This week, we delve once more into the world of the American diner.

It’s a place where, culinarily, I feel very much at home. No-one else on Earth puts tasty protein-y things between bits of bread quite like the Americans.

Say what you like about the modern American diet in general, and its damaging influence on our national health over here, but I still feel it’s an individual’s choice to decide what to put in their mouth, and there are few finer such things than the menu at a typical diner can offer.

The answer is, of course, moderation. These things should be seen as a treat, not as dinner five nights a week.

I have no truck with the people who argue that fast food should simply be banned, because our children are becoming morbidly obese and their teeth are falling out.

It should be at the discretion of the parents, and if they’re too feckless to do anything about it, well, I’m sorry but we shouldn’t all have our liberties curtailed by the selfishness of a few woolly-headed individuals.

I would, however, campaign for such foods to be prohibited permanently from schools. One meal a day for a child should, at the very least, be healthy and nutritious. And that doesn’t mean boring; it just means not pizza, cheeseburgers or chips.

And now, rant over, I shall carry on with this week’s recipe, a reasonably healthy fast-food snack, the buffalo chicken bun. Buffalo chicken gets its name from the North American city of Buffalo, a rather drab industrial place close to Niagara Falls. Yet from such a grey, featureless town we get one of the tastiest, tangiest snack treats.

There are many theories about the origin of the Buffalo chicken, commonly known as the Buffalo wing as it’s most often the breaded wings of chicken that are coated in the rich, tangy sauce.

It’s generally thought that the most authentic tale is that, back in the 60s, a chef at the Anchor Bar in downtown Buffalo was asked to prepare a snack late one evening, after most of the food had been sold.

Thinking quickly, they combined a few breaded chicken wings with a dollop of hot dipping sauce, and served them alongside a pot of blue cheese salad dressing and a few sticks of celery (presumably with the idea that this provided the ‘healthy’ element of the dish!) – it was pronounced a complete success, and the bar has never stopped selling them.

It is now a staple all over the world wherever short-order cooks deep fry things and serve them in napkin-lined baskets.

Many variations now exist, and the use of chicken breast, free of the annoying bone, allowed the cook to pop the spicy meat between two slices of soft bread and create a heavenly sandwich.

The combination of the crisp chicken quickly rolled in a fiery glaze, then smashed up against crunchy celery and a cooling, creamy dressing with the tang of blue cheese is, seemingly against all odds, incredible.

It’s one of those things you have to physically experience in order to see what those in the know are banging on about. It really is an amazing combination.

The heat of the pepper sauce seems to dissipate against the cheese dressing, allowing the flavour of the chicken to dominate. The heat is there in the background, along with the savoury crunch of the celery and salad leaves. Divine.

One of my favourite cuts of chicken is the thigh – it has huge flavour, and is nicely juicy, which works brilliantly in this recipe. Thighs are also very easy on the pocket, so it’s a win-win sandwich.

Just don’t have one for your tea each day, OK?

For the chicken:

20 boneless chicken thighs, skin-on

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tsp Maldon salt

150g plain flour

For the buffalo sauce:

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

A pinch of cayenne pepper

A pinch of garlic powder

A good splash of Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

6 tablespoons Frank’s hot sauce (or any mid-spectrum hot sauce)

125g unsalted butter

Maldon salt and freshly-ground black pepper

For the blue cheese dressing:

100g blue cheese

140ml soured cream

2 tbsp mayonnaise

The juice of � lemon

1 clove fresh garlic, minced

Maldon salt and freshly-ground black pepper


Soft white bread rolls

A few sticks of fresh celery, peeled

Some fresh crunchy salad leaves (Cos or Romaine)


To make the blue cheese dressing, crumble the blue cheese into the soured cream in a bowl, and add the garlic, the mayonnaise and lemon juice.

Beat until smooth, check the seasoning, and tip into a bowl ready for use later. Chill well.

Now for the chicken: preheat the oven to 220C / Gas 7.

In a bowl toss the chicken with the oil and salt.

Toss in the flour in a deep wide bowl, and pat well to remove any excess.

Spread the chicken out evenly on lightly-greased baking sheets. Bake for about 20 minutes, turn the pieces over, and cook another 15-20 minutes, or until completely cooked through, crispy and golden.

While the chicken is baking, mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a pan, and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking occasionally, and then remove from the heat.

Put the crispy chicken into a large bowl, and pour over the sauce, tossing the meat well until completely covered.

Quickly shred the celery as finely as possible.

Serve immediately in soft split rolls with plenty of crunchy salad, the shredded celery and a big dollop of the tangy blue cheese dressing.