I can’t believe I ate the whooooole thing.

Actually I wasn’t quite able to finish it all…but you get the idea.

Everything from scratch…and I did a bang up job on the rolls if I do say so myself.

Not pictured:  deviled eggs (forgot about them until we’d already started eating)
and pumpkin pie (still in the oven).

I hope everyone is enjoying their turkey day…and remembering everything we have to be thankful for.

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Sailorcurt’s Secret Hot Wing Sauce

Uncle linked to a new (to me) blog this morning including a link to their hot wing recipe.

I was very interested in their techniques because I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of hot wings and have my own wing sauce that I’ve developed over the years that I’ve yet to find a rival for.

Like “Guns and Butter”, I start with pre-bottled cayenne pepper sauce as a base, but other than that, my technique is considerably different from theirs.  My sauce is the result of many iterations and experiments to come up with just the right combination of flavors to make the perfect (to me) sauce.   I do find their breading idea interesting so I may give that a try once to see what it does for the flavor.  I’ve never been fond of that in restaurants because they tend to bread too heavily, but Guns and Butter’s technique looks like it puts just a thin coat of breading on the wings, so it might be worth a try.

Anyway, I just thought the differences were interesting and I doubt that I’ll ever produce a cookbook, so it’s probably safe to share my “secret sauce” with the world…or at least with my half-dozen or so regular readers.

First, I’ve gotten away from using frozen chicken wing parts just because they’ve gotten so expensive.  I don’t raise and butcher my own (I would if it was legal here) like “Guns and Butter” does, but I can buy a package of fresh chicken wings for about $2.00 a pound and cut them up myself, whereas frozen wing sections generally run about $4.00 a pound these days.

Since starting that, I’ve noticed that not only do the wing parts cook faster when starting out already thawed, but they also seem to cook more evenly all the way through.  When cooking from frozen, it seems like to get the meat closest to the bone all the way done, you have to cook them so long that the outside gets a bit more done and crispy than I like.

Next, I don’t bread or season the wing parts before frying.  I just dump them in the oil as is…after cutting up and rinsing of course.

I use a “Presto” brand deep fryer with a basket…but hot oil is hot oil so that’s not a major difference.  I have tried grilling rather than frying to make the treat a bit healthier.  That works if you are health conscious, but it does change the flavor quite a bit.  I don’t think it’s as good that way, but different strokes for different folks and all that.

As far as the sauce…that’s where we really diverge.

A word about cayenne pepper sauce.  I tend to make hot wings a lot…especially during football season…because I like them so much.  As a result, I like to buy my sauce in quart jars.  When I used to be a customer of Costco, I’d buy Texas Pete in gallon jugs, but Texas Pete isn’t exactly my favorite sauce to use and I don’t use Costco any more (for reasons you’ll already know if you’re a regular reader here).

There are as many different brands of cayenne pepper sauce as you can imagine and every one of them has a slightly different flavor, and spiciness.  You can always make the sauce hotter when cooking, and it is possible to make it a bit milder if you need to, but it’s much easier to be consistent if you start out with the sauce base that is about the level that you like.

There is a brand called “Trappey’s Red Devil” that is an excellent mild sauce.  The only complaint I have about it is that it doesn’t seem to adhere to the chicken as well as some of the spicier sauces.  I’m wondering if “Guns and Butter’s” breading technique would help with that?

A nice medium sauce is a brand that I get at the local Fresh Pride grocery store.  It comes in a plain white label and is marked with the generic title “Louisiana Hot Sauce”.  I don’t remember the manufacturer right now and I don’t have a bottle on hand.  I’ll swing by the store in the next couple of days and pick up a bottle (I need some anyway) and update this post.

For a sauce that I consider “hot” I like to start with “Tapatio” hot sauce as the base.  Texas Pete works as a base for “hot”, but it’s a bit too vinegary tasting for me.

I’ve never found a sauce that, by itself, could be considered what restaurants would call “suicide”, so for something a bit more bold I also start out with Tapatio as the base and then add dried cayenne pepper (or, alternatively, habanero sauce) as needed to dial it up to the desired level.

