My general approach to cooking kosher and vegetarian food is to focus on celebrating what is not restricted, as opposed to attempting to make a “fake” version of something. Veggie burgers, for example, often get this wrong. Don’t try to convince me I’m eating beef if what is on my burger bun is vegetarian. Rather, let the legumes and vegetables that came together to make this patty shine! Distract me from what is not really there by showing me what is, in all its glory.
This recipe, however, is an exception that rule. This is a recipe that fakes a famously non-kosher, meat-and-dairy-combining dish, and totally gets away with it. I almost cannot believe it. Buffalo hot wings, named for the city in New York in which they were first invented, are traditionally breaded, deep-fried, and coated in a rich and spicy mixture of hot sauce, butter, and cayenne pepper. They’re then served with a pot of creamy ranch or blue cheese dressing, and a pile of celery and carrot sticks (because, you know, if you’re going to eat a mountain of fried chicken and creamy dressing, you should probably have some vegetables too).
In this recipe, I make a few changes. The first is that I do not fry the wings, mostly because it is an annoying mess, and I find that baking them yields wings that are just as delicious. Secondly, I make my sauce with pareve butter or margarine to keep it kosher. Easy enough.
But the most important part—the thing that makes these kosher wings a believable swap for the traditional, non-kosher ones, is the creamy yet non-dairy ranch dressing they are served with. As I said before, I like to celebrate what is in a dish I’m eating as opposed to what is not. That logic would normally compel me to either skip the dressing, or even make something with a naturally dairy-free creamy component, like, say, avocado (note to self: an avocado-lime dressing would actually be delicious here too). But when I made this ranch dressing for a coleslaw I was taking to a meat potluck dinner, I was blown away by how very much it tasted like real buttermilk ranch.
The secret is in letting the ranch dressing sit in the refrigerator after you make it, to let the flavors really meld. When you first stir it together, it tastes fine—a bit mayonnaise-y, but pretty good. But give it at least an hour in the refrigerator (double points if you leave it in overnight, covered), and you get something that is very hard to distinguish from regular dairy ranch. In my opinion, it’s what makes these wings really shine.
Oh, and don’t skip the part where I suggest lining your baking sheets with foil before baking the wings. It will spare you much aggravation and elbow pain when it’s time to clean up.
Buffalo Chicken Wings with Non-Dairy Ranch
For the Buffalo sauce:
1 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce, such as Crystal’s or Tabasco (Frank’s contains dairy)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted margarine or vegan butter
1 tsp salt, or to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
For the wings:
5 lbs chicken wingettes and drumettes (look for wings that have already been separated at the joint, or ask your butcher to do it for you)
4 Tbsp vegetable, grapeseed, or canola oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 1/2 cups flour
For the ranch dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup nondairy/pareve sour cream (like Better Than Sour Cream)
3 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove fresh garlic, minced finely
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dried dill
3 ribs celery, cut into sticks
3 carrots, peeled, and cut into sticks
Line 2 baking sheets with foil and set aside.
Melt the pareve butter/margarine over low heat in a sauce pan and add the salt and hot sauce, whisking well to combine. Cook just until the butter has melted and whisk frequently. It’s important to keep the butter and sauce from separating. Taste for salt and heat, and if you like, add more cayenne.
Divide the wings and ¼ of the sauce between 2 gallon-size zip-top bags. Push as much air out of the bags as possible, move the wings around in the bag to ensure they are well-coated, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.
While the wings marinate, whisk the ranch dressing ingredients together in a mixing bowl until fully combined. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl or baking dish and stir well.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Remove the wings from the marinade and shake off any excess marinade from each one.
Working in batches, lightly dredge the wings in the flour mixture to coat.
Arrange the wing pieces skin-side-up on the prepared baking sheets, making sure to leave a little room between each piece.
Cook undisturbed for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, and until the wings release easily from the baking sheet. Using a pair of tongs or a spatula, turn the pieces over and return to the oven to bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until very crisp.
When the wings have finished cooking, remove from the oven.
Transfer the sauce into a baking dish or mixing bowl.
Working in batches, toss the cooked wings in the buffalo sauce until well-coated, then transfer to a platter.
Serve the wings immediately, with the vegetables and ranch dressing.
Pronounced: KOH-sher, Origin: Hebrew, adhering to kashrut, the traditional Jewish dietary laws.
Pronounced: PAHRV or pah-REV, Origin: Hebrew, an adjective to describe a food or dish that is neither meat nor dairy. (Kosher laws prohibit serving meat and dairy together.)