Tag Archives: photography

Best Fried Green Tomatoes… Southern Bliss

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I never even thought of Fried Green Tomatoes as a recipe until a few people asked me how to make them. They are super easy and very tasty when done right. My great grandmother used to make them, though hers were made with just flour, not the combo of flour and cornmeal that I use now. This method if dredging, dipping and dredging again is the secret to fried chicken and most any coated fried food. The final dredge changes, anything from seasoned flour to panko, but the method stays the same. In the fall green tomatoes are pulled from the vines before first frost, but here in the south, people treasure them all year and green tomatoes are sold in our farmer’s markets. To keep them from ripening, store in the refrigerator till ready to use. They will keep several weeks. I never refrigerate ripe tomatoes, as that kills the sweetness.

fried green tomatoes

Set up a dredging station:

Pan 1: All Purpose flour

Pan 2 :1 cup of buttermilk 1-2 eggs whisked in

Pan 3: This is where you get a little creative:

Then slice up the green tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. This thickness allows for a crispy crust and tender interior.

Heat canola or peanut oil to 350 degrees in a frying pan, about 1  1/2 inches deep.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the buttermilk mixture, making sure that the entire slice is covered in liquid.

Finally dredge the slices in the seasoned flour, making sure that all surfaces are covered.

Place in the frying pan, taking care not to crowd. fry till crispy and golden brown on each side and remove to a rack to drain. Repeat.

They can be served with a remoulade sauce, sweet chile sauce or put them on a BLT! They are even good cold.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Remoulade

Big Daddy Does Pho

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Pho 3

Big Daddy makes a few cooking attempts to ease my busy schedule. Last night he hit a homerun. Pho (pronounced FA), the simple (yet complex) Vietnamese Street food charmed him when we lived in Hawaii. He is not one for exotic flavors, so this surprised me a bit. Since then we have been to several restaurants here in Charleston that serve Pho. He decided to make it and it was an astounding winner. We paired it with a Belgian Ale and that was a fantastic match too. We had some leftover rare beef (tri-tip) so he froze it and sliced it thinly. I usually ask for my meat on the side when ordering Pho in restaurants, I don’t like it over cooked. We have enough broth for at least two more meals.

ready for soup

Pho 

INGREDIENTS:

Soup
4 quarts beef stock (homemade is best)
1 large onion, sliced into rings
6 slices fresh ginger root or galangal if you can get it
2 small stalks of fresh lemon grass tied in a knot
1 pound sirloin tip, cut into thin slices
1 (8 ounce) packages dried rice noodles
 
Garnishes and Sauces
1/2 pound bean sprouts
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
3 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced into thin rings
2 limes, cut into wedges
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha (Rooster) sauce
Fish sauce
METHOD :
1. In a large soup pot, combine broth, onion, ginger, lemon grass, star anise, cinnamon, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer for 1 hour.
2. Arrange bean sprouts, mint, basil, and cilantro on a platter with chilies and lime.
3. Soak the noodles in hot water to cover for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain. Place equal portions of noodles into large soup bowls, and place raw beef on top. Ladle hot broth over noodles and top with beef. Pass garnishes and sauces.

Pho 2

Pastitsio: Greek Lasagna

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Tight shot

This recipe is so good that I revisit it every few months. It makes a great centerpiece for a dinner party and the leftovers are better than the first night’s meal. The noodles are difficult to find, but I get them on Amazon.com, buying 6 bags at a time.

Greek Lasagna Pastitsio

When teaching others to make this dish, I have often joked that the word pastitsio (pa-STEE-tsee-oh) translates to “messy kitchen” in Greek. I was only kidding, but there is a hint of truth to that statement. The Greek word pastitsio derives from the Italian pasticcio, which loosely translates to a mess or a hodgepodge.

Three essential components make up this dish – pasta, meat filling, and a creamy bechamel sauce which are layered in a pan and baked to a golden brown. Each stage will require dirtying some pots and pans, but I think you will agree that the end result is well worth the clean up!

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 lbs. ground lamb
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 14 oz. can tomato puree or sauce
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Greek Seasoning Blend
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (or Kefalotyri if available)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs plus 1/2 cup for topping if desired
  • 1 pkg. #2 Macaroni for Pastitsio (500g)- available at Greek or ethnic groceries.
  • 4 egg whites (reserve the yolks for bechamel sauce)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

greek noodles

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 quart milk, warmed
  • 8 egg yolks, beaten lightly
  • 1/2  of a whole nutmeg, grated with a microplane

Preparation:

This recipe will yield about 12 servings depending upon the size of your pieces. I use a lasagna pan that is 9 x 13 x 3 inches deep.

Begin with the Meat Filling:

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add ground lamb and cook over medium-high heat until pink color disappears, about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes more.

Add wine, tomato sauce, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and allow sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. While sauce is simmering put water on to boil for pasta.

Cook pasta noodles according to package directions and drain well. Rinse noodles in colander under cold water to cool them slightly.

Stir in 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs to meat sauce to absorb excess liquid and remove from heat.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in pasta pot and return cooked noodles to the pot. Stir in beaten egg whites and 1 cup of grated cheese and toss lightly, being careful not to break the noodles.

