Perfect Game Day Food – Honey Sauced Chicken Wings

January 27, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’ve been thinking of posting this recipe since I started this blog and I can’t think of a better time than the days leading up to the super bowl. I have to admit I’m not a football fan – like, at all. Plus, I’m really not a fan of traditional gameday cuisine – chili, hamburgers, and wings don’t call my attention. So the fact I’ve actually found a wing recipe that even I crave, means it has to be really good. I really wish the pictures did these wings more justice – you’ll just have to take my word that they are really good!

We recently bought our first home, and I made these delicious wings for our housewarming party. I have one of those moms that is an extreme “over-cooker”. Whether it be dinner or even worse, a party, my mom goes all out and there’s sure to be leftovers for days on end. So, when I told her what I was preparing for this particular party, she was a bit skeptical about the amount of food I was going to be serving. In the hours leading up to the party and I was prepping these wings, I started to share her concerns, worried if they didn’t turn out I’d be in trouble. Oh well, plenty of pizza shops close by I reassured myself.

But in the end there was no need for reassurance – as everyone dove in they couldn’t stop raving about the wings. The men were literally standing at the crock pot and couldn’t stop eating them – I took this to mean it was a success. The party ended the way I like it too – virtually no leftovers – to me that’s the way to end a party.

These wings have a nice sweet but not too sweet flavor that is complimented by a little spice. I’ve made these multiple times and every time I like to cook them a bit longer so the meat is nice and tender, falling off the bone. So, I’ve never actually stopped at the designated cooking time but sure it produces an equally delicious but maybe more “sturdy” wing.

Now, a word on the actual wings – all I’ve been able to find at grocery stores is either the wing that is attached to the drumette or separate drumettes. I don’t know if I’m missing something but I cannot find wings themselves. This particular recipe calls for the wings that are attached to the drumette and for you to cut them at the joint. I did this for my housewarming party and let me tell you it was pretty brutal – I would definitely not recommend this. What I’ve done since is just cook the wings without cutting them and they are fine. They might not look perfect like at a wing joint, but they taste just the same! If you’d rather not do this, you could buy the drumettes but actually drumsticks cost the same and give you a lot more meat and taste equally as good with this recipe so I’d recommend that over the little drumettes.

I promise you, you won’t have any of these wings for leftovers! Definitely give them a try for your superbowl party!

To make the wings, line them in an oven safe dish and season with salt and pepper. Broil for about 10 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Meanwhile, chop the onion and garlic. I sometimes just use the whole onion even though this calls for ¼ cup. In a bowl, mix together the honey, soy sauce, ketchup, red chili pepper, onion, garlic, vegetable oil, salt and pepper.

Once the wings are done – put them in a slow cooker and pour the sauce over them. Mix to ensure they are well coated. The directions call to cook them up to 2½ hours but I always cook them about 3 or up to 3½ hours. You can sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve but I’ve never even added it – they are delicious on their own.

Honey-Sauced Chicken Wings
Adapted from “Rival Crock-Pot Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes”

Ingredients:

3 lbs. Chicken wings
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup honey
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup chopped onion (I use the whole onion)
¼ cup ketchup
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
sesame seeds to serve, optional (I never need to add this!)

Directions:

1. Preheat broiler. Assemble wings on broiler pan and season with salt and pepper. Broil 10 minutes per side or until chicken wings are browned. Remove and transfer to slow cooker.
2. For sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix, and pour over wings. Ensure wings are well coated.
3. Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours or high 2-2½ hours.

Update: For great game day spread, serve this with fiesta corn salad with cumin lime vinaigrette and either a frozen key lime pie or lemon meringue pie for dessert. 

 

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Sweet Beginnings – French Toast with Mascapone and Fresh Berries

January 2, 2011 § 4 Comments

Yesterday was the first day of 2011 which I welcomed with a mixture of emotions – mostly excitement of what’s to come. I’m very much looking forward to see what this New Year has in store for me and my husband, though honestly, I can’t imagine it being better than 2010. Let me rephrase – I can’t imagine it being better than the second half of 2010. The first half of the year was a tough one. My mom was living indefinitely in Kansas City taking care of my dying grandfather who sadly passed despite our hopefulness. This sad beginning of the year led to months of organizing the closing of my grandparents home and my grandmother moving to Florida. By mid-year, our family was reunited and things started looking up. My husband and I enjoyed a fantastic two week vacation to Spain in May which unbeknownst to us at the time, started a magical trend of good things to come for the second half of the year. We both have gone through more than our fair share of trials and tribulations so to have things suddenly click in place was a beautiful thing. Among other things, we both got unbelievable job opportunities, and after almost two years of searching, we finally purchased our first home. In all this too, it was a year of taking risks – risks that are paying off beautifully.

