Invented in Buffalo, N.Y., during the ‘60s, Buffalo chicken wings have become a national favorite. Big surprise!
A mad scientist dreaming up the Frankenstein of comfort foods might’ve come up with something like Buffalo wings. It starts with the fattiest part of the bird — the wings — which then are deep-fried, tossed into a vat of melted butter and hot sauce, and finally dipped in blue cheese sauce.
I hate to be a spoilsport, but yikes! Think of the calories! Single servings of Buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce can pack more than 1,000 calories. And that’s just for an appetizer!
So I decided to tackle this monster and somehow transform it into a weeknight meal. Using all of the dish’s signature elements, and adding orzo or couscous and peas, I think I succeeded, mostly by turning finger food into a dinner-in-a-pot pasta dish.
First, I swapped out chicken wings for boneless skinless chicken. We love chicken wings because the skin-to-meat ratio is so high. After cubing the chicken, I sauteed it in a nonstick pan and flavored it with hot sauce. The nonstick pan allows us to use a lone tablespoon of butter, rather than the 4 to 6 tablespoons called for in the classic recipe.
For the pasta, I like orzo, which looks like large grains of rice. You finally can find good quality whole-wheat orzo at the supermarket. If you can’t find it, try whole-wheat Israeli (the large variety) couscous, which also is a pasta and cooks in about the same time as the orzo.
I held my breath as I served this dish to my husband. Happily, there were no complaints. The dish is cheesy and creamy. He was content. Indeed, I’m confident that this dinner-in-a-pot will be a big hit with the whole family.
Cream Buffalo Chicken and Peas
Start to finish 35 minutes; serves 6
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce, or to taste
8 ounces whole-wheat orzo or whole-wheat Israeli couscous
2 cups frozen peas
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup finely chopped celery
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
While the water heats, in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until just cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the hot sauce and a hefty pinch of salt, then set aside.
Add the orzo or couscous to the boiling water, stir and cook according to the package instructions until it is almost al dente. Add the peas, then return the water to a boil. As soon as the water returns to a boil, drain and add the peas and pasta to the skillet. Return the skillet to medium heat, add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook for 1 minute, or until the pasta is tender.
Add the blue cheese and simmer until the cheese is melted and the sauce has thickened. Transfer to 6 bowls and top each portion with some of the celery. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving: 290 calories; 70 calories from fat (24 percent of total calories); 8 grams fat (4.5 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 40 milligrams cholesterol; 36 grams carbohydrate; 6 grams fiber; 3 grams sugar; 20 grams protein; 440 milligrams sodium.