Super Bowl Food: Buffalo Chicken Cheese Sticks

This is my first actual recipe in this blog. Deep breath. Go.

Super Bowl Sunday is a pretty big day in the Simpson household. Erin and I don’t watch much football throughout the season – mainly because we do not have the means to – but we’ve always made it a point to watch the big game. We never care who’s playing, nor who wins – we just want to see a good game, have a few laughs, relax a little and eat some seriously tasty food.

Junk food, that is.

I debated in my mind the options for a Super Bowl menu and bounced between ideas: sliders, pineapple burgers, pulled pork sliders, tacos, pizza, taco pizzas, pizza tacos; the list goes on and on. The drawback to making a pizza is that a single pizza is hardly enough for Erin and I for dinner with enough leftovers to make lunch the next day. So what’s the solution? Making an order of cheese sticks, that’s what!

I’d never made cheese sticks at home but we’ve been known to order them from our favorite take-out spot, Marco’s Pizza, and love them almost as much as we love the pizza, itself. So if I was going to make them myself, I was going to make them with some oomph – with a little something extra – with some balls – and decided to combine my cheese sticks with a Super Bowl staple: Buffalo Chicken.

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Most of this recipe was improvised based on a few things I know and can be modified however you want but I’d like to share what I used and how I used it:

The Need:

Crust (taken from Budget Bytes)

  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 cups of flour + more for dusting
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1Tbsp EVOO

Chicken and Sauce

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 8 Tbsp (or 1 stick) butter, I used unsalted
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt

Toppings

  • 1-1/2 – 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles (or however much you want)

Special Equipment Needed but Not Required

  • Slow Cooker
  • Pizza Stone
  • Pizza Peel

The Deed

The Crust

  1. Combine the yeast and sugar with the warm water in a small bowl. Mix it up and let it sit on the counter until the yeast blooms – it will look all bubbly on the surface when it’s ready.
  2. In a medium or large bowl combine the flour and salt and mix it up nicely to make sure the salt gets evenly dispersed. Add the EVOO and mix in. Also, now’s a good time to dump about a 1/3 cup of flour into another small bowl to dust your workspace with in a minute.
  3. When your yeast is ready, pour it into the bowl with the flour mixture and mix until the dough begins to form a ball and is pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Use some of your flour to dust your workspace (that I trust you’ve cleaned beforehand) and turn the dough ball out onto it – don’t use a ton of flour or you’ll be paying for it later. Dust a little bit of flour on top of the dough ball and start kneading your heart out for about 8-10 minutes.
  4. I usually make 4 dough balls at a time and freeze them. If you want to do this, spray your dough ball with non-stick cooking spray and wrap it up in plastic wrap, then drop it into a freezer storage bag with your other dough balls. I take the dough out of the freezer the morning of the day I intend to use it, and drop it into a bowl I’ve lined with non-stick cooking spray and cover it with a warm towel. The dough won’t rise like you think it should be by the time dinner rolls around (roughly 8 hours or so) your dough will be thawed, at room temperature and ready to manipulate. If you’re only making the dough for immediate use, drop it into a bowl lined with non-stick cooking spray and cover on top of a counter for about an hour to allow the dough to rise. Your dough should be ready in about an hour but I’ve let it sit for as many as 4 hours and still had success so do whatever you want here.

The Chicken & Sauce

  1. The morning of pizza day, drop your (thawed) chicken breasts into your slow cooker and cover with the chicken broth. I then drizzled 2 Tbsp of hot sauce onto the chicken. Cover and cook on low for about 7-8 hours or on high for 4-5.
  2. Once your chicken is finished cooking, use tongs to transfer from slow cooker into a bowl and then use 2 forks to shred it up. It will be nice and tender so this part is very easy. You can just leave this bowl sitting on the counter while you work on your sauce.
  3. In a small sauce pan melt the butter over medium-low heat. When the whole thing is just melted (don’t wait for the butter to brown) pour in the hot sauce, the garlic powder, and the salt. Mix it in and let it simmer for a few minutes, stirring every other minute or so until your sauce looks “right” (you’ll know)
  4. When your sauce is ready, remove from heat and dump in your bowl of chicken, using your forks to toss the chicken in the sauce and coat it evenly. Your chicken is ready!

Assembly

  1. Lightly flour your pizza stone and put it in the oven on the lowest rack. Preheat your oven to 480-500 degrees F.
  2. Stretch your dough! Dust your work space with flour and dump your now-ready dough onto the counter and begin to form a circle by massaging the dough in circles with 3 fingers on each hand, going around the diameter of the dough 2-3 times but avoiding the center. Turn the dough over and repeat the process on the other side, then smooth over the center. Once you have a rough pizza-shape (it won’t be pizza size yet) begin stretching the dough by resting it on the knuckle-sides of your hands and rotate the dough while gently pulling with your hands. Once you’ve stretched a bit you can toss it in the air, being careful to catch it with your knuckles and not your finger tips so you don’t accidentally puncture the dough. Once you get to the size you want, you’re done! There are a LOT of YouTube videos on how to do this appropriately – I’d suggest watching this one:

  3. Lightly flour your pizza peel and lay your now-stretched dough onto it. Once your oven has preheated, gently move your pizza peel from side to side to insure your dough isn’t stuck anywhere and if it isn’t, carefully slide the dough onto the pizza stone. You’re going to want to bake this for about 5-6 minutes with no toppings so the moisture of the buffalo chicken doesn’t get nasty.
  4. Using your pizza peel, carefully remove the dough from the stone and let it rest (on the peel is fine). Top it with your chicken, being careful to make it as even as possible and as far to the edge as possible.
  5. Evenly distribute your bleu cheese crumbles and then top with your sharp cheddar shreds. Again, check to see if your dough is stuck to the peel (it shouldn’t be) and then carefully slide it back onto the stone and bake for another 6-7 minutes until your cheese is melted, bubbly and beginning to brown.
  6. Once again, using your pizza peel, remove the pie from the oven and slide it onto a cutting board. Here you can cut it any way you’d like but I chose to cut it once down the middle horizontally and about 6 times vertically creating the “stick” shape we all know and love.

And there they are – Buffalo Chicken Cheese Sticks – a perfect appetizer for the Super Bowl. The chicken is nice and flavorful with a buffalo flavor that is tasty but not overpowering and the crust is nice and crispy on the bottom and soft on the top – plus ooey, gooey melted cheese! Who doesn’t love that!?

I chose no dipping sauce because I thought it would be overkill but if you want to make some extra buffalo sauce, I’m sure that would be a nice dipping accompaniment and even some homemade marinara sauce or garlic butter would be good. Also: if you’re gross, you can eat these with Ranch dressing but I’d advise against it because that’s just disgusting.

I hope your Super Bowl eats were as good as ours! I also hope that if you had a team in the game that it won and if it didn’t that you weren’t a sore loser. If your team wasn’t in the game, then props to you for not being a bandwagon fan and sticking by your team! Personally my infatuation with the sport of Hockey has almost ruined football for me as I want everyone to fight after every play and can’t believe nobody is telling the refs they suck because we all know they do!

Let’s make big plans for Super Bowl 5-0!

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