Thus why I say it will be hard for 2011 to top all that. But I’m remaining optimistic. And most importantly, I am remembering that the life we live is the one we choose. My dad has some pretty good advice he’s drilled into my head – just two words – “Choose Wisely”. I realize now more than ever that this goes beyond what I took it to mean – its not just about choosing the right path, the right job, the right friends, etc. Rather, its about choosing to be happy each and every day, choosing to live with integrity, to define the life you want and not be afraid to go and get it. As Marianne Williamson said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” For me, 2011 is about going for “it”, giving it all I’ve got, not settling, not giving up, and definitely not doubting myself (both in the kitchen and out 😉 )

To start off the year with this great energy, I wanted a little celebration and decided to make French Toast for breakfast. I don’t know when I got out of the habit of making French Toast – I rarely make it anymore but it used to be a regular weekend event in my house growing up. I think French Toast was the first dish I really learned to make (and make well) on my own. The best was when my dad would eat it – he’s not a “sweet” breakfast guy, he’s more of a practical low-carb egg-white omelet guy, so days he’d go so far as to request my French Toast were a pretty big deal.

I was at Whole Foods the night before shopping for our New Years Eve dinner and had seen mascapone cheese. I remembered a special French Toast I had a few years ago with mascapone and blueberry and decided I’d make that as our jumpstart to the New Year and it turned out really fantastic. The French Toast had a nice crunch from the sugar coating. The mascapone adds an unexpected twist against the tart berries and eggy bread. At the last minute I added some lemon zest to the mascapone which lightened the entire dish and gave a fresh flavor. Don’t even think of adding syrup to this before tasting – its so good on its own it doesn’t require anything further. It certainly felt like a celebratory breakfast and a promising start to the New Year – Cheers!

I used a hearty French country bread from Whole Foods which I sliced fairly thick (a bit too thick in fact as the egg didn’t get all the way through the slice). I made us a generous portion – two big slices each which I soaked in the egg mixture.

I use vegetable oil for my French Toast and I like to add cinnamon both to the egg mixture as well as a sprinkle while its frying in the pan. Once the slices were done on the bottom I flipped them over to fry on the other side. At the end, I add a small sprinkle of sugar to each slice and flip for just a minute to get a nice caramelized finish. Don’t add the sugar until the very end as it will burn if left in pan too long.

Meanwhile mix some mascapone cheese with a little bit of sugar, blueberries, and fresh lemon zest. The amount of mascapone depends on how much you like – I like just a hint of it so a thin layer is enough for me. Also, the sugar is optional as I like my mascapone sweet.

Once the toasts are done cooking, remove to a paper towel to remove any excess oil and spread the mascapone blueberry mixture to one side. Top with the other slice (be sure to put it sugar side up) and add more berries such as blueberries and raspberries.

French Toast with Mascapone and Fresh Berries
Yields 2 stuffed slices

Ingredients

4 thick slices French or Challah bread
4 eggs
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
vegetable oil
2 tbsp mascapone cheese
lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh raspberries

Directions:

  1. Beat eggs, milk, and cinnamon until well combined. Dip bread in egg mixture ensuring both sides are well coated.
  2. Coat large pan with vegetable oil and warm over medium heat  and add egg-dipped slices. Cook until golden on the bottom.
  3. Sprinkle more cinnamon if desired on un-cooked side before flipping and cook until golden.
  4. Sprinkle 1 tsp sugar over slices, flip, and cook for just a minute until carmelized. Remove to paper towel to drain.
  5. Mix mascapone cheese, 1 tsp sugar, 1 cup blueberries and spread mixture on two slices. Top with other slice ensuring sugar coated side is on outside.
  6. Top with fresh berries and serve.

A Christmas Feast

December 26, 2010 § 4 Comments

This was my third Christmas with my husband and our second year ever hosting a holiday meal. We hosted Christmas Eve dinner the first year we were married in 2008. Last year, Christmas just wasn’t the same as my mom was in Kansas City taking care of her very ill father who since passed away. Thus, hosting Christmas Eve this year with my mom back home and my grandma now living here was very special to me. To make it even more special, my husband and I have been in our very first house just two months so this was our first Christmas here.

My mom always prepares a traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, sweet potatoes, etc. so I really wanted to find unique recipes to try.  I knew I wanted to incorporate this Sweet Potato Ravioli my friend’s mom had made years ago that I still remembered. The protein is usually difficult for me at times like this – since I don’t like much other than chicken there aren’t that many options. I perused the usual Epicurious and Food Network for inspiration as well as flipping through probably 10 cookbooks. In the end I decided to try a Cornish hen recipe with cranberry and thyme sauce that looked different and festive. I love cornish hens and my mom has made them for me since I was younger so I was excited to try this recipe. It probably wasn’t the brightest idea to do my shopping the day of Christmas Eve, but that’s what I ended up doing. Luckily, I didn’t have any problems with finding everything for my menu with the exception of the cornish hens. Alas, there were none and as tempting as it was to go on a city-wide search, I opted for a traditional fryer chicken and asked the butcher to cut in half as the recipe called for the cornish hen. In the end, I landed on the following festive menu:

We started our evening with the Sweet Potato Ravioli with Brown Butter and they were a huge success! Using the wonton wrappers the recipe calls for is so simple and much easier than making your own pasta sheets on such a time crunched day. The filling was very basic, just mashed sweet potato with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg – but coupled with the delicate wonton wrapping and rich brown butter sauce it was divine. I actually ran out of balsamic vinegar so I was only able to add a splash but I didn’t miss anything. I definitely want to try these again and see what they taste like topped with just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper for a lighter version. For a holiday though – this was decadent and everyone enjoyed them. I did have some leftover and thought perhaps I could freeze them to make at later date – this didn’t work for me though. I’m not too big on freezing things but when I make empanadas, I freeze them in a single layer on plates and then put them in a plastic bag once they are frozen so they don’t freeze to each other. I thought I could do this with these ravioli but the delicate wontons froze to the plate and when I tried to pull off they all broke apart. Next time I’ll just make less as two ravioli per person were plenty as a nice appetizer.

