You know you still want ’em…

Wings. They’re the only things people are talking about more than Cam Newton’s pants. (Hey, he’s not the first football fashion plate. Anyone remember Broadway Joe?)

There are as many ways to make wings as there are feathers on a Rhode Island Red. Previously, I offered y’all a flavorful but not hot recipe for the Super Bowl spread. Today, it’s one of my favorites for medium heat. These wings have a rub, which means you don’t have to marinate them for hours. The Mexican-inspired flavors are definitely something different. This recipe is from my book “Wings: More Than 50 High-Flying Recipes for America’s Favorite Snack.”

Mole Ole

1/2 cup chili powder

2 teaspoons cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

12 wings, cut in half at joints, wing tips removed and discarded

1/4 cup olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cocoa, salt, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, cumin and garlic powder. Place the wings in a resealable plastic bag. Pour in the olive oil and shake to coat the wings. Pour in the rub mixture and shake again to coat the wings. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. Place the wings on the baking sheet and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until done, turning the wings about halfway through the cooking time.

Makes 24 wing pieces

From “Wings: More Than 50 High-Flying Recipes for America’s Favorite Snack” by Debbie Moose

Answer the growl

teriyaki tip-off wings from 'fan fare'The Panthers in the Super Bowl has meant a noticeable increase in interest in the game in these parts. But even without that happening, we all know that most people are only at Super Bowl parties for the food. A recent poll in Bon Appetit even confirms it – only 30 percent of the respondents say they would actually be paying attention to the action on the field, not the state of the salsa-and-chip bowl.

Because sports are all about statistics, here’s another: Super Bowl Sunday is the single biggest time for sales of wings. Supply and demand says that prices go up, too. But it’s easy to spend a little time and save a little money by cutting them up yourself. Don’t buy the precut pieces, which can cost as much as $1 a pound more than whole wings. It’s easy. Here’s what you do:

A wing has three joints. With a sharp knife or a good pair of kitchen shears, slice through each joint. Bending the joints and loosening them will help. You’ll end up with three pieces: the drumette, which looks like a miniature chicken leg; the flat, which has two small bones; and the flapper, the small pointy end. Collect the flappers in a reclosable plastic bag and freeze them to make chicken stock with later on. The remaining two pieces you may now prepare at will for eating.

I like my wings fiery, but I accept that others are more tender of tongue. This recipe from my cookbook “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home” has plenty of flavor even without the heat. You can easily double it to feed a larger crowd.

Teriyaki Tip-Off Wings

Serves 4-6

8 whole chicken wings, split at joints and wing tips discarded or saved for later use (16 pieces)

3/4 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice

1/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup soy sauce, preferably reduced sodium

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Place the wings in a recloseable plastic bag. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the juices, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar and oil. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over the wings in the bag. Seal and refrigerate for 8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easier cleanup and spray it with cooking spray. Remove the wings from the marinade and place on the sheet. Discard the marinade. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until they test done.

Fowl ball

I am the designated complainer in our house, and I have often asserted that complaining pays. But never has my squeaky wheel received this kind of grease.

When The Hub and I arrived at the light blue House of Dean recently to see the Tar Heels play, we hiked to our seats to discover that mine was covered in dried, sticky Coke that someone had spilled while leaving the previous game.

For the record, let me state that I don’t care where our seats are as long as they’re inside the building, and that I’m grateful to generous friends who allow us to share their tickets. Let me also state that, yes, I am a Tar Heel and bleed light blue and if you don’t, you shouldn’t come near my house next Wednesday to see what colorful rodent names I call Coach K.

So, sitting on plastic seats tacky with dried Coke was too much. I went down to the usher and complained. Minutes passed. Tipoff approached. A guy arrived with a dry towel, no cleaner and disappeared. I went back to the usher who issued another summons. Two minutes until tipoff, someone arrived with a mop. Not exactly the right tool.

Then The Hub and I saw the usher gesture to us.  “Just sit here,” he said, pointing to two cushioned seats in the high-rent zone, about eight rows closer and not fragrant of aged Coke.

“I could get used to this,” The Hub said, settling in. “Feel free to thank me now,” I replied.

We could see the players’ faces. And the seats were next to the helpful usher, who happened to be a food fan. We discussed recipes during halftime (oh, you bet we stayed for the entire game; the seats’ owners never showed). He told me about a recipe for chicken that he got when he worked as a waiter in a Greek diner. He liked it so much and asked the cook to make it so many times that the cook finally ordered him to come to the kitchen and learn to make it himself.

Here’s my version, based on the list of ingredients the usher gave me, plus my addition of potatoes. I’ve found out that it’s a fairly typical Greek recipe. Some people marinate the chicken overnight, some don’t marinate at all. Either way, this dish produces an exquisite perfume as it roasts. Smells like victory to me.

