a sepia print photo of when she was a teenager. It was a turn of the century kind of print. She was what we are called in the Philippines as a “mestiza”. A mixture of Castilian blood with that of the indigenous. In the photo, she wore what looked like an early rendition of a flapper dress and a band on her head with a feather. There are stories told of she having been the most beautiful girl in her town.
However, the woman I remembered was one that wore a colorful cotton duster (moomoo dress) daily. A far cry from the fashionable girl in that photo, though to me, she was still as beautiful. In the winter months, she would simply layer warmer fabrics on top of the dusters.
It made sense as her days were filled with keeping the house in order, going to church, shopping for groceries and then cooking the most delicious food for a very big household, which at the height included my two elder cousins, my aunt, a kid she was babysitting, my mother, my father, my brother, and me. There would often be a straggler or two as well, often friends from the neighborhood. She always made enough for a small army.
One of her daily grocery stops was a butcher shop named, Victor’s. It no longer exists, but I remember accompanying her on some days and how lovely the interactions were between her and the butchers. She hardly spoke any legible English and the men behind the counter, dressed in their butcher whites, beautifully stained, also spoke with heavy accents that can barely be called English.
Thinking back, it was probably Barese or Napolitano. They understood each other as if they spoke the same language. At an early age, through these experiences, I knew that food transcended language barriers.
Those days, in the mid-‘70s, with most in the neighborhood being products of their 1950s parents, had a less than exciting approach to cooking and eating. So in a butchers shop such as Victor’s, many of what was considered scraps would basically go to waste.
My grandmother, coming from an impoverished country knew exactly what to do with these so-called scraps. Her butcher friends would always put some aside for her and add it to her bag as a gift along with all the other goodies she may have purchased that day.
Chicken Wings was grandma's favorite snacks to make
One of those throwaways, believe it or not, were chicken wings. Chicken wings were not ubiquitous yet and were considered a foreign part of the bird by many. Yes, hard to believe. One of our favorite snacks after a long day of school were her chicken wings. My grandmother’s preparation would be simple. She would brine the wings in a bath of white vinegar, salt, pepper, and crushed garlic. After a few hours, she would take the wings, dry them on a rack and when she felt the skin was dried enough, would fry them in oil in her well-seasoned wok, a few at a time over medium heat. Within minutes, there would be a mound brought to the table. We didn’t know of hot wings or Buffalo sauce in those days, but the flavor from being soaked in that brine was plenty.
Buffalo Chicken Wings were all the rage during my college days
By the time I got to college, Buffalo chicken wings were the rage and never to be given away for free at the butchers ever again. It has become a staple in most American Bars, especially in the Sports category. It’s almost hard to fathom a game without having some Buffalo Wings. The Buffalo-style wing is the perennial favorite.
In short, they’re fried crispy chicken wings smothered with a sauce made with hot sauce, butter, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt and served with bleu cheese dressing. Apparently, my grandmother wasn’t the only one that used this discarded part; because it’s said that this rendition was first made and served as far back as 1964 at a bar called, The Anchor, in Buffalo, New York.
The Buffalos and Super Bowl XXV
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Buffalos' football team, the Bills were consistently one of the premier teams in the NFL. In 1991 they were heavily favored over my beloved New York Giants to win Super Bowl XXV. Though we were rooting for the Giants on the cold January day, we were eating chicken wings at a sports bar, made famous by our rivals’ town.
The Giants overperformed all game, and with barely any time left on the clock, they clung to a 1-point lead. The Bills marched down the field and put themselves in a position to win the game with what is considered a routine field goal, especially for their field goal kicker, Scott Norwood, one of the best in the league. Being superstitious, and readying ourselves for a heartbreaking loss, we all decided to stop eating the wings hoping for a miraculous final result.
None of us can look at the screen. When the ball was snapped, we took a peek and listened to the commentator Al Michaels, proclaim, what is now famously called, “wide right”. The Buffalo Bills have missed the field goal and our New York Giants were Super Bowl Champions!
Thank you to the City of Buffalo for Spicy Chicken Wings
Ironically, due to the win, the owners of the bar were so happy that they decided to give all the patrons wings on the House. We thanked the City of Buffalo twice on that occasion. For missing an easy field goal and their fantastic Buffalo chicken wings.
Hot Chicken Wings MUST be crispy and spicy
My wife and daughter are also fans of wings. However, we all hate when the wings aren’t crispy enough. I told my wife about my grandmother’s recipe and how it was always crispy and if she would try replicating or at least arrive at the same bite. Getting older, and knowing that I can probably down about 20 pieces at a time, she thought it might be a good idea to come up with a healthier approach to one of my favorite foods. Especially because it’s time for the NFL (National Football League) playoffs and I am bound to have an obnoxious amount.
Here is Brenda’s Healthier Crispy Baked Buffalo Chicken Wing Recipe:
To make sure it's easy to make and the clean up is a breeze, use a nonstick cookie sheet, like Brenda did with this recipe.Print
Easy Crispy Baked Chicken Wings Recipe
Healthy Crispy Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings Recipe. This is a healthier version of the classic Buffalo Chicken Wings but since it's baked and not fried, it's better for you. It's just as delicious baked.
- Prep Time: 30 mins.
- Cook Time: 50 mins.
- Total Time: 1 hour + 20 mins.
- Yield: 3 1x
- Category: Chicken Wings
- Method: baked
- Cuisine: American
- Preheat Oven to 375 (baked versus fried)
- Bring the wings to room temperature
- With paper towels, pat parts until completely dry (this is to arrive at the crispiest finish)
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper
- Align wings on cookie sheets leaving enough room between pieces
- Bake for 1-hour
- While chicken is baking, melt .05 lb of butter along with 1-cup hot sauce in a saucepan. Limit to these two ingredients to limit sodium.
- Crumble .05 lb. of bleu cheese into 1-lb. of plain yogurt, squeeze half a lemon into the mix, and fold.
- When wings are finished cooking, toss a few pieces at a time in the saucepan.
- Serve with bleu cheese dressing, carrots, and celery.
- Serving Size: 3-4
Keywords: crispy chicken wings, healthy chicken wings, baked buffalo chicken wings
Essex Street Market to buy Fresh Chicken Wings
My Giants were not nearly in contention this season and the Bills have already lost in the first round of the playoffs, but I will be rooting none the less and eating my share of wings. This year, we found a good butcher that my grandmother would have appreciated at the Essex Street Market, though she would walk right out if she knew they were charging $3.99/lb. She'd also be proud of my wife's approach to the wings. If she were alive today, she may just buy her a couple of dusters.
Where to have Crispy Chicken Wings in New York City:
Molly's Pub. More Irish than Sports, but with the sawdust on the floor, a fireplace, and a few well-placed television, few places are more convivial. Their wings are excellent here. They dole out a good portion, crispy and a good sauce. Pair with a well-poured Guinness, and you'll be hooked on the wings and the place. If you would rather have them delivered to you during the games, our favorite place to get wings is Dan and John's Wings located in the heart of the East Village.
Where to have Buffalo Chicken Wings in Buffalo, NY:
It would be ridiculous to mention anywhere else other than the originator of the dish, the Anchor Bar.
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