A couple of weeks ago I was asked to participate in a celebration for Hellmann’s Mayonnaise and their 100 Year anniversary. For 100 years, the people at Hellmann’s have been making, in my opinion, a superior product. Hellmann’s mayonnaise makes things better. When I was asked to participate in this recipe contest, I jumped at the chance.
I mean this quite sincerely, Hellmann’s is the only brand I buy. I can’t remember a time in my life when Hellmann’s wasn’t in my refrigerator. Growing up, my parents would take home-grown tomatoes that had been peeled and sliced thick and sandwich them between two slices of white bread and a generous helping of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. My favorite Sunday mornings included BLTs with Hellman’s mayonnaise instead of bacon and eggs. I rarely make any type of dip without the stuff. I’m not usually this brand specific, but if it’s mayonnaise, it has to be Hellmann’s. That should totally be their slogan.
As if my loyalty to Hellmann’s mayonnaise wasn’t enough, the recipe contest required me to choose between six recipes that featured Hellmann’s products and which were written by none other than Mario Batali. Mario Batali is definitely one of my food heroes and his approach to food is respectful and beautiful. He takes the best ingredients and highlights them while creating a dish that is authentic and relatable. It’s no wonder he chose to work with Hellmann’s.
Each one of Mr. Batali’s recipes looked like a winner and I waffled between each recipe, sure that you would be happy with any of them. It’s Mario Batali after all. What it came down to, though, was what I wanted to eat the most. That was clearly chicken wings with lots and lots of dip. Dip always wins.
Mario Batali’s recipe called for a chili-based dry rub and broiled crispy skin. It also called for a White BBQ sauce which used Hellmann’s mayonnaise as the base. Having never heard of any type of “white BBQ sauce” I was immediately intrigued.
I studied the recipe and took Mario Batali’s notes and made them my own. I decided to keep the skin really crispy rather than a typical sauced wing and make them extra juicy by brining them in a buttermilk and Old Bay brine. Once brined, they’d get a quick fry in hot oil just to sear the skin and keep the juices in, then generously dusted in Old Bay again before finishing in the oven. The result was an extremely crispy, juicy wing that was complemented by a creamy, tangy sauce with Hellmann’s at the base.
Are you intrigued too? Good. Let’s make wings.
Start with the brine. Place trimmed wing pieces in a large bowl or very heavy-duty plastic bag.
Add buttermilk, then season with Old Bay, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
Mix that around until the seasonings are well distributed throughout the brine and the chicken pieces are all well coated.
Cover in plastic wrap (or seal your bag) and place in the fridge for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight.
While the wings are brining, make the white barbecue sauce. White barbecue sauce is apparently native to a very small region in Northern Alabama. It can be endlessly customized, but the base is simple: mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar. Mario Batali adds horseradish and lemon juice to his, so I took a page from his book and created a white-barbecue-sauce-meets-remoulade-sauce concoction that would compliment the Old Bay wings.
Hellmann’s light mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, spicy mustard, honey, minced onion (or onion powder), white wine vinegar, and lemon thyme. The mayonnaise is the base that supports all of these other strong flavors, so start with that.
To the mayonnaise, add horseradish, onion, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, spicy mustard, and honey. Mix that together until very smooth then season with salt, pepper, and minced lemon thyme.
Taste and adjust as necessary, but remember this is supposed to be a tangy barbecue sauce and not blue cheese dip. Embrace the change. You’ll like it.
Cover that in plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours so that the flavors marry.
Back to the chicken. Once it has brined for at least 6 hours, remove each piece of chicken and pat it very, very dry then transfer it to a foil-lined baking sheet. Moisture is the enemy of crispy skin so be extra vigilant here. There’s no place for flabby skin.
When all the wing pieces are patted dry, heat about an inch of oil in a cast iron pan fitted with a fry thermometer. Let the oil come up to at least 325 degrees. While that’s coming up to temperature, set up your fry station. I had uncooked and dried chicken wings on the right, my skillet in the center, and a broiler pan (or baking sheet with a wire rack on top) set up on the left.
When the oil is hot enough, use tongs to carefully place the chicken into the hot oil. I don’t need to tell you that hot oil is dangerous, and I don’t need to tell my burned hand that it should have stayed further away. Just be careful, promise?
Fry the chicken pieces for a couple of minutes on each side. You’re not looking to cook them completely, just to brown the skin a bit and seal in all the juices. When they are a light golden brown, transfer them to the broiler pan and place them skin-side up, then repeat until all the pieces are done.
As they come out of the oil, dust them liberally with Old Bay seasoning.
Once all the chicken pieces have taken a quick bath in hot oil and have been dusted with Old Bay, transfer them to a 450 degree oven and cook them for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, flip them over, dust them with Old Bay again, and … Read the rest