Hey guys, are you sat down comfortably? Good, because I’m about to drop a couple of universal-truth bombs on you:
1. Chicken Wings, when made well, are one of the greatest, most fun things you can eat – no question about it.
2. Chicken Wings, when made at home, are an unequivocal disaster of poor seasoning, flabby skin and questionable wet meat.
To make them properly you need a decent quality of chicken that supermarkets generally don’t provide, maybe a smoker if you want to get really fancy, and an industrial-grade deep-fryer to crisp that skin up just right and make it taught against the meat – if the oil’s not hot enough then they end up half-fried, half-confit, and all bogus.
Bearing in mind all of these obstacles, you might want to consider a different vehicle for transferring hot sauce from a plate to your mouth – that’s where cauliflower comes in. Cauliflower is getting a lot of Buzzfeed/Pinterest love recently for its versatility as a replacement for various things – rice, flour, pizza bases etc – and it also happens to do a much better chicken impression than any of the Bluth family. I found a few recipes which just bake the cauliflower as it is, but I found that tossing the florets in a thin batter before baking them gives a pretty faithful but way healthier replica of chicken skin (the most fun bit) which lets the sauce caramelise on the outside rather than just soaking in. Of course, they’re vegetarian by design, and with a couple of substitutions they can be made gluten-free and suitable for vegans if you need to – and the same applies to the ranch-style dip yoghurt dip.
For the Wings:
4 tbsp Flour (Plain or Rice works best)
8-10 tbsp Water
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of Garlic Powder
8 tbsp Hot Sauce (Franks, Sriracha, whatever you like best)
2 tbsp Ketchup (or to taste)
2 tbsp Honey (or Maple syrup works)
2 tbsp Melted Butter (or Vegetable oil)
For the dip:
White Wine Vinegar
Preheat your oven to 230 degrees C, and line a big baking tray with greaseproof paper. Break the cauliflower up into bite-size pieces, as evenly as possible. Make a thin batter with the Flour, Water, Salt and Garlic Powder, and toss all of the cauliflower in it until they’re covered evenly. Put them onto the baking tray one-by-one, trying to avoid them touching. Bake for 10 minutes at the top of the oven, then turn them over and bake for another 5 minutes.
While the cauliflower’s baking, mix together the Hot Sauce, Ketchup (if you’re using it), Honey/Syrup and Melted Butter/Oil in a big bowl. When the batter on the cauliflower is starting to brown, dip each piece in the hot sauce mixture individually, and put back on the tray. Bake them for another 10-15 minutes until the sauce starts to bubble and caramelise.
While the saucy cauliflower is baking, Mix about 200ml of yoghurt with all of the other dip ingredients – there’s no science to the quantities of these ingredients, just taste as you go along and decide what you like best.
Drizzle any remaining hot sauce over the “wings”, and serve it all with celery, carrot, charred corn, red cabbage slaw, that kind of thing. You can also use some of the ranch sauce to make a vegetarian wedge salad with red cabbage and cashew nuts, go wild.