Denizens of Buffalo's Southtowns may have eaten at a popular restaurant near Ralph Wilson Stadium called Danny's (there's also a location out by the airport), which is a really nifty place to eat -- they've got the typical local menu of sandwiches, burgers, fish fry, steaks, and the like. They also have a soup and salad bar that is extremely popular. Now, the salad bar itself isn't anything spectacular -- just comforting typical salad bar stuff, right down to the deep-fried rice noodles -- but the soups are terrific, especially the Chicken Wing Soup, which is downright legendary in these parts. It's literally like eating Buffalo-style chicken wings with a spoon. Uncanny.
Well, I figured that the stuff can't be that hard to make, right? It's not that complicated-tasting of a soup, so I decided to give it my best shot. I did a bit of Googling, and I found one recipe that looks quite good, but that recipe basically involves a milk-and-sour cream base, whereas I was pretty sure that the stuff at Danny's uses a broth or stock of some kind, even though it does have a creamy texture. So I made it up myself, and here's how I did it.
1 lb chicken breast meat
6 tbs butter
6 tbs flour
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
Lots of Frank's Red Hot Sauce (use to taste)
First, I cooked the chicken meat. I had some breast tenders that I cut into bite-sized chunks; then I seasoned these with salt and pepper and tossed them into my soup pot to cook in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Once the chicken was nicely browned, I transferred it to the crockpot, whereupon I doused the chicken with a liberal helping of the Frank's Red Hot and let it sit while I made the liquid base for the soup.
OK, back to the soup pot. Step one: make a roux. I melted the six tablespoons of butter in the pot, and then added the flour and ground pepper a bit at a time, stirring constantly for a few minutes to make a blond roux. When the roux was the color of caramel, I threw in my diced onions and celery and sauteed those veggies until they were moderately browned and tender. This took about three or four minutes.
At this point, I added the chicken stock at once and turned up the heat, to slowly bring the stock to a boil. Once it was nice and hot (about ten minutes) I added the milk and sour cream, in order to create a nice creamy texture to the soup. Then I started dumping in liberal amounts of Frank's Red Hot. This I suppose one does to taste, although one should be careful, since in my experience, spicy dishes tend to get spicier as they age in the fridge over a day or two. I got it nicely spicy, though, and then I poured the whole shebang into the crock pot over the chicken, gave all a stir, and then put the lid on. With the crock pot set on "Low", I then walked away for three hours.
The pic above is what it looked like when I dished it up and added my garnish of garlic croutons. The taste? I loved it! Really good. I couldn't be happier with this maiden effort, although I do have some notions for next time:
:: I think I'd prefer my chicken to have a more shredded texture, so I think next time I'll roast a couple of whole chicken breasts and then shred the meat before tossing it into the pot. I only used the breast tenders because that's what I had at hand. I suppose you could use any leftover chicken, huh? This might be a good way to use the leftover meat from a rotisserie bird.
:: I know I said to be careful with the hot sauce, but I don't think I added enough. Next time, more is going into the pot. I might try using the bottle of Anchor Bar Wing Sauce I've had in my cupboard for a year, too.
:: I'm not sure if the soup was thick enough. I may make more roux next time for greater thickness.
:: And I can't remember for the life of me if the soup at Danny's has potato in it! Now I have to go eat there sometime and figure that out.
So there's my initial formula for Chicken Wing Soup. It's not exactly like Danny's, but I think it's a good starting point. Give it a try!
(I've posted photos of the soup-making process on Flickr, here.)