There’s something immensely tactile about eating chicken wings. The deep orange of buffalo sauce streaking your forearms, nubbly, crispy bits of fried coating to nibble off, a stack of stripped wings piling ever higher in a basket in front of you.
“People who love chicken wings are crazy for chicken wings,” says Ben Ford, one half of street food chicken-wing outfit and restaurant Wingmans. “It’s a cult,” adds his co-founder David Turofsky.
In lockdown, the duo and their team are still working, running a delivery service from their London joint, taking things “one day at a time”.
They’ve known each other since they were kids growing up in north London, but started working together after Mr Turofsky returned from a year ostensibly studying in America. In fact, says Mr Ford with a laugh, “he came back with this fiendish appetite for chicken wings”.
“And buffalo sauce, generally,” adds Mr Turofsky, proudly.
The timing was ideal. “I was looking for a break,” says Mr Ford, who has a background in food, “and David was looking for someone who could cook.”
In June 2015, they embarked upon their first festival, British Summertime, leaping from a “no trading history to one of the biggest summer festivals in London”, remembers Mr Ford. “We had a very sleepless 11 days – five guys cramped into the back of an Airstream trailer – learning what it was to run a street-food business.”
“It was probably the toughest 11 days of our lives,” notes Mr Turofsky.
While admittedly ‘a chicken concept’, the mates are determined to cater to all tastes and lifestyles, whether you’re vegan or gluten-free, halal or vegie (take their Shanghai cauliflower, or tempura oyster mushrooms: “It’s not just chips for you”).
“We wanted to make sure we weren’t leaving anyone out,” says Mr Ford with feeling. Their whole ethos is around sharing plates and socialising – which, right now, is understandably very limited outside your household. This is where their debut cookbook, Wings And Things, comes in – hopefully everyone in your household can appreciate chicken wings (and their meat-free alternatives).
The key to great wings, they argue, is to follow in the great American tradition and toss them in sauce. “It’s huge in America,” says Mr Ford. “You order wings, they toss the wings in the sauce, they serve them in a bucket or a basket – and no-one here was doing that.” Sauce is crucial.
If you’re more used to ordering a bucket of wings than snipping wing-tips, marinating and deep-frying your own at home though, the key is to “cook with love!”
A meat thermometer is a useful investment when it comes to cooking meat on the bone. It’ll help you get the oil you’re frying in, and the chicken you’re eating, up to the correct temperature. Ensure the juice is running clear and there’s no blood on the bone to know when they’re cooked.
Remember to cook safely, too. “For people who don’t have a mini deep-fat fryer at home, frying in oil in a saucepan can be dangerous at times,” says Mr Ford, “so we suggest making sure you have a big enough pan and you’re not over-filling it.”
This is what happened when we tried their ‘honey monster’ wings in lockdown:
The first ingredient on the list is: “Chicken wings, tip removed, drums and flat separated.” I promise, it’s easy once you know what to do! Find the soft spots under the joints on the wings and slice through to separate them.
I made a few recipe adjustments, thyme salt instead of celery salt, and white sugar in place of golden caster sugar. But they still glossed up well and were sticky and sweet without making your teeth ache.
Next time I’d increase the temperature on the oven – the wings weren’t quite crispy after three rounds of basting, and 30 minutes roasting – but paired with a side of potato wedges and mayo, they were suitably messy and moreish.
Wings And Things: Lip-smacking Chicken Recipes by David Turofsky and Ben Ford, photography by Dan Jones, is published by Quadrille. It was released on 30 April and is available from Booktopia for $27.75.
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