It’s that time of year again. Super Bowl Sunday. The one time a year when most of America tunes in to one single program, usually the most watched televised event of the year. For better or for worse, football and the Super Bowl are a big part of American culture.
You know the Super Bowl party spread – Buffalo chicken wings, nachos, pigs in a blanket, chips, dip, beer. More beer. So much beer that you start to wonder why they don’t just give us Monday off already.
Buffalo chicken wings are one of the top Super Bowl foods, so much so that there’s even an annual “Wings Report”. The experts are predicting that this year Americans will eat 1.38 BILLION chicken wings this Sunday. There are often rumors of a wing shortage in February (a bit of research suggests this is hype…perhaps to sell us more wings?). Sales and prices of wings increase this time of year, too. If Super Bowl Sunday is our culture, Buffalo chicken wings are a central part of the ritual.
The most commonly told history of Buffalo chicken wings is that they were invented in Buffalo, New York by Teressa Bellissimo in 1964. One story describes her establishment, Anchor Bar, receiving an unexpected shipment of chicken wings rather than necks and she had to invent a creative way to use them. Another account says that it was an impromptu creation, spontaneously paired with blue cheese and celery, to feed her son and his friends. However, there is a conflicting and compelling account that a black man named John Young invented the wings. He had a restaurant, John Young’s Wings ‘n Things, where he sold the wings from 1964 until 1970 when he moved out of state. While determining the truth is beyond the scope of this blog (and we may never really know, since most of the principal actors are deceased), this article digs into it comprehensively, stating that “when it comes to the origins of buffalo chicken wings, we’re confronted with what one might call a rock ‘n’ roll problem; Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Elvis may have taken rock ‘n’ roll to new heights, but those white rockers by no means invented the genre.”
What is undisputed is that wings quickly spread around the city, and then the state, and then nationwide, gaining enormous popularity when in the early 90s major chains such as McDonalds, KFC, and Domino’s added them to their menus. Buffalo chicken wings make the ultimate bar food: cheap, shareable, and paired well with beer. The rise of wings paralleled the rise in popularity of American football and the Super Bowl (the first bowl was in 1967) and the combo of wings + football was born.
1.38 billion wings is a LOT of chicken. And there’s many of us who are concerned about the impact of that, whether it’s on the environment, on animal welfare, or on our waistlines. If you’re one of those people, or if you just want to try something different, I’ve created vegetarian Cauliflower Buffalo Bites paired with Blue Cheese Dip. I took inspiration from chicken wing recipes as well as others who have used cauliflower to come up with this combination. Baked rather than deep fried, these bites are spicy and chewy, eliciting the texture of chicken, and very easy to throw together. Bringing these to your Super Bowl celebration will please meat-eaters and vegetarians alike!
Prep your cauliflower for baking.
Start the first bake.
While it’s in the oven, get your hot sauce ready.
Remove the first bake. At this point your cauliflower doesn’t look too different from when you started, so don’t panic. Add the sauce before the final bake.
Mix the blue cheese dip.
Remove from oven. Serve with blue cheese dip, carrots, and celery.
Cauliflower Buffalo Bites
Makes 12oz of cauliflower, about 4 servings.
- 12 ounces cauliflower florets (in a bag or cut from cauliflower head)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (for a healthier option, try whole wheat or spelt flour)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/3 cup melted butter substitute (I used Earth Balance)
- 1/3 cup Franks’ RedHot sauce
Blue Cheese Dip:
- 4 ounces (about 1 cup) blue cheese crumbles
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 clove garlic, mashed/minced
- 1 tablespoon non-dairy milk
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Baking sheet
- Aluminum foil
- Small bowls
- Put cauliflower florets in a Ziploc bag. Add in flour and spices. Seal the bag and shake until the cauliflower is coated.
- Cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil. Add the cauliflower to the sheet.
- Refrigerate the cauliflower for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Whisk together melted butter substitute and RedHot sauce in small bowl. Set aside for later.
- Bake the cauliflower for 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven. Cover well with hot sauce mixture. Return to oven for 10 more minutes.
- While it is baking, mix blue cheese dip. Add all the ingredients to a medium bowl and mix well.
- Remove the cauliflower from the oven. Serve hot with blue cheese dip, celery, and carrots
Notes: You can probably sub other types of flour for all-purpose, but I did not test this. I’m also interested in making a vegan dip for this – something I’ll be working on in the future!