Saturday, December 31, 2011

Classic Buffalo Chicken Wings

Need more than cookies for your party spread? How about some classic buffalo chicken wings? These are a bit healthier than the standard as they are baked, not fried.  If it's too late to make it to the NYE party, you got plenty of time till the Winter Classic or the Superbowl. 

Of all the places to be sent for a few days to attend a seminar, Buffalo certainly wasn't on the top of my list.  But as always when traveling, I fully engulfed myself in the local food, which would be beef on weck and a chance to visit the original wing shack.  Their sauce is pretty good, but you can easily make your own as well, using another well-known favorite, Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Sauce. 

Classic Buffalo Chicken Wings

2-2.5 lbs chicken wings, about 12-15 jointed wings or so, or you could just buy the drummettes if you like
EVOO or canola/veg oil
1/2 C Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Sauce
1/4 ts garlic powder
1/4 ts onion powder

Fire up the heater to 375F. 

With a very sharp knife, slice off the wing tip and save for stock or discard.  Holding the jointed chicken between your thumb and middle finger, you should be able to easily find the joint and slice through.  If you have extra large chicken pieces or a *dull knife, you may need to bend the joint a little to find the sweet spot.  Do exercise caution, an easier method might be to keep the chicken on the board and slice through the joint, you'll get the hang of it with practice.  Or be lazy and buy the drummettes only. 

Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towel.  Add a splash of oil and season liberally with S&P.  Spread evenly onto a sheet pan at least 1/2" apart, fat side down.  Bake for 20 minutes, then flip and cook for about 16-20 minutes, depending on the size, until nicely golden brown and crisp.  I like mine very crispy, so sometimes I'll turn on the broiler for a minute too. 

In a large bowl, add the hot sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Add the cooked wings and mix well.  Serve while hot, you could also keep them warm in a slow cooker for easy snacking.

Here's a classic dip to pair with your classic buffalo chicken wings.  For a healthier version, mix some blue cheese crumbles with plain yogurt, season with pepper and a squirt of lemon juice and sliced green onion. 

*Dull knives aren't good.  Taking them in to a trusted place to get sharpened should be an annual event i.e. cleaning your oven and seasoning your cast ironware.  I like to handle these matters around the new year, as the latter will warm up house as a bonus side effect during the winter.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cranberry Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Hey There! It's been a while.  Hope you had a fantastic Christmas, if you're into that kind of thing.  That's where I've been, having a fantastic Christmas and not here giving you recipes.  Time away from work and time away from the just above average 4-3-2  Chicago Jets hockey team was delightfully replaced with time amongst friends, time spent with family, and time spent with new family.  I won't leave you hanging till 2012 though.  These cookies are super tasty and very easy, I am not sure why I don't bake stuff like this more often when it is this simple.  Maybe I will be with my sweet new Silpat baking sheet.  And plenty of other culinary treasures, Santa sure was nice this year. 

Just in time to finish off your dessert tray for the NYE party.  Or take some to work and share with people you might not like but have to spend most of your waking life with.  I like a couple for breakfast with a hot beverage.  Enjoy them however you wish, and happy new year!  2011 was full of action, and 2012 might welcome in much more. 

Cranberry Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
makes about 15-20 cookies? I didn't count them, just kept eating them...

2 sticks butter at room temp
2 large eggs at room temp
1 C dark brown sugar
1 C white sugar
2 ts vanilla extract, homemade preferred
1 ts cinnamon, the good stuff
1 ts baking powder
1 ts kosher salt
1.5 C AP flour
3.5 C oats
1 C craisins
1.5 C roughly chopped pecans, toasted

In a dry skillet over low heat, toast the pecans, shaking the pan often. 

Fire up the hotbox to 350F.

In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients- flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt. 

In the bowl of your stand mixer that is equipped with the mixing blade, add the butter and sugar.  Start on low for a half minute, then gradually increase to medium speed and go at it until light and fluffy, a couple minutes should do it. Add the vanilla and one egg, mix that in and then add the other egg, mix until just combined.  Stop to scrape down the bowl if you need to.  Add in the dry ingredients while mixing on medium-low, once that is just combined add the oats, nuts, and craisins gradually so everything is distributed evenly. 

