After years of good-natured debates about who makes the best chicken wings, the people of Richmond finally decided to settle things last year with an official wing-off. Attendees scarfed down wings from 19 restaurants and food trucks during the first-ever Kickin' Chicken Wing Fest, and On the Rox's Chile Buffalo Wings took the prize for People's Choice. This was no small feat: The restaurant's staff had to make 5,000 wings, and the recipe entails brining, cold-smoking, confiting and deep-frying. We asked the chef to share the recipe-with a few shortcuts for those of us who don't have two days to prep. (Hint: A little paprika gives the flavor of a cold smoke.)
Preheat the oven to 285 degrees F. Melt the fat in a large saucepan over medium heat. Arrange the wings in a large deep baking dish and pour the fat on top, leaving about an inch of space in the baking dish (the fat will bubble). Cover with parchment paper, then tightly cover with foil. Transfer to the oven and bake 1 1/2 hours. (Carefully check on the wings after 30 minutes; they should be slightly bubbling. If they are vigorously bubbling, reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees F. If they are not bubbling at all, increase the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.)
Remove from the oven and let the wings cool to room temperature in the fat; remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Refrigerate until cold, 30 minutes.
Combine the three hot sauces, sambal oelek, mayonnaise and paprika in a large bowl. Fill a large pot with 3 inches of vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 385 degrees F. Working in batches, fry the wings until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the bowl with the sauce; toss to coat.
The chefs at On the Rox use 980 Panama hot sauces for this recipe.