Warm Up Wings & Tenders

The Super Bowl is coming up, and you know what that means – wings! I have a new sweet and spicy recipe that I want to try on game day, but I wanted to test it out first with a smaller audience. Of course, my dear wife had to whip out her Weight Watcher’s smart phone app and inform me that wings were 3 points a piece.


But tenders are only a point per ounce, so we made some compromises.

1 1/2 pounds chicken wings (about 6 wings)
1 pound chicken breast tenders
1 – 2 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue rub (Dizzy Pig Jamaican Firewalk, in this case)
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup honey
1/2 cup butter
1 cup Frank’s Original hot sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

I set the Big Green Egg up for an indirect cook at 400°F, using the inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat.

While the grill was heating up, I seasoned the wings and tenders with Jamaican Firewalk and a little fresh ground sea salt. Then I made the sauce by combining the pepper, honey, butter, Frank’s, Worcestershire, and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Knowing that the tenders would cook a lot faster than the wings, I arranged the wings in the middle of the grate and put the tenders around them. I closed the lid and let everything cook for ten minutes. Then I flipped the tenders and let them go for another 5 minutes.

At this point they were pretty much done, so I sauced both sides and let them go another 5 minutes. Then sauced them again, pulled them off the grill, and moved them to an oven set on Warm.

I flipped the wings and let them go 20 minutes. They were looking nice and crispy brown, so I sauced them on both sides, let them cook for another 10 minutes. Then sauced them again and moved them inside.

The Verdict: ★★★★½
For my first try, I am very happy with this sauce. The honey adds just enough sweetness to offset the heat and the vinegary tang. While the Frank’s gave off a nice warm background heat, the real spice came from the Firewalk. The end result was just hot enough to make me reach for an adult beverage, but not so hot as to haunt me later.

I really like the Firewalk rub, but lacking that you could add some cayenne to the sauce to boost the heat. Next time I might add a touch of brown sugar and vinegar to bump the sweet/tangy ratio up a bit.

The Nutrition: While they’re not fried, the wings are still 3 Weight Watcher’s points a piece. The tenders are 1 point per ounce. So 2 wings, 2 tenders, some veggies, and add another point for the sauce and the meal is still only 9 points. The sauce is 1 point per tablespoon, but using it instead of bleu cheese dressing for dipping saved some points too.


TWO YEARS AGO – Football Food – Chili & Wings


Chicken & Avocado Salad

When everything is so cold and dark, sometimes you crave something fresh and green. When I saw the recipe for Chicken Salad with Avocado Dressing over at Noble Pig, I knew I had to try it out as a cure for my winter blahs.

The original version is for chicken salad sandwiches, but I thought it’d make a great dinner salad.

1 pound left-over chicken breast meat, sliced into strips
1 avocado
3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon ranch dressing mix (Penzeys Buttermilk Ranch in this case)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 scallion (white and green parts)
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
2 heads romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor or blender, combine the avacado, mayo, dressing mix, buttermilk, scallion, parsely, garlic, mint, cilantro, and lemon juice and pulse to combine. Add 1/4 cup of the water and pulse again, adding more water if needed until the mixture is smooth and pourable. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Arrange lettuce on a plate. Top with peppers, chicken, avocado dressing, and some grated Parmesan.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆ This was so good that I plan on always making extra chicken so we have it around for this dish. The dressing had a tangy, buttery, fresh taste that went great with the smoky chicken and peppers.

Next time I would do this as a chop salad – finely chop together the lettuce, peppers, chicken, and maybe add some bacon and cucumber too. Then toss it with just a bit of the dressing and serve with more dressing on the side. I’d probably also switch out lime juice for the lemon to give it just a bit more zip bang.

The Nutrition: Makes 4, 275-calorie servings. The veggies are free so it’s only 7 Weight Watcher’s points if you leave off the cheese.


TWO YEARS AGO – Making More Bacon


Roast Chicken with Winter Veggies

This is a heartier version of the Chicken & Veggies dish that I make a lot in the summer. I started trying these monster roasting chickens from Perdue about a month ago, and am sold on them as a great way to make a lot of meals with very little effort. These 7 – 9 pound birds make a big dinner for the 2 of us, a couple of lunches for me, and still leaves me with 2 pounds of white meat for salads or soups.

