December 07, 2009

And now for something completely different...

We've spent the last few weeks critiquing buffalo wings made by various cooks in and around the greater NY area.  I kind of feel like a New York sports/talk radio guy, like Chris "Mad Dog" Russo.  You know, those irritating guys that flap their gums all morning about football when they've never touched an actual football in their lives.  

It's kind of the same for me.  I had never actually cooked a chicken wing before (even though I got a deep fryer for my wedding over 2 years ago that's still in the box), yet I've been giving my 2¢ about how professionals are doing their job.  I don't necessarily think you need to be a good cook to be a good eater, but it can't hurt.  And since I'm not totally lost in the kitchen I figured I'd try my hand at cooking my own wings.

Being that this was my first attempt, I decided to play it simple.  I'd go with the classic wing sauce mix (equal parts Frank's Red Hot + butter) as well as BBQ (store bought).  I figured it was more important to focus on the chicken.  Besides, if this hot sauce mixture is good enough for Anchor Bar in Buffalo then it's certainly good enough for me.  As for cooking method, this was the perfect opportunity to christen my deep fryer...but of course I didn't do it.  Instead, I opted for the dual cooking method of baking then grilling.  My goal was to get nice moist meat with crispy, even charred, skin - a la Mike's Place.

I started by brushing the wings with a light coat of vegetable oil and a pinch or two of salt and pepper.  I put them on a baking sheet and threw them in the oven at 350 until they started to get a nice golden brown color.  In the meantime, I was making the hot wing sauce in a frying pan on the range.  First I melted the butter, then added the Frank's sauce until I was happy with the color (I think I use color as a measuring stick way more than time or other actual measurements).  I took the wings out of the oven and brushed on a thin coat of the sauce, which I was hoping would burn just a little, then tossed them on the grill.  When I was happy with the look, I took them off and tossed half of them in hot sauce and the other half in BBQ sauce.  Then, time to chow down.

First, the important part, the meat.  I was half successful in my goal.  I got the meat perfectly moist and tender, but I wasn't happy with the skin.  I really wanted more crisp, but it wasn't there.  The sauce was tasty but basic.  I do wish it was a little thicker though, it ran off the wings a little.  The BBQ was what it was.  Just a store bought brand so not much to report.  I think I'd give myself a C+.  They were flavorful, tender wings but had plenty of room for improvement.  And I do plan to give it another go...I already bought the wings.  This time I think I'm going to try a more complex buffalo sauce.  For the second option, I'm going to ditch the BBQ and go for a Thai Peanut sauce - I think that could catch on!  Also, I have to finally take that deep fryer out of the box and do this right.

So, does anyone else have a recipe for buffalo wings that I can try out?  I know the other guys are into trying some recipes themselves and it could be fun to expand this blog into a place to get/give/trade recipes for wings and sauces.  I know Steve's dad has a kick-ass wing recipe.  He made them for Steve's surprise 30th Bday party, and they were good.  REALLY good.  Let's see if we can get him to give us a tutorial.

December 03, 2009

Croxley Ales

Croxley Ales
Ale House and Eatery
12 South Park Avenue
Rockville Centre, NY

Jeremy and I ventured out to Croxley's in Rockville Centre, NY a couple of weeks ago. I work in the area and Jeremy lives pretty close. Our buddy, and fellow wing enthusiast, Lee, met us there to take advantage of their $0.10 wing night special. Mondays and Wednesdays are wing nights and they choose a specific beer to be $4.00. This particular evening Hofbrau was the four dollar special and it was music of the 90's night (Lots of Soundgarden, 311, Pearl Jam, The Breeders, Alice In Chains, Sublime, Bush, Danzig and others... I felt like breaking out a flannel and a ratty old sweater).

We ordered up 30 Hot and 20 BBQ to start off the evening. We asked the bartender how hot the hot wings were and she said "not very hot." She did mention that she could bring an extra hot dipping sauce with the order, so we took her up on that offer.

As Jeremy and I waited for the wings, I noticed that they sold Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale. Jody had seen this at a beer distributor a few weeks back and had sent me a text message with a picture of it. Being huge fans of the Monty Python, I had to try it. It was a pretty good beer and went very well with the hot wings. Both Jeremy and Lee, when he got there, ordered them as well.

The BBQ wings were nothing special. They tasted like BBQ wings, but were a bit overcooked. Lee said they were "too tangy," and when Lee speaks, people listen. If you like BBQ wings, I am sure that you would enjoy them. They were not for me, but hey, someone somewhere may enjoy them. Lee said they were "too tangy."

The hot on the other hand were really good. They were cooked perfectly with the right amount of crisp on the outside and juicy-ness on the inside. The bartender was correct when she said they weren't hot but they had a very tasty flavor to the sauce. I am still searching for that wing that is perfectly hot and perfectly tasty. It seems that if a wing is hot, it does not have as much flavor and if they are flavorful, then they are usually not too hot. Croxley's fit the latter. The extra hot dipping sauce helped a lot, but still did not give them overpowering heat.

All in all, we were very impressed with Croxley's. The wings were good and inexpensive, the beer selection was very extensive and the atmosphere was pretty cool. The place was packed, everyone seemed to be having a good time and lots of wings were being ordered. It reminded me a little bit of Dempsey's in Bayside (our first review) because wing night there is always packed and people generally have a good time. The Wingmen are looking forward to making a return trip to Croxley's and the Rockville Centre area soon.