The other favorite of the night were the brussel sprouts and green beans. Green beans are one of my favorite foods but I actually hate brussel sprouts. I bought them at the market though because everyone else in my family loves them. I started looking for recipes and saw many with bacon that I thought would work nice. I cooked the bacon until crisp and removed with a slotted spoon. To the bacon grease I sauteed several chopped shallots, one chopped onion, and a few minced garlic cloves. After a few minutes I added the brussel sprouts (cut in half to cook quicker) and green beans (I had blanched these earlier to speed up the cooking process), some chicken stock, and let that simmer for about 20 minutes. In the haste of cooking everything I forgot to add salt and pepper but these veggies were so good they didn’t even need it! As I said, I don’t eat brussel sprouts but I tried these and they were fantastic. I really enjoyed them and look forward to making them like this again.

As for the rest of the meal – the chicken turned out pretty nicely. It obviously needed to cook substantially longer than the hens would have needed but it still worked out fine. I didn’t follow the sauce to the “T” but used the recipe as a guideline. I only added a very small bit of flour and the sauce actually thickened very nicely. As it turned out, I guess I don’t care of acorn squash. I’d bought them because they looked so interesting at the market, but turned out I don’t care for their texture. (Surprised me as I’m a butternut squash fan). Everyone else enjoyed it though.

Now for the best part – or so I’d hoped – dessert! I love a rich chocolate cake so this recipe sounded amazing – Orange Scented Bittersweet Chocolate Cake. I’d made the cake the evening before and with each ingredient I added, my confidence rose. However, as I made the batter it continued to grow and I couldn’t imagine how it would all fit in the cake pan. It fit “perfectly” though – almost to the top which I now realize I should have just poured half the mixture. The batter was absolutely delicious – I couldn’t stop licking the bowl! I had high hopes for my chocolate cake. At the end of its cooking time though the center was still completely wet and it needed to have “moist crumbs” so I continued cooking it. Another 15 minutes in the oven and it still had not cooked all the way in the center but I hated to risk overcooking it. In the end, it was a dense chocolate cake and a bit overdone. Although everyone assured me it was quite tasty, I was disappointed with the texture. Oh well, I’ll try another chocolate cake recipe sometime – or I’ll just make the batter again and lick the bowl because it was so good 🙂

After my cake looked like it might not be a success I decided to make the pumpkin flan – I’d made it a few times before and it was a hit so I figured it would be a good backup. This recipe is really easy and quick to make.

In the end, it was a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner – a happy first in our new home with hopefully many more wonderful Christmas Dinners (and cooking experiments) to come!

 

Instead of Chicken Wings I’ll Make You…Pumpkin Flan?

December 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

I have now made these incredible Honey Seared Chicken Wings several times in my slow cooker – they are relatively easy and very delicious so when my husband called me one day and asked if I’d make them for his work potluck party I said, “Sure, why not?” Fast forward to Sunday evening and we’re in Target after a full day of trying to find Christmas gifts in the overcrowded mall. It was late and I just wanted to go home. We were looking for the chicken wings and to my disappointment, they didn’t have the drumettes, only the attached wing and drumette. While I don’t mind feeding this to my family, I was leery of sending my husband into his relatively new job with these wings. As we went up and down the aisles thinking of what else I could make him, I thought of pumpkin flan – of course, a natural substitute for chicken wings!

I have never even tried pumpkin flan but I make flan regularly so I figured it couldn’t be that difficult. What was better, I knew I had the pumpkin, eggs, and milk in my fridge which meant this Target trip could be cut short and I could go home. Once home, I turned to my new favortie app of all, the Epicurious app, and looked for Pumpkin Flan. This recipe was short and sweet – it had to be a winner.

I followed the recipe for the most part. I don’t keep allspice so instead I added a pinch of each: cloves, nutmeg, ginger. I never buy whole milk unless its for a recipe and all I had was skim – I’ve made flan from skim milk before and know it doesn’t produce a very nice custard. However, I did have some heavy cream so I did 3/4 skim and 1/4 heavy cream.

As I pulled the flan out of the oven, I was so tempted to take a bite and see how it did. But since I wasn’t “flipping” it as you should and instead was sending my husband with my pyrex pie dish, there was no way to sneak a taste! I had to cross my fingers and hope for the best. Luckily my husband promptly texted me that the dessert was a success. Later that week it was my dad’s birthday and I decided to make this dessert for him – which I got to taste – and I can say it’s really delicious!

Click here for the Pumpkin Flan Recipe

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