The Bird
1 7-9 pound roasting chicken (grill once, eat twice)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried lavender
1 teaspoon dried tarragon or parsley
4 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the herb rub (kind of a gremolata if you want to get fancy) by putting the garlic and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the thyme, rosemary, lavender, tarragon, lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper and give them a whirl until they are well-combined. Add more oil as needed to make a thin paste.

Clean and rinse the chicken, then pat dry. You can roast the bird whole, but I like to spatchcock (butterfly) the chicken for this dish so that it cooks more evenly and covers the veggies better.

To spatchcock the bird, set it in front of you, breast side down. Cut up through the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife. Spread the bird open like a book and locate the keel bone that sits between the breasts. Nick it with a knife to get it to open up, but don’t cut all the way through. Flip the bird over and press down on the center of the bird until it lies flat.

Rub both sides of the bird with the herb rub, working it under the skin a bit. Set the bird skin side up on a pan (I use a large jellyroll pan) and put it in the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour. This not only lets the rub do its thing, but also helps dry out the skin a bit so it stays crispy.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at medium-high (350°F) heat. While the grill is getting up to temp, put the veggies together.

The Veggies
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 fresh ground back pepper

Toss the veggies together in a flame-proof roasting pan (I use the bottom of a tagine, but an old 9×13 pan cake pan is good too). Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

The Cook
Set the pan full of veggies on the grill. Place the grill grate on top of the pan and lay the chicken, skin side down, on the grate above the veggies. This way all the chickeny goodness will drip into the veggies as they cook and the steam from the veggies will help keep the chicken moist.

Close the lid and cook the chicken and veggies for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken and check to see if the veggies are done. If not, give them a stir and return the chicken, skin side up this time.

After another 30 minutes, start checking to see if everything is done. The chicken is done when the juices run clear and the the temperature has reached 160°F in the breast and 180°F in the thigh. Pull the veggies early if they finish before the chicken. This was an 8-pound bird, so it took it another hour on the grill to finish after I removed the veggies.

Remove the bird from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the veggies from the pan to a serving bowl. Quarter the bird for serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Another great roast chicken – juicy and tender with some great flavor from the smoke and the rub. Letting the skin dry out a bit kept it crisp nice and crisp. The cauliflower was just about to fall apart and the carrots and rutabaga were wonderfully sweet and tender.

The Nutrition: Use a slotted spoon to drain the olive oil and chickeny goodness off the veggies and you’ve got 4 big servings of free veggies with about 2 points worth of oil per serving. The chicken is 1 Weight Watcher’s Point per ounce of skinless white meat and 2 points per ounce for skinless dark meat. We actually found this to recipe to be a little light on fat overall because the chicken was so lean.




Chili Verde

Despite our lack of snow, winter is here and I’ve wanted to make a hearty stew. I showed this Chile Verde recipe from Simple Recipes to my dear wife, and the next thing I knew we were on our way to our favorite mercado to pick up the ingredients.

2 pounds tomatillos
1 head garlic, whole
2 jalapenos
1 bunch cilantro leaves
5 pounds pork shoulder (aka pork butt)
2 large white onion
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 (7-ounce) can diced green chiles
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

This recipe boosts the flavor and adds some smoky goodness to the dish by fire-roasting all of the veggies first, so set your grill up for a direct cook at 500°F. While it is getting up to temp, prep the veggies by husking the tomatillos and cutting the onion in half, leaving the root end and skin on.

Put the tomatillos, onions, and jalapenos directly on the grill. They will cook at different rates, so use a pair of tongs to keep everything moving. Start the onions cut side down and flip when they get some nice grill marks, about 3 minutes. Let them finish cooking skin side down so they kind of roast in their own juices. Turn the tomatillos and peppers often so that they pick up a nice char. Remove the peppers when the skin is mostly blistered. Pull the tomatillos and onions when they start to soften. Put the garlic on just as you’re taking the smaller tomatillos off and cook for just a couple of minutes until the papery skin starts to char.