Greek Chicken from the Usher

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons Greek oregano (it tastes sweeter and is more fragrant than Italian; try it)

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4-6 pieces chicken, bone in (use quarters, thighs, breasts as you prefer, but do not use boneless)

4-6 Yukon gold potatoes

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, chicken broth, lemon juice, Greek oregano, salt and pepper until combined. Stir in the garlic. Place the chicken in a large bowl and pour the mixture over it, covering all the pieces. Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Cut the potatoes into wedges (no need to peel them). Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place the pieces in a single layer in a large roasting pan. Arrange the potatoes around the chicken pieces. Pour in about 1 cup of the marinade or enough to just coat the bottom of the pan (don’t use all of it). Roast, uncovered, for about 1 hour or until the chicken is completely cooked through and golden, and the potatoes are browned.


Smile: It’s roast chicken

The Hub walked into the kitchen with a big smile already on his face. He took a deep breath. “Roast chicken is so wonderful,” he said.

And it is. Simple, no fussing, fragrant, pleases everyone but vegetarians. I stuff mine with fresh herbs from the backyard, a few garlic cloves and the halves of the lemon that I first squeeze on the outside of the bird. Rub on some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roast chicken is such a great thing to have around, too. I usually cook two at a time, because with the wave of a knife they can turn into enchiladas, salad or, my recent choice, chicken pie. I was feeling like a crankypants, and figured comfort food and a beer would do the trick. They, plus The Hub’s smile, did.

I used refrigerated pie crusts. Shreds of chicken in the bottom crust, some black pepper and a small, finely minced onion after that. Then chicken broth, about a cup’s worth. I sprinkle on a tablespoon of flour to thicken. Then, the top crust (remember to vent), 30 to 40 minutes in the oven and even more nice aromas.

Bird and bacon burgers

I saw a fast-food establishment’s commercial raising a flap over its new, and so-called healthy, turkey burger. I have never eaten a turkey or chicken burger that tasted better than overcooked yard mulch, no matter whether it was one I made myself or purchased. Then I noted the latest trend in beef burgers: Instead of putting bacon on top of the patty, it’s worked into the meat. Sean Brock at Husk in Charleston, S.C. has a biggie here.

Bacon makes everything better, so maybe it could redeem bird burgers. I ground about three pounds of boneless chicken thighs with three slices of smoky bacon (a strip per pound sounded right), three cloves of garlic and half a Vidalia onion. I intended to use the grinder attachment to my mixer, but the mixer died (anyone know where I can get a KitchenAid repaired?). The food processor made an adequate substitute. I chilled the mixture for at least an hour., then shaped it into patties.

Unless your grill grate is nonstick, oil it first or brush the patties with olive oil. When flipped the patties, I brushed the cooked sides with a sweet-smoky barbecue sauce. To serve, I brushed the bottom of toasted buns with the same barbecue sauce and topped the patties with Romaine lettuce (just picked, delivered by a neighbor) and a little mayo.

They were probably the best bird bird burgers I’ve had, although upping the bacon wouldn’t hurt one little bit. It never does.

Don’t try this at home

I know how to roast a chicken. I believe that my own way is the best way, as most people do about things they do. You’d be surprised how many ways there are out there to do something as simple as roast a chicken. I read a new one recently, and was intrigued enough to try it out.

The recipe, in James Peterson’s “Meat: A Kitchen Education,” says to roast a four-pound chicken at 500 degrees. Yes, 500 degrees. I covered the breast with a butter-covered triple-thickness of foil, as advised. That was to be removed after 20 minutes of cooking. When I opened the oven to do so, smoke billowed out. The drippings in the bottom of the pan (no rack, again as advised) were beginning to burn.

As I waited out the 30 more minutes of cooking time, more smoke seeped from the oven and down the hall. It set off the smoke alarm despite all the windows being open, exhaust hood on full power and the ceiling fan on high.

At the end of the cooking time, I removed the chicken from the oven. When the smoke cleared, I could see that the inside was coated in spatters and burned bits.

“I thought you’d grilled it,” The Hub said after taking a bite of the smoky-tasting meat.

It didn’t taste bad. But I believe I can roast a chicken without having to air out the house and clean the oven afterward.

Lemon and garlic – what’s not to like?

Soup, soup, soup. Everyone talks about soup in the winter. But I need something to chew on once in a while. I purchased a package of chicken thighs with the intention of preparing one of my old reliable recipes on Sunday. We all have them – those recipes that pop up regularly because they’re easy to make while one’s attention is on something else (like the NFL playoffs), their ingredients can be kept on hand and they fill a comfort-food spot.

As I pulled out the chicken, I decided I would not fall back on the crutch of the old reliable. But I didn’t want to make another trip to the store. I had lemon, olive oil and garlic, and a Greek vibe.

I adapted a recipe from a Mediterranean cookbook to use chicken parts instead of the prescribed whole chicken. An hour an a fragrant kitchen later, I had a dish that might become a new reliable.

Chicken with Oregano and Lemon (adapted from “Taverna” by Joyce Goldstein)

10 chicken thighs

5-6 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into similarly sized wedges

1 lemon, cut into chunks

6-8 cloves garlic, sliced in half

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried marjoram (or more oregano)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup chicken broth (you could use water if necessary)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken and potatoes in a large shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle on the chunks of lemon and sliced garlic.

