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Aug 5, 2014
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WINE WITH…Buffalo Chicken Wings Risotto

The idea for this fun and delicious dish came from sommelier Traci Dutton. Traci didn’t exactly have a recipe for it, but once she described the basic concept, we decided we had to try to make it someday. Well, that day recently came, and the results were even tastier than we’d expected!

Written out, the recipe looks more complicated than it actually is. There are three separate parts--chicken, sauce and risotto--but there’s nothing difficult about any of them, especially if you’re at least vaguely familiar with making risotto. And if you cook the chicken wings and take the meat off the bones a few hours or even a day ahead of time, the only thing left to do at the end is make the sauce and cook the risotto.

Buffalo Chicken Wings Risotto

Serves 4

Use a jalapeno or other mild-to-hot pepper, adjusting the amount according to the level of heat you want. Alternatively, you could substitute cayenne pepper. If you wish to garnish each dish with a whole chicken wing, reserve 4 of the wings and fry them up separately.

For the Chicken:

About 5-6 pounds chicken wings
4 cups water
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 celery stalk (leaves included) cut into a couple of chunks
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded
Salt and pepper

For the Sauce:

2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 and ½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
½ cup white wine
1 tablespoon ketchup
1tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
½ cup poaching stock from the wings

For the Risotto:

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cups Arborio or other risotto type rice
3 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 cup white wine

For the Garnish:

4 whole chicken wings (optional)
1 celery stalk, trimmed and minced
1 cup (or more) crumbled blue cheese

To cook the chicken, place the wings in a large pot and cover them with 4 cups of water. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the wings are cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. Remove them to another container and then strain the broth, discarding the vegetables but reserving the cooking liquid. When cool enough to handle, pull the chicken meat off the bones, discarding skin and bones. (If you want to make the optional garnish, reserve 4 whole wings.) Refrigerate chicken until ready to cook the risotto.

To make the sauce, heat the butter in a saucepan. When it is foaming, add the garlic and jalapeno and cook, stirring over medium heat, for a couple of minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken meat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pot to keep the chicken warm until ready to serve (you will probably have to reheat it just before serving).

To make the risotto, have the chicken-cooking stock and a ladle (or mug) close at hand. (If you are using the optional chicken wing garnish you can fry it in a small amount of oil, preferably in a non-stick pan, as you cook the risotto.) Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot. When the butter foams, add the onion and cook, over medium heat, until it is soft. Stir in the rice and chopped celery. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently for about 5-8 minutes. Pour the wine in all at once, raise the heat to high, and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the wine is almost completely absorbed. Lower the heat to medium and add about a cupful of the broth. Stirring the mixture frequently, continue cooking until the broth is absorbed, then add another cupful. Repeat, stirring in the liquid cupful-by-cupful, adding plain water if you run out of broth. Adjust the heat if necessary, and continue the process until the rice is tender but still has a subtle crunch in the center (you do not have to stir constantly, but don’t let the rice dry out or stick to the bottom of the pan).

Remove the risotto from the heat immediately and divide it among 4 serving plates or bowls. Top it with the chicken and its sauce, and garnish with the minced celery. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of blue cheese over each serving, passing the remaining cheese at the table. If you are using the optional garnish, place a cooked chicken wing in the center of each Serving.

* * *

We had no idea what sort of wine would pair well with this dish, beer being the drink of choice with Buffalo wings, so opened a fairly wide array of bottles. We found that reds worked slightly better than whites, though rich whites showed nicely. Wines with well-defined fruit flavors also performed well, while those with more notable secondary notes tended to get lost in the richness of the dish. Though made primarily with chicken and rice, it’s definitely full-flavored, so needs a comparably styled wine as an accompaniment.


Approx. Price


Cabris, Dão (Portugal) “Reserva” 2009(Imported by Aidil Wines)


A blend of native Portuguese grapes, this wine delighted us with its vivid plum and berry flavors. Medium-weight, it has just the right sort of texture, with noticeable but unobtrusive tannins, to complement this risotto.

Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County (California) Zinfandel “Heritage Vines” 2012


The bright briary character of this classic-tasting Zin made it a great risotto companion. It married especially well with the lingering taste of the blue cheese.

Frei Brothers, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay “Reserve” 2011


Rich and ripe, but very well-balanced, this Chardonnay enlivened the dish, accenting the rice and celery and making it seem lighter than it did with either of the two red wines.

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles (California) “Patelin de Tablas Rosé” 2013


A delicious but fairly light Rhône-styled rosé, this wine had just enough stuffing to effectively complement the risotto. Very refreshing, it made us eager for another bite or two, and then, of course, another sip.

Vina Robles, Paso Robles (California) White 4 2013


An unusual blend of Vioignier, Verdelho, Vermentino, and Sauvignon Blanc, this fresh, fruity white smells and tastes lighter than it feels on the palate. There, the Viognier gives it heft and an almost waxy texture, providing it with the weight needed to accompany this particular dish.