MAY IT PLEASE THE PALATE: On the wings of desire?

For many would be vegetarians, it is bacon that gives them pause. For me, it's chicken wings. My mother and I once made a five pound bag for the family. By the time they came home for dinner, there were about six wings left. Nutritionally, they're pretty much in the bottom rubble of the food pyramid. But when you're chowing down on a heaping plate and washing them down with a few cold ones, you don't much care. What's good about chicken wings is their versatility. They're pretty easy, low maintenance, and a vehicle for all sorts of flavors. They're also perfect for a crowd, and can be enjoyed piping hot or, if they're not immediately scarfed up, not bad cold. Baking them puts some lipstick on the nutritional pig. In other words, it cuts down on the calories. A single serving is probably around 200 calories. Of course, that's if you consider a single serving to be three wings. I consider that a single mouthful. (It's like a bag of potato chips that claims to include seven servings. What am I, a family of dwarves?) I've tried baking wings myriad ways. Marinated; slow baked; baked then grilled; all messy and complicated, but delicious. I tend to prefer the fiery kind. The first time I had Buffalo style wings, I was hooked. Frank's Red Hot Sauce and bleu cheese dip? Brilliant. Also gotta love the completely superfluous celery and carrot sticks, which I think are there mainly for color, because really - when you reach into the plate, what are you going to pick up - a chicken wing, or a carrot stick? I have a recipe for slow baked Greek wings that I'll share sometime. I make them with the Holy Troika of olive oil, garlic, and lemon, some Greek herbs and spices, and the traditional "Frank's Red Hot Sauce," which many of you may not know is made by old ladies in babushkas on a remote Greek island. But for today, I'm going to give you perhaps the easiest version of baked Buffalo wings you'll ever want to try. I'm making them for an office party this weekend. This is from Food and Wine Magazine, by Grace Parisi, and they're foolproof. The only drawback is the 500° oven in a non-air-conditioned house. Classic Hot Wings * 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. * 1 teaspoon salt. * 2 pounds chicken wingettes and drumettes (Note: wingettes and drumettes are the result of splitting a chicken wing at the joint. They are often sold separately. The drumettes are always the first to be eaten, so my advice is to skip the wingettes). * 2 1/2 tablespoons Frank's Red Hot Sauce. (If you don't have Frank's, order a pizza). * 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted. 1. Preheat the oven to 500°. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with vegetable oil. In a bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Spread the chicken on the baking sheet in a single layer and spray with vegetable oil. Roast the chicken for 45 minutes, turning once or twice, until browned and crispy. 2. In a bowl, toss the chicken wings with the hot sauce and butter. What's great about this recipe is that you can toss the wings in just about anything. Food and Wine offers many other alternatives to the Frank's and butter - a honey/chile; maple/chipotle; mango/curry - note the sweet sour theme. Peruse the web, or use your imagination. I also tossed a few in my daughter's homemade pesto. Delicious! By the way, this recipe serves just one, so plan on more if you're having a party. Joke! But these are addictive. They are also messy, so have tuxedoed butlers working the crowd with hot, steaming towels held out on tongs. Or if you're on a budget, just put out a little thing of moist towelettes, or let your guests use the shower. ---------- Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine in Ann Arbor. Published: Wed, Jul 20, 2011