In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, 1 tablespoon each of the oregano and marjoram, and the salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 2 or 3 minutes to blend the flavors. Remove from heat.

Pour the chicken broth over the chicken and potatoes. Drizzle the olive oil-lemon mixture over the chicken and potatoes. Sprinkle it all with the remaining 1 teaspoon each of oregano and marjoram.

Bake for about an hour, or until the chicken is done. Remove the chunks of lemon before serving.

The many lives of roast chicken

There are few things better than a roast chicken. For guests on Sunday, I roasted two in my usual manner: Squeeze lemon juice over the exterior, put the lemon halves inside the chicken with some garlic cloves and rosemary, then rub the skin with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. I roast them at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and cook another hour and a half or so, until they’re done.

First, you get the homey aroma as it cooks. I don’t know why no one has produced roast chicken-scented candles, because they would beat the leaves off green tea.

The birds arrived juicy and fragrant. The guests tore into them, but about two cups were left at the end of the meal. Mixed with a few chopped carrots and onions, just enough for a chicken pie for dinner.

Today, the final act in the chicken show: The bones and water long-simmered with carrots, celery, onion, garlic and a few peppercorns for broth to fill my freezer. And the perfume lingers.

The CSA casserole

I had pointy-head cabbage and little carrots left from the weekly CSA delivery, and a hankering to try to recreate the flavors of a Middle Eastern dish I once ate. Last night, I put them into a casserole that came out pretty good, although it wasn’t quite what I’d had before.

In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish: Half of the cabbage, shredded coarsely with a knife (the food processor shredded it too finely); chunks of carrots, a sliced onion, some garlic. Then, about 1 1/2 cups of brown rice and four or five boneless chicken thighs, cut into chunks. I poured over it all about two cans of low-sodium chicken broth and 3/4 of a cup of apple juice. I sprinkled on top a little cinnamon and about a teaspoon of ground sumac berries. Sumac is a Turkish spice that has a fruity sweet-sour flavor. A few squirts of lemon juice and a little more cinnamon would probably make a good substitute. I covered the pan with foil and baked it at 375 degrees for about an hour and 15 minutes, until the rice was cooked and most of the liquid was gone.

In retrospect, sauteing the onion and garlic first in olive oil would have brought more flavor to the casserole, but I was in a throw-it-together mood. And the aroma while it baked – mmmm. I love food that smells good AND tastes good. Try it, and let me know what you think.

Those old reliable recipes

All cooks have them – the recipes that live in the back of your brain, ready to emerge when you don’t know what to cook. You know they’re good, so you pull them out when you don’t feel up to the time and energy challenge of something new which might require a visit to the lesser traveled aisles of  the Asian market. The list of ingredients is easy to remember and on every supermarket shelf.

Some call these recipes “comfort food,” and I guess they are. They tend to be dishes associated with good feelings and lack of risk, but not lack of flavor. (Maybe Japanese cooks think sea urchin is comfort food, who knows?) I believe the term minimizes the importance of these recipes in a cook’s life and makes them seem, somehow, lesser than other dishes. I prefer to look at them as old friends, and it’s good to spend time with them.

Some new friends become old friends, and a recipe that I cooked last night has done just that. Several months ago, I was in a mood for something new and flipped through “Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster’s Market” by Sara Foster (Clarkson Potter, 2005). Foster is the owner of Foster’s Markets in Durham, N.C. and Chapel Hill, N.C. It was a chilly day, as I recall, and the hearty, tomatoey goodness of her recipe for Chicken Cacciatore struck a chord. Now, the recipe has joined the jolly clan in my head. This dish has another quality of a good old reliable: It makes great leftovers.

I have streamlined Foster’s recipe a bit. The original says to first roast the mushroom caps, drizzled with the sherry vinegar, in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. I’m sure that adds a depth of flavor to the dish, but I skip it in the name of convenience. Yesterday, I used boneless chicken thighs instead of bone-in ones, and it sped up the cooking time. I prepare the dish in a large, non-stick electric frying pan and cover it for the simmering time at the end, to cut down on sauce spatters. Here’s my new-old friend, with thanks to Sara Foster.

Chicken Cacciatore

Adapted from “Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster’s Market” by Sara Foster (Clarkson Potter, 2005)

3 tablespoons olive oil

About 3 pounds boneless chicken thighs

1 tablespoon dried marjoram (divided use)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 small yellow onion, diced

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Heat the olive oil on medium-high in a large skillet. Sprinkle half of the marjoram over the chicken along with a little salt and pepper. Put the chicken in the skillet, lower the heat to medium, and cook until lightly browned on both sides, 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add the onion and mushrooms to the skillet and raise the heat back to medium-high. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the wine and vinegar and bring to a boil, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue to boil for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Stir in the tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.

Return the chicken to the pan. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the parsley and remaining marjoram; cook a minute or two. Garnish with Parmesan, if desired.

Serves 4 to 6.