November 16, 2002
Homemade Buffalo Wings
posted by Nadia

If you haven't noticed already, one of my favorite artery-clogging takeout treats on nights when nobody feels like cooking is hot wings. You may refer to them as buffalo wings, but I find that these days really any wing-shaped object covered in sauce can be called a buffalo wing, which often leads to disastrous results. Imagine craving super-hot traditional deep-fried hot wings and getting instead a boneless wing-shaped piece of chicken covered in BBQ sauce. Trauma, I tell you.

My only gripe about hot wings is that they're often more expensive than I'd like them to be. The obvious solution would be to cook them at home, but I never really wanted to take on this task. With a few key exceptions, I am of the opinion that professional work should be left to professionals, who do it faster, better, cleaner than us regular folks. It takes a good butcher a couple of minutes to bone a duck better than I ever could; if I tried the same thing, it would take me an hour, I'd rip the damn thing to shreds, and end up with giblets all over my walls. I feel the same about deep-frying. Professional deep-fry places have perfectly controlled and well-maintained fry pits, and I'm quite convinced that deep-frying is like invasive surgery -- the more often you do it, the better and more consistent you are. So why should I muck about with pots full of oil when I can instead walk two blocks, place my order, and get a perfect order of wings ten minutes laters with no fuss or muss? Well, there's the cost (as mentioned before), and the fact that I'm stupid and love a challenge.

After doing some research, I found that some traditional-sounding hot wings recipes call for baking rather than frying. Impossible, I think. How can you ever get such a great crispy skin without gallons of hot fat? Well, the fact is, you can't. But you can get pretty goshdarn close. For homemade chicken wings that are about half the price of those at your local fry place and taste nearly as good (sauce flavor is in fact better, only texture is slightly deficient), do the following:

1. buy giant bag of frozen chicken wings for cheap at some discount place
2. if you're patient, defrost them. if not, just stick them in a hot oven. If they're frozen, you'll want to start lower (350, 375) and work up to 400 or 450. If you've been good and defrosted, you can jack it up high right away.
3. oh yeah, put them on a rack so all the fat can drain off to improve crispification.
4. bake till they're brown ... frozen ones may take over an hour.
5. in the meantime, melt half a stick of butter. and whisk in an equal amount (1/4 cup) of Frank's Original hot sauce. this is the simplest and absolute bestest wings sauce known to mankind. if you want it spicier, add more hot sauce than butter. mmm..
6. when wings are done, toss them with the sauce and serve. don't burn your fingers.

Molasses Spice Cookies
posted by Carl

The only reason I ever liked Starbucks was for their molasses spice cookies. They were big (5-6 inches across) and soft and chewy and very delicious. Every time I've tried to make these cookies I've been a bit disappointed. Sure, the taste was the same: it's hard to miss with molasses, cinnamon, ginger, clove, and nutmeg. Something is always lacking in other areas, however. This time there were a couple of problems. The recipe I used comes from the cookie book that we often use. I've used it before and it produced very tasty results.

First of all, the cookies came out way too thin. I put about a golf ball sized lump of dough out for each cookie but it spread out so much that the resulting cookie, while 4-5 inches wide, was only 1/4 inch tall. I was looking for something more like a full inch tall. With the cookies being so thin, I'm afraid that before too long they'll turn all crispy. We tend to eat these quite quickly, so this wouldn't be so much of a problem if I hadn't overcooked a batch. Nadia tells me that I shouldn't worry: any crispy ones can be sacrificed for ice cream sandwiches.

I'm a little suspicious of the recipe so I won't print it here until I'm sure of it. For one thing, the recipe claims to produce four dozen cookies when formed into "walnut sized" balls. Now granted I was trying to make bigger cookies and formed dough balls that were bigger than walnuts but I only got fifteen cookies out of the recipe. Even if the recipe meant merely the walnut meat and not the whole shell as one might think, it's hard to believe that it would make more than three times as many cookies. I don't mean to sound like a nitpicker, but it's really disappointing to run out of cookies two days after making them. Another question I had is regarding the use of baking soda as the sole leavening agent. Baking soda (unlike baking powder) needs an acid to activate its leavening powers. The only acid to speak of in the recipe in the molasses. At first, I didn't think molasses was acidic at all, but it turns out to have a pH of 5 (anything below 7 is acidic). By comparison, a similar recipe from the Joy of Cooking contains molasses as well as buttermilk, a stronger acid with a pH as low as 4. I'm hesitant to add buttermilk though since I don't want the dough to get too runny. However, I might try some baking powder in addition to the baking soda next time. To be fair, in the past, the cookies have gotten more lift than they did this time. It was at least partly my fault for letting the batter sit for ten minutes after I had mixed it.