Once the veggies are done, you can move inside to the oven or set up the grill for an indirect cook. I opted for the “more fire = good” option and set the Big Green Egg up for a 350°F cook using the plate setter and a trivet to diffuse the heat.

While waiting for the veggies to get cool enough to handle, trim the excess fat from the pork butt and cut the meat into 2-inch chunks.

Load the meat into a large, oiled Dutch oven and season with a little salt and pepper. Move the uncovered Dutch oven to the grill and let the pork cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until the meat is browned and most of the fat has rendered out, about 2 hours.

While the meat is cooking, peel the garlic, skin and quarter the onions, and skin and seed the peppers. Load all the roasted veggies, cilantro, and half the chicken stock into the food processor for a whirl.

Pulse all of the ingredients until they are finely chopped and start to form a smooth sauce. Add more chicken stock if needed.

Once the pork is nicely browned and rendered, pour off all but a couple tablespoons of fat from the Dutch oven. Pour the verde sauce over the pork and add the cumin, green chiles, oregano, chile powder, and the rest of the chicken stock. Stir to combine. Add just enough water (about a cup) so that the meat is just floating in the sauce.

Put the lid on the Dutch oven, close the grill, and let everything simmer together for an hour, stirring about every 15 minutes. 

Add another cup of water to the Dutch oven and let it cook, uncovered, until the pork is falling apart and the chili has reduced to a thick stew (about 1 hour). Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and a maybe a little more chile powder.

Served as a stew with tortilla chips on the side. It’s also great with rice and beans (with plenty of corn toritilas for chasing the sauce) or cook it until it’s a little thicker for taco filling.

The Verdict: ★★★★½ This thick, meaty stew was wonderful. I left just enough fat in the pan so that the sauce was luscious and rich. The pork and cumin provided a meaty base while the peppers and the tomatillos added a nice green heat at the top.

The original recipes included some anaheim or poblano chiles, and I would add those next time to give the dish a little more “middle” heat.

The Nutrition: Lusciousness comes at a price – 439 calories per 2-cup serving and 11 Weight Watchers points. Drain off more of the oil and serve it over sauteed bell peppers and onions to make it a little healthier.



Beef Short Ribs

This is my second attempt at beef short ribs. The last batch was tasty, but not as falling-apart tender as I would have liked. This time I wanted the great smoky flavor, but I also wanted to move more in the direction of classic Italian braised short ribs – less barbecue and more red wine.

Thankfully, She Cooks He Cleans has a great braised short rib recipe that I thought would adapt nicely for the Big Green Egg.

4 beef short ribs
1-2 tablespoons Dizzy Pig Cow Lick Rub
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2-3 sprigs of rosemary
2 cups red wine
2-4 cups water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups beef stock

I seasoned the ribs with the rub and then set the grill up for an indirect cook at 350°F, using the plate setter to diffuse the heat and a little apple wood for smoke.

When the Egg was up to temp, I put a trivet on the plate setter, set a disposable foil pan filled with the wine and 2 cups of water on the trivet, then put the grate on top of the pan and arranged the ribs on top of that.

I smoked the ribs for two hours, then removed the grate and moved the ribs into the drip pan. I added more water until the ribs were halfway covered and let them braise in the pan for an hour.

I then moved the ribs out of the drip pan and back onto the grate over the pan and smoked them for another hour.

By now the meat was starting to fall off the bone but the meat itself wasn’t very tender. Flummoxed, I took the ribs off the grill and moved the cooking inside.

I took the meat off the bones and removed any obvious connective tissue and then put the rib meat into a Dutch oven along with the de-fatted liquid from the drip pan, the balsamic vinegar, and the beef stock. I brought the works to a boil on  the stove top, then reduced it to a simmer, put the lid on, and braised the meat for yet another hour.

I served the ribs with some of the remaining pan sauce ladled over top.

The Verdict: ★★★½☆ Not sure what I’m doing wrong here. The ribs had great beefy/smoky taste, but were still pretty tough and dry. When we get these at our favorite Italian restaurant, they start falling apart if you look at them too hard.

