Buffalo Goes Beyond the Bird

Vegetables and fish get their wings

What distinguishes the Buffalo chicken wing from other, lesser wing preparations is a generous application of hot sauce and butter, a fatty, cheesy dip and sticks of raw, crunchy celery.

But as chefs around the country know, the classic Buffalo elements can be toyed with to create limitless variations, from Chinese-style buns to vegetable-driven riffs.

At NYC's Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Matthew Rudofker confits and pulls chicken wing meat to make a Buffalo chicken bun, coating the meat in a sauce made with Frank's RedHot and topping it with crudités in a blue cheese and buttermilk dressing.

Clockwise from left: Butcher & Bee's grouper; Ssäm; Strip T's tomatoes; Empire Diner; Elf Cafe; River Styx's squid

Others are skipping the bird altogether: At Empire Diner in New York, Amanda Freitag serves crispy skate wings glowing with hot sauce.

For vegetarians, there's Buffalo-style cauliflower with vegan blue cheese dressing at Los Angeles beer bar Mohawk Bend. And the Buffalo oyster mushrooms with a blue cheese reduction at L.A.'s Elf Cafe get an even more interesting preparation, relying on more complex harissa for heat.

We asked some of these chefs to send photos of their Buffalicious experiments, then went off on our own Buffalo adventures. As our Test Kitchen discovered when we started fooling around with skate wings and a liter of Frank's (see the recipe), the combination can be lovely enough to play main course.

First we softened the smack of the hot sauce with fresh citrus juice, garlic and brown butter. Then we fried the fish in cornmeal for extra crunch.

And because celery is the least exciting vegetable known to man, we replaced it with a creamy, old school rémoulade with crisp celery root.

Just in case things get a little heated.