The way I came to select those brands is by trial and error.  If you try one of them and it isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, try something else.  As I said, every brand has it’s own unique flavor and level of spice depending on how they make it.  All cayenne pepper sauces are not created equal.  Experimentation is the key to creating a custom sauce that you really enjoy.

Now, on to the actual recipe.   Please keep in mind that I rarely measure when cooking.  I tend to judge by color, smell, consistency or, (of course) taste when concocting my culinary pleasures…however in this case, I had a friend that wanted to try my sauce, so I measured everything in the process once and this is what I came up with.  You are (of course) free to adjust things to taste since all of these measurements are kind of “ballpark” in nature to begin with:

Prep time:  5 minutes
Cooking time:  20-30 minutes

Serves 2 normal people or one of me.

12 pieces of “chicken wing sections”.
3 Tablespoons of butter or margarine*
2 Cloves of fresh garlic, pressed or finely chopped
1 small (about 2 tablespoons) fresh or frozen chopped jalapeno pepper**
1/2 teaspoon (packed) of dark brown sugar
1/2 cup Cayenne pepper sauce
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

Optional:  Ground cayenne pepper or habanero sauce to taste to increase spiciness.

– Deep fry or grill chicken wing sections until golden brown and done through.
– While the chicken is cooking, melt butter or margarine in a 2 qt saucepan over medium-low heat.
– Stir in garlic, jalapeno and brown sugar.  Let cook until garlic and jalapeno pepper are soft and brown sugar is melted into the butter…about 3 minutes…stirring often. 
– Stir in Cayenne pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce and additional cayenne pepper or habenero sauce if desired.  Increase heat and bring to a boil, stirring often.
– Reduce heat to low and let simmer until slightly reduced…about 10 minutes…or until chicken is done, stirring occasionally.
– After chicken is done, allow excess oil to drain for a minute or two, then add chicken to sauce mixture, increase heat and stir chicken in sauce until all pieces are coated thoroughly and piping hot.
– Serve on plates or in bowls, with any remaining sauce drizzled over the chicken.
– Garnish with celery sticks and serve with Bleu Cheese or Ranch dressing for dipping…and plenty of napkins.

*you can add more butter or margarine to help mitigate the spiciness if the sauce you chose is too hot for you.  The change is kind of marginal unless you really add a LOT of butter, which changes the overall flavor…but, hey, you may like it better that way anyway.

**fresh jalapeno works best, but I grow my own in the summer and chop and freeze a good bit for use in hot wings and other cooking during the “off” months.  Frozen jalapenos work just fine.  You may substitute canned jalapeno as a last resort, but fresh or frozen will result in better flavor and texture.

This recipe is the result of years of experimentation and refinement and I’ve never found a hot wing sauce that I like better.  Most restaurant’s offerings pale in comparison to the wings that I make in my own kitchen with minimal effort and in 30 minutes or less.

During the 5 months of NFL football season, I make them virtually every Sunday and they are a perennial favorite that I’m specifically asked (sometimes begged) to bring to Superbowl parties every year.

Give them a try and let me know if you like them as much as I do.

Ooooh. I’m in heaven…

Last night, I cooked up the ham hock that was left over from Christmas dinner with some soup beans.

This morning, I whipped up a pan of corn bread and I’m currently enjoying a small slice of heaven for lunch.

I truly don’t understand why my wife doesn’t like this (just the city girl in her I suppose), but that just means there’s more for me.

Pardon me for a few minutes while I indulge my taste buds for a while.

Update WOW that was good. I really shouldn’t but I think I may have just a piece of that corn bread with some butter on it. Just too good to pass up. I need to make corn bread more often. MMMMMM! /Update

Whew!

All I can smell right now is vinegar and dill.

I just canned six pints of pickle spears (3 hot, 3 not).

I haven’t made pickles in over 20 years. Apparently, the procedure has changed and gotten much easier. It seems no one ferments their pickles any more. Everyone just cans them with the dill, mustard seed, garlic etc. and lets them go.

I’m giving it a try. We’ll crack one open in a week or so to see how they taste. if they don’t hold up to expectations, it will be time to break the pickling crock out of the attic and do it the old fashioned way.

I can’t imagine that you can get the same consistency and flavor by just canning them in the juice and not fermenting first. I’m trying to keep an open mind about it and hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised…but time will tell.

