When I think of summer, I think of all my favorite hot-weather foods. Juicy watermelons, tangy, veggie-filled salads that my winter self only dreams about, ice cream that you eat quickly so that it doesn’t melt down your hand…the sort of memories that make me so excited every year when the days start to turn warm.
I also can’t help but reminisce about all the amazing friend and family gatherings, potlucks, BBQs, and game nights. And of course all the delicious foods we always share while watching the game or taking a break from our crazy charades performances. Hence my specific reason for summer nostalgia - Buffalo Chicken Dip.
I have an unyielding love for buffalo chicken dip. To be completely honest, it probably isn’t even about the summer memories, it’s just so good I automatically associate it with all things wonderful, summers included.
If you ever had to type “What to do with leftover Buffalo chicken dip?” into your search engine of choice, chances are we are not friends. Actually, even if you have used “leftover” and “Buffalo chicken dip” in a sentence and it wasn’t a negative one, we have nothing in common.
I recently came across a T-shirt that seemed to be created specifically for me and my fellow chicken dip aficionados.
Unlike my passing interest in buffalo wings, I could eat this potluck classic on literally anything - tortilla chips, crackers, toasted baguette slices, celery sticks, carrot sticks, or even a stray grilled hotdog… I’m getting carried away. You can always find me lurking by the bowl filled with the tangy and creamy offspring of the buffalo chicken wings.
The origin of America’s collective favorite wing flavor is, unsurprisingly, Buffalo, New York - supposedly coming about as a happy accident in a bar called The Anchor Bar. There are two versions to the story.
According to the first one, on a fortuitous Friday night in 1964, bartender Dominic Bellissimo asked his mother, Teressa (I personally call her the Mother Teressa of Buffalo chicken) to make something for a bunch of regulars. Teressa could only find some chicken wings in the kitchen, so she quickly fried them up and added her “secret sauce”.
According to Teressa’s husband, Frank Bellissimo, the famous American classic was a product of mistaken delivery. The Bellissimos ordered the backs and necks of the chicken for their spaghetti sauce but received wings by mistake. So, Frank asked Teressa to find a way to use them and the Buffalo chicken wing was born.
Whichever version you believe, there’s one thing we know is true - Teressa Bellissimo was the genius behind creating our beloved dish. And I believe that she deserves way more recognition than she gets. So, go ahead, spread the word, honor Mrs. Bellissimo’s culinary ingenuity.
The idea to deep fry chicken wings and toss them in a combination of bright red vinegar-based hot sauce and butter took the country by storm. And though the internet is inconclusive, we can only assume that the rich, indulgent dip that shares its name followed shortly after. Taking the dish further away from fried wings and a traditional dipping sauce of blue cheese dressing.
Thus the base of the buffalo chicken dip emerged - with the addition of cream cheese, of course, because nothing is more American than cream cheese-based dips. Though many versions of this dip skip the blue cheese in favor of ranch. Not including a little bit of blue cheese is a crime flavor-wise as far as I’m concerned. Even if blue cheese is “not your thing” (from one blue cheese skeptic to another - trust me on this!).
Buffalo chicken dip is greater than the sum of its parts. Cooked chicken, bright red hot sauce, blue cheese, and cream cheese come together to create a bold, tangy dip that, to quote the culinary wisdom of Guy Fieri, “I could eat off a flip-flop”.
Since I always think of ways to incorporate my favorite dip into other dishes, I decided to make it into a portable sandwich version - something along the lines of a pulled pork sandwich.
It suddenly all came to me after looking at pictures of old family gatherings growing up in Hawaii. We regularly stuffed golden, fluffy Hawaiian sweet rolls full of meats and cheeses for the perfect little party sandwiches. And I knew that the sweetness of the rolls would be the perfect complement to the bright flavors of the buffalo chicken dip. In this format, I figured you could share them with a small party, or rip, pack, and socially deliver them to friends.
I was emphatically not wrong. From the first few rounds of testing these sliders, I had people demanding the recipe. The final touch - a little melted garlic butter drizzle on top before a quick toast in the oven - transformed these little sandwiches from simply being “buffalo dip on a roll” into these indulgent, regal, “Buffalo Chicken Dip Sliders” in all their glory.
And so this recipe is my gift to all of the end-of-summer potlucks, all the game night gatherings, and all comfort food lovers out there that need a little flexibility and a lot of flavors. These simple showstoppers are scalable, portable, and easily shared - but most important of all, they’re just so, so, good.