Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip (8 of 8)

We were supposed to talk about something else today; a follow up with the talk of salad dressing. But things happened, life gets busy, you run out of ingredients. Or, in this case, your team gets into the Super Bowl and then you really need to step up your party offerings.

Ok, calling the San Francisco 49ers my  team is a bit of a fib. I only live here and I don’t care much about football. Someone took pity and explained the rules to me in high school but between than and now I’ve mainly only watched the Super Bowl. Which, besides being the national football holiday and the national commercial holiday, is also the national snack holiday. You can understand why I had to scrap the salad in favor of a Super Bowl appropriate dish.

Buffalo Chicken Dip (1 of 8) Buffalo Chicken Dip (5 of 8)

It had to have buffalo sauce. In college, I was in Buffalo, New York with a group and we got take out from the Anchor Bar where the buffalo wing was invented and ate them in big greasy piles in our hotel room since we couldn’t actually go to the bar. I didn’t even eat any, I was a vegetarian then, but the smell was amazing. I loved it, breathed it in.

Buffalo Chicken Dip (4 of 8)

The next day the hotel room stank – stank – of buffalo sauce. The tangy, spicy, buttery scent got into everything and I still loved it. Last year, I just about drowned in buffalo wings as a friend and I made batch after batch after batch. It was heaven; it was messy; it was a lot of work. So I translated buffalo wings into a more make-ahead-friendly, won’t-interrupt-the-game-or-commercial-watching dip. But it’s not the buffalo chicken dip you’re thinking of.

Buffalo Chicken Dip (6 of 8)

This is less like the thick bright orange slick of sour cream and canned chicken that most people call buffalo dip and more like the 7-layer dip my family always made for eating-centric holidays. The layers give it texture which, whether you notice it or not, is a big part of why what you eat tastes good or not good. If everything feels the same it bores your mouth and no matter how good the flavors are, it takes away from the deliciousness. Why not give yourself every advantage in the who-made-the-best-dish contest … I mean, it’s not a contest … I mean, you want to win right?

Buffalo Chicken Dip (7 of 8)

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Makes enough for a crowd and fills a 9 by 9 baking dish

There are things labeled buffalo sauce that you can buy in the supermarket – Frank’s Red Hot is my preference – but at it’s core buffalo sauce is a vinegary hot sauce mixed with butter. Since we aren’t coating wings, I’ve kept the butter to a minimum and used it to cook the chicken and made my own buffalo sauce by adding 1 tbs of white vinegar – the sharp stuff – to 1/4 cup of hot sauce. For a more vinegary kick just up the proportion of vinegar to hot sauce.

For the ranch sour cream base:
16 oz sour cream
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tbs garlic powder (I find fresh garlic a little too pungent in ranch dressing)
1/2 tbs dried oregano
1 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tbs buttermilk powder*
1 tsp kosher salt

For the buffalo chicken layer:
1 1/2 lb ground chicken or turkey
2 tbs butter
2/3 cup buffalo sauce, divided into two 1/3 measurements
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp paprika**

For the other layers:
1/2 iceberg lettuce, finely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
4-5 scallions, finely chopped
3/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles; Gorgonzola is traditional but use your favorite or whatever’s on sale. This is not the time to break out the fancy cheese
1/2 cup crumbled bacon***

The ranch sour cream: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until smooth. You can use a stand mixer or electric mixer for this step if you like although it doesn’t take too much time to get everything mixed together by hand. Set this aside.

The buffalo chicken: In a nonstick pan big enough to brown the chicken/turkey (you need more surface area to allow for browning), melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the chicken/turkey and salt and cook until there are only a few spots of pink left, about 10 minutes, then add 1/3 cup of buffalo sauce to the pan. Cook the mix for another 5-10 minutes until the chicken/turkey has absorbed some of the sauce and is brown in a few spots. Drain any remaining liquid from the chicken/turkey and transfer it to a bowl or back to the pan (off the heat). Stir in as much of the remaining 1/3 cup of buffalo sauce as you like along with the paprika and stir the mixture well to evenly coat all the chicken/turkey. The end result should taste a little stronger and spicier than you would eat on it’s own because the dairy is going to dampen some of the spice.

To assemble: In a 9 by 9 pan, spread the ranch sour cream along the bottom to form a smooth flat base layer. Then layer on the buffalo chicken in an even layer. Sprinkle on the lettuce shreds, followed by the scallions, and then the bleu cheese. Top the dip with bacon crumbles (if you’re using them) and then let it rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes so the layers can meld a bit. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

All the layers can be made/chopped/crumbled ahead of time and kept in separate container in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. Then quickly layer them together and have at it, preferably with some chips and celery sticks.

*I keep buttermilk powder around so that I always have buttermilk easily on hand and in this case the powder adds some buttermilk flavor without thinning out the base layer. But you could add 1/4 cup of buttermilk and change the ratios so you have 12 oz of sour cream and 12 oz of cream cream to keep the same texture.

** The one downside to making your own buffalo sauce is that it won’t have that shockingly artificial orange color. I use paprika to give the buffalo chicken more color but if you don’t like the flavor it adds, feel free to omit it.

*** Nope, bacon is not a traditional part of buffalo chicken wings. But a) it certainly isn’t bad and b) the Super Bowl party I’m attending is bacon themed. How could I not gild the lily for that?

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