I’ve got one more pack of these left in the freezer, so I’d sure take suggestions on how to do the next batch. Thanks!

The Nutrition: 3 ounces is 11 Weight Watchers points, so they had better be damn tasty. These weren’t worth the calories.

One Year Ago – Shrimp Jambalaya
Two Years Ago – Spicy Orange Wings


New Year’s Prime Rib

Prime rib has become a New Year’s Eve tradition at our house. So much so that I started craving it a good two weeks ago. While researching recipes, I ran across Michael Ruhlman’s grill/roast method. It involves searing the roast on the grill, letting it rest, and then finishing it in the oven.


We had plans to go see a comedy show with friends, so the goal was to have all the prepping and searing done in advance and quickly finish it when we got home.

Prime Rib
1 6-pound Hereford Beef boneless ribeye roast
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dried rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons dried thyme or oregano
2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon paprika

Prepping the roast started on New Year’s Eve eve. First I scored the fat cap (deckle) on the roast, making shallow diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern at about 1-inch intervals. Then I combined the salt and spices to make a rub inspired by Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow Crust from AmazingRibs. I put the roast into a jelly roll pan and start working the rub into the meat, making sure to get it into the slashes in the deckle – sprinkling, rubbing, rolling, and repeating to coat all the sides. Working over a 6-pound hunk of meat is not the time to be shy. I picked up any rub that had fallen off by bouncing the roast against it, making manly grunting sounds as needed ;).

When the roast was heavily crusted with rub, I moved it to a rack set over a roasting pan, and then moved the whole works to the fridge, letting the roast sit uncovered overnight.

On New Year’s Eve afternoon, I removed the roast from the fridge and let it sit out while I fired the Big Green Egg up to nuclear temps – 800°F on the dome thermometer, meaning the grate was probably about 1000°F.

I took the roast off the rack and seared it on the grate for 2 minutes on each side (considering this was a $50 piece of meat, those were some of the longest 4 minutes of my life). I removed the roast to the rack and closed the vents on the BGE to reduce the heat to 500°F. I put the roast back on the grate for another 2 more minutes on each side.

I moved the roast back to the rack and inserted a Maverick remote thermometer. While the outside was wonderfully crispy, the internal temp was only 42°F (about air temp). I stashed the roast in the garage with a disposable drip pan as a cover and went inside to get ready for our guests.

By the time we were ready to leave for the show, the internal temp had risen to 75°F. When we returned it had dropped to 60°F.

I let the oven heat to 300°F, added about a cup of water to the roasting pan to keep the juices from burning, and put the roast on the middle rack of the oven to finishing cooking.

“Wait a minute – you let a beef roast sit naked in the fridge overnight, seared it so it was still raw inside, then let is sit for 4 hours in a garage, and you still plan to serve this to guests?!? Don’t you like them? How can that be safe?”

I hear you, but it’s perfectly okay. While I wouldn’t do this with ground meat, the inside of a roast is largely a sterile environment. Any nasties that get on the meat in the fridge are not going to grow because of the cold and the salt in the rub. Searing kills anything on the meat, and 4 hours in a unheated garage in a northern climate is pretty much the same as storing it for that long in the fridge. Yes, the internal temp is 75°F, but there’s no way for anything to contaminate the inside, and finishing it in the oven again kills off anything on the outside that might give you the gleep.

It took 2 1/2 very long hours for the roast to hit 125°F internal  (good thing for appetizers, wine and great conversation!). I removed it from the rack and let it rest, covered, on a cutting board for 20 minutes while I made the Yorkshire pudding.

The Verdict: ★★★★½ While it was midnight before the meal hit the table, our hungry (and extremely patient) friends said that it was well worth the wait. I gotta agree – the crust was thick and tasty with lots of salt and herbs while the inside was an almost perfect rosy rare.

But while the food was a hit, the timing was amiss. The show ran longer than we expected and that not only meant that the roast was late getting in the oven, but that it took longer to cook because its internal temp had dropped. Prime rib does taste wonderful with champagne, but I don’t think dining at midnight is going to become a tradition around here.

The Nutrition: Meals like this are the reason people make resolutions. Make it a great new year!

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