Lisa Abraham

What did we eat at Super Bowl parties before wings?

Believe it or not, there was a time, not too awfully long ago, when the chicken wing was relegated to the stock pot. Poor folks bought them because they were cheap eats.

Then a barmaid in Buffalo decided to fry some up with butter and hot sauce, and the world was forever changed.

Now it wouldn’t be game day without them.

According to the National Chicken Council’s 2013 Wing Report, Americans will consume more than 1.23 billion wing portions on Super Bowl Sunday.

That’s down about 1 percent, or 12.3 million wings, compared with last year, due mostly to the fact that chicken producers raised fewer birds in 2012 because of rising corn and feed prices.

Even with the small decline, you’ve got to admire this humble appendage that has scores of restaurant chains, books and hot sauces devoted to it.

Debbie Moose, a food writer from Raleigh, N.C., is author of one of those books. Her cookbook Wings (Wiley, 2008) offers more than 50 recipes for wings and sauces to accompany them.

A self-professed sports nut, Moose writes about the foods we enjoy with sporting events, whether it’s at tailgate parties or at home in front of the television on a Sunday. She is also the author of Fan Fare (2007, Harvard Common Press).

Aside from the fact they will get gobbled up, wings are great for game-day parties because they are easy to prepare, Moose said.

“Wings are easy and they cook quickly,” she said. “You can make the regular old Buffalo wings, but without going to too much trouble, you can make wings that are a whole lot more interesting.”

For a Super Bowl party where there is apt to be a mix of men and women, adults and children, it’s good to have a variety of wings, from mild for the kids to really spicy for partyers who like heat.

Moose said the host can prepare a large batch of wings, and simply serve them with a variety of sauces on the side for dipping, or make several kinds of wings with different levels of heat.

Making wings at home is usually cheaper than ordering them from a carryout. In the Akron area, wings sell for around $3.50 per pound, depending on their size.

At poultry markets like DiFeo’s on Grant Street you’ll find wings in several sizes, and for an extra 20 cents or so per pound, wings can be purchased already cut into two pieces, the drumette and the flat. Most grocery stores sell them already cut apart too — look for the labels “party wings” or “Buffalo-style wings” in the poultry case.

If you buy wings whole, you need just a sharp knife to cut apart the drumette and the flat. However, there also is the wing tip that needs to be removed. You can discard the tips, or you can save them in a plastic bag and freeze them to use to flavor chicken stock, which is what Moose prefers.

There are three basic ways to cook wings: deep-fry, grill, or roast them on a sheet pan in the oven, which is perhaps the easiest way to prepare them.

Any recipe that calls for grilling wings can be changed to roasting them in the oven at 400 degrees, which is a nice alternative for folks who don’t grill in the winter.

Just remember that wings are a crowd-pleaser, so make sure you prepare enough.

“Wings are easy to make and easy to serve and most people like them,” Moose said, noting that vegetarians are the exception to that rule. “I have not yet come up with a vegan wing,” she joked.

Here are three of Moose’s recipes: an easy wing flavored with ranch dressing mix and chili powder, as kid-friendly as it gets; a saucy wing for those who like things sweet and sticky, which has the added benefit of being prepared in a slow cooker; and a spicy Szechuan wing for those who like heat and spice. Together, they will form the backbone of a great Super Bowl buffet.

Feel free to add or subtract the heat (cayenne, hot sauce) to adjust to the crowd for any of these recipes.

DOWN ON THE SPICY

CHICKEN RANCH

2 tbsp. ranch salad dressing mix

2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. paprika

6 tbsp. olive oil

12 wings, cut in half at joints, wing tips removed and discarded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the dressing mix, chili powder, and paprika. Pour the olive oil into a small bowl.

Dip each wing in the olive oil and let the excess drip off, then place the wings on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the dressing mixture over the wings and let sit for 20 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes or until done.

Makes 24 pieces.

EASY HOLIDAY PARTY WINGS

18 wings, cut in half at joints, wing tips removed and discarded

1 cup hoisin sauce

1 cup apricot preserves

1 tsp. dry mustard

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp. orange juice

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Place the wings on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes to help render out some of the fat.

In a slow cooker, combine the hoisin sauce, apricot preserves, dry mustard, chopped garlic, orange juice and cayenne; stir well to combine.

Remove the wings from the baking sheet with tongs, letting any juice drain away, then place the wings in the slow cooker. Toss to coat the wings with the sauce.

Cook on the low heat setting for 3 to 4 hours or on high for 2 hours.

Makes 36 pieces.

SIZZLING SZECHUAN

RUBBED WINGS

¼ cup chili powder

4 tsp. ground ginger

1½ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. salt

12 wings, cut in half at joints, wing tips removed and discarded

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, ground ginger, cayenne, and salt. Rub the wings with the mixture and place them on the baking sheet. Let the wings sit for 15 minutes.

Bake the wings for 20 minutes or until done.

Makes 24 pieces.

Note: You can make this rub a week or two ahead of time and store it in an airtight jar.

Lisa Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or labraham@thebeaconjournal.com. Find her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @akronfoodie and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/lisa.