Brined, Grilled Buffalo Wings

We’ve documented our love of Buffalo Wings in the past, not only as a unique bit of Americana but also as inspiration for our Chicken Burger.  Playing around with approaches over the Fourth of July holiday recently lead to a brined, grilled variation we fell in love with. Thought we’d share.

Boneless and Skinless Chicken “Wings”

Brine: 2 cups water, bring to a rapid boil, then reduce to simmer. Add 1/2 cup sea salt, 4 bay leaves, 4 cloves garlic (smashed, skin on), 8 whole peppercorns, 1 whole dried ancho chile (seeds removed). Remove from heat and add 2 cups of ice. Resulting brine should now be near room temperature and taste like sea water (adjust salt or water accordingly).

Prepare the Chicken: This can be made with traditional wings, which are the wing assembly taken apart at the joints, but we prefer to make these with boneless, skinless thighs, cut into three long strips. Place the 2 lbs prepared chicken into the brine and allow to marinate overnight.

Next day, prepare a grill and heat to 400 degrees. Remove chicken thighs from brine and dry with paper towel. In a large sealable plastic bag, place 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon garlic salt. Add chicken and shake to coat. Place chicken on grill and cook about 10 minutes per side, until golden brown. Now if you want to get fancy, throws these on a hot smoker at about 350 degrees over applewood chips for a bit longer.

Buffalo Wings

Remove chicken and place into oven proof pan. At this stage you can refrigerate until ready for use.

Traditional Sauce: 8 Tbs. of butter (one stick), melted then whisk to combine with 1/2 cup hot sauce

Barbecue Sauce: 1 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup molasses, 1/4 cup malt vinegar, 1 Tbs. smoked paprika, 1 Tbs. ancho chile powder, 1 Tbs. cracked black pepper, combine and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

Coat “wings” in sauce of choice in an oven-proof pan, and reheat at 350 degrees for 20 minutes then serve.

Buffalo Chicken – Buffalo, New York

We have added Buffalo, New York, to our list of cities for Great Lakes Cuisine and included two iconic locations: Anchor Bar and Charlie the Butcher. Anchor Bar is the original creator of Buffalo-style hot wings which is a fairly recent addition (last 50 years) to the regional culinary tradition. As a dish, it doesn’t have very deep roots – closer to in age to Chicago deep dish pizza than many of the culinary traditions we typically feature. The better example of the Great Lakes culinary tradition from Buffalo is Beef on Weck – a roast beef sandwich served on a Kummelweck roll, a hard roll with coarse sea salt and caraway seed on top.

Nevertheless, the Buffalo-style wing is an addictively tasty little morsel. The recent break-down by of top sources of wings listed three different restaurants from our list – Greenhouse Tavern, Roast, and Anchor Bar. here is how Chef Sawyer from Greenhouse Tavern describes his take:

“First they’re cured for 36 hours in a mix of salt, pepper, sugar, and chili flakes. Then they’re gently cooked in a combination of beef, chicken, and duck fat for 12 hours in an immersion circulator. A slow cooling in the fat further melts the skin and tenderizes the flesh, ensuring moist wings. Then we let the chicken wings air-dry for 24 hours. This allows the skin to get crispy without the flesh getting soggy, leaving a delicious tender juicy wing.”

As always, Chef Sawyer takes it to another level. Incredible. In honor of the Buffalo-style hot wing, we offer our take on a Buffalo Chicken Burger, featuring both a blue cheese spread and a ghost chili pepper dusted cheese, topped with a celery relish – all the elements of the traditional hot wings, typically served with celery sticks and a blue cheese dipping sauce. We use a number of selections from Renard’s Cheese based in Door County, WI, including their remarkable Ghost Chili Jack cheese and we highly recommend ordering these cheeses online, but we have given alternatives below for convenience.

Buffalo-Style Chicken Burger

For the Chicken Burger
2 lbs ground dark meat chicken
1 medium onion diced
1 Tbs. butter
1 cup crushed corn flakes
1 large egg
1 Tbs. dried herbs (oregano, thyme, basil)

1 cup Blue Cheese Spread from Renard’s Cheese
1 cup blue cheese crumbles blended with
½ cup cream cheese and
½ cup shredded cheddar

For the Celery Relish
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced pickled sweet peppers
½ cup diced pickled onion

8 hamburger buns
Butter for toasted buns
Garlic salt to taste

1 lb Ghost Chili Jack from Renard’s Cheese, sliced
1 lb Sriracha Cheddar from Renard’s Cheese, sliced
1 lb of Pepper Jack cheese, sliced
Frank’s Red Hot sauce to taste

Romaine lettuce

In a medium sauté pan over medium high heat, melt butter, add onions, and sauté until translucent. Allow to cool and then add to ground chicken in a large bowl. Add corn flakes, herbs, and egg to the bowl and mix with hands until well mixed. Form into burgers return to refrigerator to set at least 30 minutes.

Prepare grill while burgers chill. Blend all ingredients for celery relish. Toast buns, spread with butter and sprinkle with garlic salt. Set aside.

Place burgers on grill, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes per side, then top with blue cheese spread and sliced cheeses. When cheese has melted, serve on buns, topped with celery relish and lettuce.

Buffalo Chicken Burger


We enjoyed our Buffalo-style Chicken Burger with an ice-cold Pilsner from Hinterland Brewing and sweet potato fries. The Pilsner was a perfect complement and very refreshing between bites of the burger. The Ghost Chili Jack cheese creates a slow burn, that builds and builds. You should get your hands on some, and enjoy the heat.


Buffalo Hoppel Poppel

We’ve detailed our love for Hoppel Poppel before, as it lends itself so beautifully to creativity, innovation, and the use of leftovers. The traditional recipe in diners across Wisconsin includes the use of diced leftover potatoes, with onions, salami, and topped with eggs and cheese.  A stop by the  Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market offered a unique substitution for the salami: Lakeview Buffalo Farms – Buffalo Summer Sausage.

Buffalo Summer SausageThis sausage has the tang and depth of flavor of really high quality raw beef. When added to the skillet, the diced sausage becomes chewy/crispy bites of delicious, adding a layer of flavor to the potatoes as they caramelize. We top them here with a soft egg and melted white cheddar.

Buffalo Hoppel PoppelWe prepared the same dish on another day with a smaller dice of potatoes and sausage, and also added the Purple Haze carrots from the farmers market. Here the hash was molded in a a small tart pan then topped with the egg and cheese. The sweetness of the carrots were a nice complement to the saltiness of the sausage and cheese. We added a skillet-crisped slice of the buffalo summer sausage and a white cheddar crisp.

Buffalo Hoppel Poppel2

The dish could be even more successful by molding the hash to the tart pan and creating a depression for the egg.  The whole dish could then be baked and topped with the cheese in the final minutes and broiled.  The cheese oozing into the hash adds not only flavor, but a pleasant texture to the whole dish. Hoppel Poppel continues to be a favorite dish and a favorite way to play with new ingredients.