BTW: I took the plunge the other day and bought a cheapo aluminum pressure canner at Walmart.

I’m going to can some of the smaller potatoes and I can start canning things like Chili and stews to save for later meals. This is a good thing for me because I tend to cook too much so being able to can the extra will be awesome.

Next year, I’ll be certain to plant enough beans, peas and carrots to can some of them too.

I’m actually enjoying this quite a bit. My mom used to can everything…actually, she still does, but I’m not there to enjoy the fruits of her labor any more…that’s where I initially learned the concepts; so I’m kind of getting back to my roots with this stuff.

Besides, with the way the economy’s going, growing and preserving food could become a very valuable skill to have.

What I was doing last night:


Canning Jalapenos.

8 pints…all sealed perfectly.

I’ve still got enough babies still on the vines to do at least that much again when they’re ready.

I also picked 5 good sized cucumbers with many more still growing. If we get enough, I may make some hot pickles this year. I haven’t done that since I was in high school.

Green beans are ready to pick again so we’ll have them either tonight or tomorrow night for dinner, some carrots are finally looking big enough to pick and we still have plenty of potatoes.

There’s a cubic butt-ton of tomatoes ready to pick. I want to make one batch of “mild” salsa for the wife and the rest will get canned. Corn’s still growing…maybe ready to pick next week.

Gardening is rewarding in so many ways.

Look what I did tonight…

SALSA!!!

About 2/3 of this will get canned, the rest we’ll eat. It’s gooooood. Too bad you can’t taste it over the internet (heck, even smell it for that matter, it smells great too).

I’ve probably got about enough peppers in the fridge to can 2 or 3 pints tomorrow, plenty more still on the plants not quite ready to pick yet, and the plants are still blooming so we should still have more to come.

The tomato vines are starting to wilt so I doubt that we’ll get any more than what’s out there right now. There’s probably enough starting to turn red to get maybe three quarts canned by the end of the week, and plenty more green ones to harvest as they ripen in the next couple of weeks.

Should have more beans by the end of the week to eat and the few ears of corn out there are growing nicely.

I dug another hill of pototoes tonight and baked the two biggest for dinner. We had a leg of lamb roasted on the grill rotisserie, a beautiful, juicy, ripe sliced tomato from the garden and the baked potatoes for dinner. I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it.

You forget how much better truly fresh food is until you start growing your own again.

Apparently…

…It’s time to make some salsa.

Still lots of green tomatoes and baby peppers out there…and the pepper plants are still blooming so they’re going to produce at least one more crop.

Beans are blooming again too so I should have more beans soon.

I wish I had grown my own cilantro but I just didn’t think about it in time. Oh well…next year. Too bad the onions didn’t come up this year…I’ll have to buy them too.

I haven’t gardened in several years so I’ll have to get back into the swing of it over time. I made several mistakes that cost me crops this year that I’ll have to alleviate next year so I’ll have a better selection. Pretty much all I’m getting this year is tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, some cucumbers, a couple of ears of sweet corn, a few green beans and a few carrots. But it’s a start and anything is better than nothing.

As far as yield: I’ve already frozen a couple of pints of chopped peppers. Based on what I’m seeing right now, I’m guessing I’ll be able to can maybe ten pints of peppers and 5 quarts of tomatoes and still have enough to eat through the summer and make a few pints of salsa for immediate consumption and canning.

I haven’t completely lost my touch…just need some refining of my technique.

Oh…the potatoes we’ll eat. I don’t have a pressure cooker yet so I don’t have a way to can them. I intend to get one so I can can foods that require it, but haven’t gotten a round tuit yet.

Notes from the Dinner Table

These pieces of chicken are the same brand, bought from the same store on the same day:

Granted, the thighs and legs were packaged separately, but all of the thighs were of a relatively uniform size as were all the drumsticks, so the logical conclusion is that all the chickens used by this company were of relatively uniform size.

Those must have been some funny looking chickens…big, giant legs with little bitty thighs…either they were distantly related to Popeye or they were imported from Chernobyl.

They tasted just fine though after grilling and liberal application of BBQ sauce. (BTW: We had mashed potatoes and green beans from the garden to go with them…yum).