Line a large sheet pan with parchment or use a silicone baking sheet, here's one to buy if you don't have one.  With a spoon, scoop out about 1.5 TB of cookie dough and place on the sheet pan, you want at least 1" between cookies.  Flatten slightly into discs.  They will take about 12-15 minutes, depending on the size.  If your oven is not even rotate your sheet halfway through, bake until lightly golden brown and all delicious smelling.  Cool on a rack for as long as you can handle before eating.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork II

I'm almost done with my list.  Almost.  Couple more things.  I always run around at the last second for some gifts.  It can't be helped.  I was even at the mall during the week-before-Christmas Bears game, which would have been an issue for me had they be any good.  Yet quite the opposite- they suck.  I would rather watch the Bulls, but still only for the last three minutes, which takes 45 minutes.  Bears fans have so little to root for, they are happy when the Packers lose, an event that occurs every 20 games or so.  Good thing there's Captain Serious and this guy.  That is silly!

What do you want this year?
A sweet ass recipe to make your own pulled pork?
And I'll take beer, cheese and sausage in lieu of the milk and cookies. 

The first version of slow cooker pulled pork was a good start- however a crucial detail was omitted- the step of removing the liquid fat with a separatory device.  The flavor profile was brightened too by some random shit in the fridge such as a q cup of chili garlic sauce, a hit of miso, some hot mustard and a bit of Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet and Spicy.  It's all so very easy- you might spend more time finding and hauling the cooker to the kitchen than the hands-on time in this recipe.  I like sliders, or mini-sandwiches, as a do-it-yourself dish for a party, complete with the tangy vinegar-based basic coleslaw and some pickles.  Yum-E!!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork II
serves- plenty
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 C ketchup
1/3 C cider vinegar
1/4 brown sugar (packed, of course)
1/4 C tomato paste
2 TB smoked sweet paprika
1 TB smoked hot paprika
2 TB Worcestershire
2 TB dijon mustard
1.5 ts kosher
1.5 ts black pepper
random shit from your fridge, such as a couple TBs of chili garlic sauce, miso, a splash of Sriracha, anchovy paste, tabasco, hot mustard, prepared bbq sauce such as Sweet Baby Ray's
4-5 lb boneless pork shoulder roast, aka buttocks

Set up the cooker for low.  Add all ingredients in a large bowl (but not the meat) and mix well.  Add to the slow cooker, toss in the meat and coat thoroughly, returning all that delicious sauce on your hands back to the pot.  Cooking time- 8 hours for ~4 lbs, 9 hours for ~5 lbs.  Go to work, go read a book, go to a bar, go donate your time, go fishing, take a sleeper, or go sit and do nothing. 

Remove the pork to a large board.  Using a gravy fat separator, (get this model with the strainer lid) pour out the cooking liquid, strained first if necessary.  Let sit while you shred the pork with two forks.  Add the shredded pork back to the cooker, then pour in the liquid until you reach the fat layer.  Don't add that, but you might want to save it for a roux or something porky.  Cook on low for another 30 minutes or until heated through, or on high for 10-15 if you're anxious.  You can't rush low and slow.

Happy Holidays! Do you need to bring dessert? How about some of these cookies? Perhaps this to make a homemade pie?

Do enjoy those parties, and if you think someone has been really good this year...give them a plate of these.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Once-Baked Potato, Once-Broiled Potato

I tend to like simple things. A very hot cup of good tea or coffee.  Slippers.  Accelerating when the light turns green.  Actually getting good fries with your burger.  A favorite pair of jeans.  A new seasonal from your local brewer.  Food also likes to be simple.  Very fresh, grown with care, minimally handled, seasoned properly, cooked (or not) properly, served properly.  As an example, the oven-baked potato. 

If it wasn't for the egg, you might call potato the single most important food in the world.  Did you know it was from Peru?

The tastiest baked potato really is this simple- Fire up the oven to 400F.  Using a fork, stab all over your taters a half inch deep.  Oil em up with EVOO, veggie or canola, then season liberally with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Place in the middle of the oven straight on the rack.  Depending on the size and shape, they will be done in 45-60 minutes or so.  If you for some dumb reason don't want the awesomely crispy skin, wrap them in foil.  Serve as desired. 

