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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Buffalo Beach Bodies - Gluten Free Buffalo Chicken Fingers withHomemade Sauce - American - Dinner 7

So one of our guilty pleasures on nights when we are feeling particularly lazy and cavalier about our calorie consumption, is to OrderUp Buffalo Chicken Wraps from Dog Watch, a local tavern in Fell’s Point. What makes this particularly bad, is not the gluttony of the wrap itself, but the sloth we exhibit in not even walking the 5 blocks it would take to pick up in person. Recently, we had been doing this far more often than I am willing to admit in writing. With summer approaching, and having just booked a trip to Puerto Vallarta for about a month out, this habit quickly became priority number one to break. Couch ordering cheat food is not conducive to beach body goals no matter how you slice it.

The trouble with beach diets are that, at least for me, they involve systematically depriving myself of nearly everything I love for inconsistent stints of time from February to May, that snowballs into sporadic hangry episodes that damages my relationships, after which I relapse with late night pizza or worse, resulting in little to no progress toward my goals. This year I have preemptively improved my approach by joining a gym and actually attending it daily. This has helped me adjust my frame a bit and fostered better regular exercise habits. I have to note, Mark has most certainly not taken up this measure. Physical activity is a major allergen to him, and he’ll attest he doesn’t need it. I could fault him for it, but as much as it pains my jealous heart to admit, I have to concede he’s beach ready 12 months out of the year (a wax and a tan not withstanding).

With exercise as momentum, I have decided to try to avoid the yearly 2 week, extended hypoglycemia crash diet I usually do in the two weeks before Memorial Day. To do this, I have been working to identify the foods that typically bring the highest emotional and hormonal satisfaction and interpret them in new ways that lend themselves to restraint, weight control, and benefit to overall health. My main strategy is to avoid starches (grains, potatoes) as much as possible. This not only reduces high calorie and bulky foods (potatoes cause bloat which is not a look my bathing suit choices permit) but also forces me to get creative when I want something filling and satisfying.
Since Buffalo Chicken Wraps have been our winter go-to, I figured I would try my hand at re-engineering those first. If successful, it would reduce calories, expenses and overall sloth in one fell swoop.

Now I LOVE buffalo sauce in any medium, so that is where I started my experiment.  In its simplest form, Buffalo sauce is hot sauce & butter. Say what you will about butter, but I am never going to let anyone cut it out of my diet. The way I see it, the health benefits of the capsaicin in the hot sauce directly offsets the fat in the butter that goes into making a finger-licking delicious, hot, tangy, and brightly hued red-orange Buffalo sauce. In addition to my love of Buffalo sauce, I also have a penchant for hot sauce itself. In my travels around the country and to Mexico , I have amassed a rather large and diverse collection spanning the spectrum in color and heat. For my sauce I wanted to ensure I had three things, moderate sustaining heat, a noticeable tang, and a bright red color. I didn’t want burn your mouth flavor, or anything smoky, I need that vinegary tang and I wanted to ensure the dish looked good for my Instagram. The next time I do this, I am going to make my own hot sauce, but as this process can take weeks to ferment the peppers etc, this time I used some from my collection.

The first sauce I chose is called “Hot Mess”. Tongue in cheek name aside, this sauce is a favorite. It comes from Chicago’s famous Lillie’s BBQ, is bright and biting on the palate, and has a nice vinegar nose with hints of garlic, it’s my favorite for fried chicken. The second sauce I chose was the “Lagniappe” from Zombie Cajun Hot Sauce company. I chose this sauce for the staying power of its heat (it really lingers), the noticeable viscosity (a thicker sauce coats better) and the deep red color (a contrast to the bright red of Hot Mess). 

