winging it

The most highly anticipated day of any football lovers year is right around the corner. Frankly, I don’t like football. However I realize I’m in the minority, particularly this year since the Super Bowl happens to be taking place about five miles from my house.

It seems to me that Super Bowl Sunday has very little to actually do with football and a lot to do with Clydesdale commercials, half-time wardrobe malfunctions and trashy food you would never ordinarily consider eating. You know the kind I’m talking about— bowls of melted velveeta and salsa served with Fritos (hmm, who knew they still made Fritos?) piping hot pizza bites and mini hot dogs (I’m sure there’s not that much MSG in them, right?) and of course deep-fried wings with a side of bottled blue cheese dressing (limp celery stalks optional). But before you get the wrong impression here’s the thing… I happen to like wings. In fact there’s a coal-fired pizza joint nearby that makes the most delicious caramelized onion and rosemary wings that I like to order with a side salad. So you see it’s not the wing itself I take issue with, it’s the prepackaged, deep-fried, preservative laden aspect of your typical trashy wings I dislike. If I’m going to eat a wing I want some thought to have gone into it, some consideration for the flavors in combination with the cooking method. I want someone to have given that wing a little love long before it ever hits my plate.

While I don’t have a coal-fired pizza oven, I do have a gas grill and a Weber cookbook, which as it turns out is all I really need. A few pounds of wings, some Asian ingredients, a little grill time and voilà… Delicious without apology wings. I realize as I type this that the temperature outside is only 18°F, not exactly standing at the grill weather. I have but one thing to say about that—

Toughen up buttercup. This is football!

Grilled Asian Wings
These are delicious and far less guilt inducing than your typical wings.

wings6

1 medium leek, halved and sliced thin
2 tsp. Thai red curry paste
1/2 cup tamari soy sauce
5 tbsp. dark brown sugar, packed
4 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
4 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp. fish sauce
3 tbsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 lbs. chicken wings, tips removed

  1. Add all the ingredients (except the wings) to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Pour all the marinade except for 3 tablespoons into a large ziploc bag, place the wings in the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag to insure all the wings are coated and allow to marinate for an hour.
  2. Prepare your grill by brushing the cooking grates clean and heating the grill to 350°F.
  3. Carefully oil the grates and grill the wings over medium heat, with the lid closed, until they are well browned and cooked through (turning them several times), 15 to 25 minutes.
  4. Transfer the cooked wings to the large bowl and drizzle with the reserved marinade. Serve warm and… Go team!.

*adapted from weber

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feelin’ hot! hot! hot!

It’s mid-October and believe it or not I’m still harvesting cayenne peppers from my garden. To say I’ve had a bumper crop this year would be an understatement! I’ve used my homegrown peppers to kick up the heat in everything from scrambled eggs, turkey chili and curried peanut chicken to sautéed shrimp, collard greens, grits and even salad. I’ve given them to friends and neighbors and popped a bunch into the freezer, and I’ve still got oodles more to find a use for. I happen to love spicy food, so this isn’t entirely the cumbersome task I’m making it out to be, but I really was beginning to worry that I was close to running out of tasty ideas. Then I had an epiphany— how about homemade hot sauce!

I personally think hot sauce is a fantastic and often underrated condiment. But, what I don’t like is hot sauce that’s all heat and zero flavor. My favorite is Sriracha, a Thai sauce made of chili peppers, vinegar, a bit of sugar and lots of garlic. And so Sriracha I would make…

Sriracha (Chili & Garlic Hot Sauce)
This sauce is HOT, garlicky and fantastically flavorful. The recipe doesn’t make a tremendous amount, but all you need to a little to really bring on the heat.

20 whole fresh cayenne peppers
1 medium head of garlic
1 tsp. pink salt
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. water
4 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. corn starch, dissolved in 3 tbsp. water

  1. Remove all the pepper stems and roughly slice. Chop the garlic and place in a small saucepan along with the peppers, salt, sugar, water and vinegar. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Dissolve the cornstarch in water and add to the saucepan. Allow to simmer for 5 more minutes.
  3. Place the cooked hot sauce in the bowl of a food processor and allow to run for 5 minutes. Pour into a small jar, allow to cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator for 3 days before enjoying.

*adapted from pham fatale