It was 1980-something, and my friend Susan and I were headed to a Billy Joel concert.

Actually, our husbands were taking us.

We were both on the brink of ending marriages — though we didn’t know it at the time. All we knew was that we were dressed up and ready to sing, and the boys were taking us to Hooters.

“Hooters?!” one of us said. “We can’t eat chicken wings like this!”

Apparently, we could. At least, I had no problem navigating the sticky, messy wings while wearing my rock-star finest. (I also had no problem with the scantily clad waitresses, which created lots of chatter years later when I wrote a column about feminism and boobs … but that’s another blog.)

Thus began my long obsession with chicken wings.

I don’t know if it’s because Billy Joel marked the beginning of a lovely friendship with Susan or one of the few genuinely happy memories I have of my ex, but I’ve always had a soft spot for chicken wings. They’re nostalgic. Casual.

And a pain in the butt to eat.

Which is why I decided to class them up last night.

buffalo chicken on grill“You’re barbecuing chicken?” asked husband 2 (who likes Billy Joel fine but would never take me to Hooters before a concert).

“Sort of,” I answered. “I’m making a whole-chicken wing.

“It’s my ode to Hooters.”

I’ll spare you his grumbled reply. But he loved it.

So did the rest of us. We ate a 3-pound, butterflied, Buffalo-spiced chicken down to its carcass, licking plates, bones and fingers clean. It was so good, I did a little dance while clearing the table.

To Billy Joel, of course.

buffalo chicken served

Barbecued Buffalo Chicken

I served this with a blue cheese dipping sauce, spiked with celery and chives.

  • 1 3-pound chicken, butterflied
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, minced
  • buffalo chicken raw2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard

Lay the chicken skin-side up on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the garlic powder and oregano. Season generously with salt and pepper, then chill in your refrigerator, uncovered, for 4 to 6 hours. (This step dries the chicken’s skin so it crisps on the grill. If you don’t have time for the chill, skip this step.)

Preheat your grill until it’s very hot, then create a zone of indirect heat.

buffalo chicken sauceIn a small saucepan, combine the butter, hot sauce, rosemary, garlic and mustard. Season with salt and pepper, then heat until the butter has melted.

Place the chicken, skin-side down, on the indirectly heated side of your grill. Brush with sauce, then close your grill lid and cook for 15 minutes.

Brush more sauce on the bird’s underside, then flip it over. Brush the top liberally with sauce, close your grill and cook for 15 minutes. Continue basting with sauce and flipping your bird every 15 minutes until an instant-read thermometer shows an internal temperature of 160 degrees. (You’ll grill for about an hour total.)

Remove the bird from the grill. Let it rest at least 10 minutes, then dig in. (Utensils optional.)