Wings. Hunters out there, do you eat them? From a cook’s perspective, wings are among the most problematic parts of a bird; even a lot of chefs don’t much bother with them. Bony and tough, wings can be a lot of effort for only a little meat. For years, they were mostly tossed into soups or stocks. But then, sometime in the 1960s, came the wing’s savior: Buffalo wings.
Buffalo wings originated in Buffalo, New York as a throw-together meal from spare chicken bits lying around. A classic case of necessity, mothers and invention. Buffalo wings have since become one of the most iconic bar foods in America because they combine salty, spicy, fatty, meaty, creamy… and cheap. Other than giblets, wings are the cheapest part of a bird to buy. Wings from both chickens and ducks can be had for less than $1 a pound in Asian markets here in Sacramento.
You won’t find a buffalo wing recipe for chickens on this website. I don’t do chicken. And I’ve already developed a recipe for wild duck buffalo wings. That leaves my other favorite bird, the pheasant.
Pheasants. Close readers of this site will notice something new on the right-hand side of this page: An ad for MacFarlane Pheasants. To my mind this is a welcome addition. Years ago, when I first started taking ads for Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, I said my goal was for every ad on the site to be relevant to you, the reader. It’s turned out to be far harder than I thought. But I am happy to be able to work with Camp Chef, Earthy Delights and now MacFarlane to increase the amount of relevant advertising here on HAGC and decrease stupid ads for things like weight loss pills.
Bill MacFarlane farms pheasants, and they ship their birds all over the country — but normally only to restaurants and specialty stores; Whole Foods will occasionally carry them, for example. I really wanted to work with their online operation because I know that many of you do not hunt pheasants, but want to try them. Buying pheasant breasts or whole pheasants online is now an option, and they are not too much more spendy than a good quality chicken. So far they don’t sell pheasant wings or legs separately, but I am hoping that if demand increases, they will do that in the future.
Back to the wings. Know that pheasant wings will not normally be any tougher than those of a rooster, which is however to say that they’re a lot tougher than a wimpy little chicken you buy in the store. Pen-raised pheasants, for those of you who hunt game preserves, will be much closer to domestic chickens. What this means is with most pheasant wings, you will need to simmer them before you cook them like normal wings.
Duck wings need to be simmered for several hours to become tender, but even old wild roosters need only about 90 minutes. You then roast the wings in the oven before eating them. Yep, roast, not fry. I just prefer my wings roasted or barbecued.
I first had Buffalo wings this way at a restaurant on Long Island called Big Barry’s. Big Barry (who was a dwarf, apparently with a sense of humor) offered $0.12 chicken wings on Tuesday nights, so our cross country team at SUNY Stony Brook would routinely pile in and gorge ourselves. I once ate 67 wings at one sitting, at a time when I weighed 140 pounds. Ah, youth.
I can tell you these pheasant Buffalo wings get pretty close to Big Barry’s wings. A little par-cooking to make them tender, a quick marinade in the hot sauce and a slow roast in the oven or on the BBQ and you’re ready for football. Pheasant hunters, if you try this recipe I guarantee you will start saving the wings off your birds. Guarantee.
Pheasant Buffalo Wings
Making Buffalo wings with pheasant is very close to doing it with chicken. The only serious difference is that you should par-cook the wings before you roast them. While pheasants are, for the most part, running birds, they do fly enough and live long enough to make them tough without this step. Sometimes you can get away without par-cooking on pen-raised birds, but I par-cook them anyway just to be sure.
After the par-cooking, which will take between 1 hour and 90 minutes, you soak the cooked wings in the hot sauce for an hour or so, then roast them in the oven to crisp. If you want to take them even further, lay out the wings on your grill and roast them over charcoal or hardwood. But beware if you do this: You will find yourself eating way more than you expect.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
- 2 pounds pheasant wings, separated into sections
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1/3 cup hot sauce (I use Tabasco’s Buffalo Sauce, but Frank’s is traditional)
- 1 tablespoon mild paprika
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Chinese chile bean paste (optional)
- In a Dutch oven or covered pot, submerge the pheasant wings in the stock; add water if need be to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook for 90 minutes and up to 2 hours — you want the wings to be very tender. Remove the wings and save the stock for another use.
- Pour the hot sauce, paprika, melted butter, salt and chile paste into a container and mix well. Add the wings, toss well to coat and marinate them for at least an hour, and as long as overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the wings on a baking sheet or two in a single layer and bake until they are crispy, 30 to 45 minutes.
- While the wings are cooking, pour the marinade into a small pot and bring to a boil, then drop the heat to low. Keep warm, and when the wings are done, toss them with the sauce before serving. Serve with your favorite blue cheese sauce, celery and lots of beer.