If you'd like to further complicate the simple potato, there's always the twice-baked potato.  Although this version is simpler and therefore quicker.

Once-Baked Potatoes, Once-Broiled Potato with broccoli, bacon, cheddar, green onion
1 large baking russet potato per person
kosher salt
black pepper
1 TB sour cream
small broccoli florets, steamed/boiled for 3-4 minutes till bright green, then shocked in ice bath
1 slice applewood-smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 TB diced sharp cheddar cheese or shredded
1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
additional sour cream, hot sauce, etc.

With your taters cooled a bit, fire up the upside-down grill (the broiler) on hi with a rack about a half foot down. Slice each potato in half lengthwise.  Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, being careful not to tear the skin, into a medium bowl.  You could add some cream or milk if you wish, I chose just sour cream.  If you like your cardiologist, add a bit of the rendered bacon fat, especially if it's Nueske's.  Mix the dairy and S&P to the potato, then fold in half the broccoli, cheese, and bacon.  Divide evenly among the potato shells, if you have a bit leftover then EAT IT.  Add the remaining cheese, broc and bacon, then top with thinly sliced green onion.  On a heavy sheet pan, broil until nice and toasty, about 4-6 minutes, rotating evenly. Can't live on potato alone? Pairs well with a pan-seared ribeye steak with tasty sauce, a green salad and a glass of cab. 

Monday, December 5, 2011


'Beef dipped hot'. That's my order at the beef stand.  That's an Italian Beef Sandwich with hot peppers, dipped into the beef jus.  Sometimes I go for just wet, depending on how long I know that particular joint soaks their delicious Turano or Gonnella roll, but I always order the hot peppers.  Which really means giardiniera.  And if you say 'sweet', you'll just get strips of green bell pepper.  That's not recommended.  And for hells sake, don't get cheese on it.  Here's all the details to order like a professional.

In Chicago, Portillo's or Al's is my preference.  Johnnie's I've never been to, Mr. Beef is okay, Bryon's is okay.  Buona is for the parents who live in the suburbs and miss Al's or Mr. Beef.  My favorite is actually 4 blocks from the house I grew up in, a local place that's been there since I was a 9 yr old customer saving his change for beef sammiches.

The 2011 pepper harvest.  Picked at their peak, the long growing season in Chicago brought to an end before the chilly fall nights.  Miles traveled to my board- 0.0075758.  The chile de arbol are the thin red and green ones, those will  be dried for chili spice; the large green are bells, the big long ones are anaheims, the small long ones I forget what I planted, to add some heat we got jalapenos and habaneros.  I added a couple more habaneros than pictured here.  It's not necessary to have homegrown veg, your favorite purveyor of fresh, organic stuff is fine.  Don't forget to wear gloves,  if you don't have any make sure you wash your hands, board, and knives about 6 times and don't touch anything you deem important to eyesight or reproduction. 

serves-depends, below is good start for a few jars' worth, adjust accordingly

2 bell peppers, cored and diced
4 serrano peppers, thinly sliced
2 jalapenos, cored and diced
1 habanero, small ones thinly sliced, large diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 large rib celery, diced
1/3 head of cauliflower, stems removed and diced
1/2 C kosher salt
cold, clean water
2 ts Italian seasoning, or oregano
1/2 ts chili flake
1/4 ts black pepper
1/2 C canola oil
1/2 C white vinegar

Add all veggies to a large bowl and cover with clean, cold water.  Add the salt and stir to mix, then let sit for at least 12 hours, up to 24.  Drain and rise well.  Split evenly among used mustard, olive, or other clean condiment jars.  In a small bowl, add the seasonings and vinegar.  Slowly whisk in the canola oil, then pour evenly among your jars, each jar should be as full as possible.

It will take at least 3-4 days until the flavor comes through, 10-12 days is when it really starts to sing.  A jar will last at least a few months.  The oil and vinegar will separate after a short time, and that is okay.  When serving, use a slotted spoon or let most of the liquid run off before adding to pizza, a burger, sandwich,'s not just for beefs.  And with a bow, this would make a great Christmas's the perfect time to get those elves to work.

Want the full history of the Italian beef?