What I’m Cooking: Chef Rich Carter of Catering Works

A chef who’s used to feeding big groups shares the recipe for his at-home comfort food favorite: Buffalo wings.
by Rich Carter

Chef Rich Carter of Catering Works may not be cooking for wedding and events these days, but his team is busy providing take-home meals and working with the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association to gift meals to displaced hospitality workers (donate here!). We asked him what he’s doing in his off hours. Here’s what he told us.

When it comes to cooking at home, everybody thinks the chef has it made. But after a 12-hour day, honestly, I’ll eat whatever is available. But when I have time to cook, I’ll make something special. Wings are one of those things. It’s one of those foods I associate with where I come from. I’m from upstate New York, so it’s a little nostalgic. Wings used to be considered a byproduct, but now they’re more like an expensive elevated bar food that can be created in many ways.

Beyond growing up in upstate New York, I spent a few years living in Buffalo which takes wings seriously. They are a staple on almost every menu in town. People always reference the Anchor Bar, which is known for serving the first wings, but true Buffalo people will tell you that Duff’s does it right! I personally agree about Duff’s, but in Buffalo, you usually can’t get a bad wing.  Here is how I make my own amazing chicken wings.
Pro tip: fry them!

You need clean frying oil! I’ve seen too many restaurants/people wait too long to change their oil. It’s gross and will affect your wings. So make sure the oil is clean.  I use a standard Canola oil for frying. Set your fryer to 350. Make sure your fryer is to temp.

The key is to fry them crispy. Great wings take time, and if you pull them out too early, they are just not the same. Cook the chicken to 165 degrees, but when I fry wings they usually temp at about 185 degrees to get the crispy wing that you need. It takes about 15-20 minutes. Once they’re fried, toss them in sauce. I have a few that I like.

Chef Rich’s Wing Sauce Recipes

I have two wing sauces that I love. The first is your original classic wing sauce, and the second is the one that I truly believe is pure gold. Both start with hot sauce. In New York, the main sauce that’s used is classic Red Hot, but in the South, Texas Pete is a good option. Just make sure you buy the standard sauce, not the wing sauce or another type, because it’s worth it to doctor it up on your own. For each of these, start with about a half a cup of hot sauce (more or less, to taste), and mix in the flavors. One tip: taste your food as you go, and add small amounts of seasoning to your dishes. You can always add more.  If you add to much you need to stretch your recipe which can be difficult.

Classic Buffalo Sauce

Melt a little butter in a saucepan, this is the part that mellows the hot sauce. If you want them mild, add more butter, less, if you want them hotter. To the melted butter, I add a small squeeze of yellow mustard, a touch of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Some recipes call for vinegar, but with the yellow mustard, you get the acidic taste, plus a little more of a profile to the wing sauce. You can add a little crushed red pepper flake if you want to increase the heat. Add this mixture to the hot sauce.

Go-To Wing Sauce

Sauté 2 cloves of garlic in 1/3 cup butter. Add 1/2 cup of hot sauce and a squeeze of yellow mustard and Worcestershire sauce.  Then, I add 3 tablespoons of honey and a touch of salt, that’s it. Mix it with the hot sauce. It’s simple, but when it’s done right, people love them.

Asian Glazed Wings

In a saucepan, add 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup brown sugar, a little chopped garlic, fresh ginger or powder, 2 tsp rice wine vinegar or mirin. Heat until the brown sugar dissolves, then mix with the hot sauce.

How to Make Hot Sauce from Scratch

If you wanted to make your own hot sauce and really go for a true, from-scratch recipe, it wouldn’t be a true Buffalo wing, but it would be amazing—just different.The first question I always get is: Fresh or Dried Peppers?  They both work great so it’s up to you.

To use fresh peppers: Cut the peppers into equal sizes and remove the seeds. In a sauté pan, add oil and get it hot. Add some chopped onion, garlic, and the peppers, and sauté until golden; then add a cup of diced tomatoes and continue to cook it down. Season with salt. Remove it from heat and transfer it to a food processor. Puree the mixture and add a couple tablespoons of white vinegar slowly until it’s smooth.  Put it through a strainer—now you have a pepper sauce you can use as the base of a hot wing sauce.

To use dried peppers: Cut 6 to 8 peppers in half and remove the seeds. Toast the peppers in a pan, then soak them in some water until they reconstitute.  Add them to a blender with tomato paste, white vinegar, salt and pepper.