Sometimes it feels like you can find just about anything under the sun in Berlin. There’s rarely a moment when I find myself “craving” something from California, because really – I can always find something exactly like it or at least pretty darn close.

The one exception? Buffalo wings. I’ve tried some at the American-style restaurants here, but it just doesn’t cut it. There’s always something off about it – the hot sauce is weird and watery, the chicken is overcooked, the skin is sort of gummy, or it really just doesn’t resemble chicken wings at all. Boo.

So I decided to take this into my own hands. I have a beloved bottle of Crystal Hot Sauce in my pantry that I brought over from the States – but I’m trying to make it last as long as possible, so I was hesitant to go all out with the classic buffalo sauce. I’ve also got my favorite sauce of all time – the Secret Aardvark habanero hot sauce (picked up from Portland, OR). I can’t get enough of this stuff, but I’m also trying to make it last.

As I was rummaging through the fridge, I spot a bottle of maple syrup that I never use. Then the idea of a habanero maple glaze hits me. A little bit of both the hot sauces goes a long way and makes for a killer sauce. Classic buffalo is usually my go-to flavor (scoot aside, lemon pepper!), but this one is a formidable rival. Sweet and savory, with a smoky-spicy kick.

This is a baked version, because I’m weaning off fried foods. And to be honest, if done right, the difference is hardly missed! I might even prefer baked actually.

Tip: Let the wings air-dry (uncovered) in the fridge overnight first – this dehydrates the surface of the wings enough to allow them to brown more rapidly in the oven so you don’t end up with rubbery, overcooked chicken. Crisped and browned on the outside, tender on the inside. Perfect.

1 lb fresh chicken wings
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tsp real maple syrup (grade A, medium or dark amber)
3 tbsp your favorite habanero hot sauce (Mine: Secret Aardvark)
1 tbsp Louisiana-style hot sauce (i.e. Frank’s Red Hot, Crystal)
1 pinch red chili pepper
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Worchestire sauce
1 tsp whole grain, Djion mustard

1. In a small pot over low-medium heat, add the butter, minced garlic, maple syrup, habanero hot sauce, Louisiana-style hot sauce, chili pepper, salt, balsamic vinegar, Worchestire sauce, and mustard. (So, basically everything but the chicken). Whisk together and bring to a simmer.

2. Preheat your oven to 400°F/205°C.

3. In a large mixing bowl, toss your chicken wings with anywhere between a third to a half of the sauce, just enough to lightly and evenly coat all the wings. Keep the remaining sauce at a low simmer. *Note: If your chicken hasn’t already been broken down, break down the chicken wings to separate the wingette from the drumette (you can discard the wing tips, or save them to make a sauce or stock later!)

4. Neatly arrange the wings on a baking tray (lined with lightly oiled foil) and place into the center rack of the oven. Roast the wings for about 18-20 minutes, until the wings start to brown and the skin starts to crisp up and bubble.

5. Then, flip each wing over and continue baking for another 10-12 minutes until they start to take on a dark brown, golden color. (Or even a little bit charred, if you prefer a smokier, barbecue-esque flavor).

6. When your wings are ready, remove from the oven and immediately toss in the remaining sauce. At this point, the sauce should have reduced into a glossy, thicker sauce (that can coat the back of a spoon). Serve immediately! (Although these are pretty good cold too, if you’re into cold wings like me.)

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