How Do You Do Buffalo?
There is a tell tale sign every time I fall off the diet bandwagon. And it’s not that my suit feels tight, or that I have to pull extra hard to get my jeans to button.
Somehow I end up with a library of butters in the fridge.
Right now I have smoked butter from Chester’s, some salted organic butter, a bit of Pamplie, and some of Trader Joe’s cultured French butter. Four butters is clearly overkill. I know that. But dammit, each one serves a specific purpose.
Mrs. Fussy also reminds me that we just finished up a tub of grass fed buffalo milk butter, also from Trader Joe’s that I bought out of curiosity, but wouldn’t purchase again.
The Pamplie is reserved for challah on Friday nights. The Trader Joe’s butter is for anything that would benefit from a more assertive flavor. Of course you need a standard butter that is less assertive too. And the smoked butter is for finishing dishes, as I learned the hard way by cooking off all the smoke flavor as I fried pulled pork pierogies in my cast iron skillet.
When I had only cultured butter in the house, I made buffalo sauce out of the cultured butter. But usually, I want the hot sauce to do all the talking. Speaking of which, I was recently asked how I make my buffalo sauce, so today I’ll tell you. You know, since I’m not addicted to buffalo sauce at all.
Let me just put this out there right now. I’m not from around here. I consider my classic buffalo sauce to be serviceable. It scratches that perpetual itch. But I’m probably doing it wrong.
When I first found out that buffalo sauce was little more than Frank’s Red Hot and butter, my mind was blown. It was. And I know that may be hard to understand for people who grew up in a place where Frank’s Red Hot is available at most diners for dousing eggs and potatoes.
But in Miami, there was no Frank’s. And that enchanting flavor of buffalo wings was one of life’s great mysteries.
Do you know what happens when you combine Frank’s and butter? You get a separated sauce. The butter melts, the milk solids combine with the hot sauce, and you get a lot of butterfat floating on the top.
That’s not a sauce. That’s a mess.
Buffalo sauce is an emulsion. And I’m lazy. So I cheat. Which means I’ll melt butter, whisk in some Frank’s Red Hot, and add a pinch of mustard powder. Then I whisk some more. From there, it’s all a matter of taste. I like to deepen the hot pepper flavor, so I’ll add a couple shakes of Tabasco, and a dash of Crystal. Then I furiously whisk it all together into one creamy mass.
Even at this point, the sauce may be too buttery, in which case I’ll thin it down with a little white vinegar. To crank up the heat, I may add a bit of dried cayenne pepper.
Gentle heat. Plenty of whisking. A crapton of butter. Enough Frank’s until it gets the right color. A bit of mustard powder to encourage the emulsion. And adjust seasoning to taste.
Then, I’ll put it on anything. Lately it’s been tater tots. But I’ve been known to toss it with pasta, and use it as a dip for pizza. I’ll take leftover chicken and mash it into a bowl of the sauce, maybe with a little blue cheese dressing to make a spread for crackers. I have even dragged buffalo flavored pretzels through the buffalo wing sauce.
I am not proud. I love the stuff. Is it an addiction? Who am I to say?
Next Thursday, I’ll be going to 20 North Broadway with a crew from Yelp to eat more of the tavern’s wings, and I’m looking forward to that a lot. Those wings are delicious and untraditional. Maybe this visit I’ll be able to figure out what hot sauce the kitchen uses to make these beauties.
Until then, I’ve got plenty of butter to make it through my remaining stash of tots. Wish me luck.