One of the difficult parts of being a football fan is the moment of realization that your team’s season is over. It may be over in the technical sense – as in: “mathematically eliminated.” That, I believe, would be the technical term. Or it may be over in the practical sense; that would be more of the “hell freezes over” sense of things. The net effect is the same: your team’s season is over. They’re playing out the string. Or, in extreme scenarios, they suck. One of the brilliant things about tailgating is that you don’t necessarily have to care. The team may be a dead man walking but you can still have a good time. The football game may be what brought you there originally but the tailgating is what makes it worthwhile when your team has not seen fit to do its part. Party on, Wayne!
With the Chargers at 5-7 in a season that started with great hope and a 4-1 record, the reasons for showing up for the game had more to do with sunk costs (a well recognized business fallacy), a love for the game itself, and the tailgate. With the Buffalo Bills coming in to town there was only one possible feature: Buffalo Hot Wings.
Buffalo wings is a dish that came to prominence courtesy of the NFL and the Buffalo Bills four consecutive appearances in the Super Bowl in the early 90s. But its roots go further back than that. The most common story — at least according to Teresa Bellisimo — has her, one of the proprietors of the Anchor Bar, creating the dish to feed her hungry son and his friends upon their late-night arrival home from College. It was, supposedly, then that she came up with the idea of deep frying chicken wings (normally thrown away or reserved for stock) and tossing them in cayenne hot sauce (and often dipping them in ranch or blue cheese dressing)…and thus the Buffalo chicken wing was born. Of course her son, Dominic Bellissimo, has a slightly different story. According to Dom, it was late on a Friday night in 1964 — a time when Roman Catholics still honored meatless Fridays. Dom was tending bar at the Anchor and asked his mother to make something special to pass around at the stroke of midnight for some heavy spending (and drinking) regulars. Teressa Bellissimo picked up some chicken wings—parts of a chicken that generally find their highest and best use in the stock pot…and thus the Buffalo chicken wing was born.
Then there is Frank Bellissimo’s version of the story. According to his account the invention of the Buffalo chicken wing came about because of a mistake: the delivery of some chicken wings instead of the backs and necks that were ordinarily used in making spaghetti sauce. Frank supposedly thought it a shame to use the wings for sauce and implored his wife to feature them somehow. She decided to make some hors d’oeuvres for the bar…and thus the Buffalo chicken wing was born.
Regardless, with the Buffalo Bills coming to town there was one rather obvious choice: Buffalo Hot Wings. Traditionally, the dish consists of a chicken wing section (drumette or flat) that is fried unbreaded and then coated in sauce. Classic Buffalo-style chicken wing sauce is composed of a vinegar-based cayenne pepper hot sauce and butter. Buffalo wings are traditionally served with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing.
The one basic problem with Buffalo Wings for a tailgate is that they are traditionally fried. That is not a technique well-suited to tailgate cookery. We decided to address that by going to chicken thighs rather than wings and to roasting (and re-heating on site) rather than frying. We also tried two different approaches to the Buffalo Hot Sauce.
For the Chicken Thighs
- 12 Chicken Thighs (skin on)
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup Worcestershire Sauce
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the Buffalo Hot Sauce
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce (such as Frank’s or Tabasco)
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
For the Ranch Dressing
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon dry dill
1. Marinate the Chicken Thighs. Combine the chicken thighs with the balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire Sauce and olive oil in a bowl or plastic container and place in the refrigerator to marinate.
2. Make the Sauce. Combine the hot sauce ingredients in the bowl of a high speed blender (such as a Vita-Prep) and process to combine.
3. Make the Ranch Dressing. Combine the dressing ingredients in the bowl of a high speed blender (such as a Vita-Prep) and process to combine. Refrigerate the dressing for at least half an hour.
4. Cook the Chicken Thighs. Arrange the thighs on a hotel sheet and place in an oven preheated to 375° Fahrenheit. Roast the thighs for about half an hour until nearly, but not completely, done. The juices of the thighs should run almost clear. If preparing at a tailgate, reheat the chicken thighs on the cooler portion of a grill or in a pan over a burner.
5. Prepare and Plate the Dish. Put the Buffalo Sauce in a large mixing bowl. Add the Chicken thighs and swirl to thoroughly coat the thighs. Place thighs on the plates and drizzle with the Ranch Dressing.