Selections made, I melted a stick (ok a little more than a stick) of Kerry Gold Salted butter in a sauce pan. Once melted, I added equal parts of the hot sauce and whisked it together. The vinegar was immediately noticeable on the nose, but soon dissipated. I added a little white vinegar to pump it back up then turned to my other additions. I think the sauce would have been fine as is, but I wanted to see if I could coax out a but more depth of flavor. I hit it will some white pepper, chosen for flavor and color as it will not show as black specks in the sauce. Then I added a little garlic powder, a touch of cayenne, and finally a little bit of Worcestershire sauce, just to give it some base and bring the color down a bit. I whisked the ingredients together, then brought it all to a boil briefly. You don’t need to cook it too long, and I certainly didn’t want to brown the butter, so a few seconds boiling is all it needs. While the sauce cooled I turned to the chicken.

Almost invariably when I cook chicken, I insist on chicken thighs. They just have more fat, and fat means flavor. I got some boneless and skinless thighs on sale at Whole Foods earlier in the week, and had dropped them in a Ziploc with cultured buttermilk to marinate for a few days. When it came time to prep, I drained most of the butter milk and took a knife to each thigh to try to make them more uniform in thickness and shape. So in non-beach body panic mode I wouldn’t think twice about throwing the chicken in some egg wash, club soda, and seasoned flour and frying up some crunchy and delicious fried chicken fingers, but alas, I am going be in my Andrew Christians in less than 40 days so this was not an acceptable option. Instead I used corn starch. While it does violate the no grain rule, for whatever unscientific or illogical reason, I find corn to be a less offensive ingredient when dieting (I am sure someone can look up the verity of this notion). I recently made General Tso’s chicken using the corn starch technique, so I knew it would lend the right crunch and be a perfect vehicle for the Buffalo sauce. Using the residual buttermilk as a base for a batter, I poured in generous amounts of cornstarch to the chicken thighs. I mixed them up while I heated my oil, ensuring the starch “batter” evenly coated them all. I could have seasoned the batter but thought I would let the Buffalo sauce do the talking this time around. I fried up them, each turning a satisfying golden brown, and allowed them to drain a cool a bit before hitting the sauce bath.

I tossed them in my big metal bowl, an act which reminded me of my days joking with the line cooks at one of my former restaurant jobs and staring longingly as they made their famous wings for paying customers. I decided to serve them simply, topped with crumbles of a delicious, earthy and unctuous blue cheese imported from Switzerland we had picked up at Bower’s Cheese in Eastern Market in DC a few weekends back. It was the perfect compliment. Rather than slathered in some creamy commercially produced dressing, the crispy “fingers” were perfectly complimented by the rich and tangy morsels of cheese. Admittedly, this was no Buffalo Wrap from Dog Watch, but if the speed with which Mark ate them is any clue (he is normally the SLOWEST eater I have ever met) then they were a hit. If this success is any indication, I think we may be on the road to Mexican beach bodies by way of Buffalo.

Gluten Free Buffalo Chicken Fingers with Homemade Sauce


  • 1 stick Salted Kerry Gold Butter
  • ¼ Cup Hot Sauce (plus more depending on taste and texture)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cut into uniform pieces)
  • 2 Cups cultured buttermilk (you can substitute 1 cup beaten eggs)
  • ½ Cup Corn starch
  • 2 Cups high heat oil for frying


Melt butter in a small sauce pan. Once melted, add the hot sauce and whisk together. Add other ingredients stirring as you add. Once evenly incorporated, bring to a boil and whisk for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Before tossing , you will want to whisk the sauce together again as the vinegar and butter will separate.

Marinate chicken in buttermilk overnight. Drain excess buttermilk. Add cornstarch and mix thoroughly to ensure the thighs are evenly coated in the buttermilk batter. Bring oil to temperature, will be ready when a pinch of corn starch sizzles. Fry the chicken, turning every few minutes, for about 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the thighs. Place on a cooling rack or paper towel for 2 minutes to cool. Place in a large mixing bowl, and pour sauce over top. Toss in bowl until evenly coated

Serve with crumbles of blue cheese as I did, or cut up some celery and use your favorite blue cheese dressing.


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