Brush the bottom and sides of the lasagna pan with olive oil. Layer the bottom with half the pasta noodles and press down so that they are somewhat flat.

Add the meat filling in an even layer to the pasta. Top with remaining pasta noodles and flatten top layer as best you can.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees while you prepare the bechamel sauce.

Bechamel Sauce:

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste or roux. Allow the flour/butter mixture to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens but does not boil.

Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg yolks. Add pinch of nutmeg. If sauce still needs to thicken, return to heat and cook over very low heat while continuing to stir.

Bechamel is thicker than gravy but not quite as thick as pudding. It should be somewhere in between. One way to tell if it is thick enough is to dip your wooden spoon in the sauce and draw your finger across the back of the spoon. If the sauce holds a visible line then it is thick enough.

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Pour the bechamel over the pasta noodles making sure to pour sauce down in to the corners as well. I even pull back th sides of the pasta to let some go down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs if desired.  Bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the top is a nice golden color.

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Crab Rellenos: Cangrejo Rellenos

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Crab Rellenos

Here in the low country, Blue Crabs abound. But what do you do with all of that crab meat? It is sweet stuff, but not served on the half shell like Dungeness or King Crab. You have to meticulously pick the crab from her tiny shells. So this will be the first in a series of crab adventures. Things you can do with this lovely little Low Country crustacean.

blue-crab-

Day 1:

Make the sauce (below) this can be made up to a week in advance

Make basic filling using 1 pound of crab meat. Here is a primer on how to cook and pick the crabs. You can of course always go to your fish monger and get a pound of crab meat. It is available pasturized in cans. If you buy this, ask for lump meat.

Whip 2 large packages of cream cheese. Add them to the crab and thoroughly blend. Remove 1/3 of this mixture for crab rangoon, tomorrow’s treat.

Ingredients for Relleno Base:

3 ears of grilled Corn on the Cob, cut from the cob

1 cup of grated sharp cheddar, 1 cup of grated jack cheese

1/2 cup of fresh cojita cheese crumbles

2 red onions medium chop, sauteed and caramelized

Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic into the onions for the last 4 minutes of cooking.

3 green onions finely chopped

1/2 cup slow roasted grape tomatoes cut in quarters

Stir all of this together  

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Poblano Peppers (you can also use the smaller, thinner Anaheim Chile), slit clean and roasted then peel. This part can be tricky. I have learned that if you remove the seeds and membranes before putting them on the grill, they come out easier and there is less ripping of the pepper. Do this by making a T shaped cut, horizontally across the top and then one vertical slit from top to bottom. This picture is of Anaheim chiles on the grill. Grilling-Poblano-PeppersWhenever I grill peppers, I always retain few, usually ones that have torn to be used in sauces and fillings, or ropas. Once you roast your peppers on the grill or the open flame of your stove, place them in a plastic bag to steam. The skin will come off much easier then.

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Allow the peppers to cool and then stuff with the filling. Bring the opening as close together as you can. Since there are only two of us and these are big peppers, I only made two. But you can certainly make at least 6 with this amount of filling. I am going to be making some other dishes with the filling.

Relleno coating:

(for two large peppers, double it for 4)

4 eggs, separated

3 Tablespoons cream

salt

flour for dredging

about 1 inch of oil in a large frying pan

roll the peppers through the flour till coated

While the oil is heating, whip the egg whites & salt till they have stiff peaks. Whisk the yolks with the cream. Fold into the whites carefully.

When the oil is about 250 degrees, take a large spoon and put enough of the egg mixture into the oil to make a bed for the pepper. It will spread slightly. lay the pepper down, then cover with more egg mixture. After about 2 minutes carefully turn the pepper and cook on the other side till golden brown. Place on a drip pan and put in a warm oven while you continue the process.

Sauce and plate: You can choose any kind of sauce for this, but this is the one I made ahead of time. The base is something I use for enchiladas and other meals. I added cream and sherry to lighten this one up because the peppers and crab are so delicate.

New Mexico Rojo

1 cup New Mexico Red Chiles

2 tablespoons masa (finely ground)

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups chicken stock

Melt the butter in a saucepan, slowly stir in the masa,  till a roux is formed. Whisk in the chicken broth and simmer. Allow to simmer for a while adding more stock as it thickens.

For the relleno sauce I then added 1 cup of cream and stirred for a while, letting it reduce a bit, then about 1/4 of Spanish sherry. Stir again and then turn off the heat.

Plating: 

Use a small plate with a good upturn to hold the sauce. Puddle the sauce on the plate, then add the relleno. Squiggle crema on top. Serve with a simple salad of radishes, pea shoots, pepitas and cojita.

 

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Carrot Pickle

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carrot pickle

I adore Indian food. The spices, bright colors and flavors could sustain me and bring joy to my palate for eternity. I never tire of the  deep rich combining of so many ingredients to make one dish. Carrot pickles are one of those complexly layered side dishes that not only delight visually, but also in flavor. There are lots of ingredients, but once you have them all measured out, it only takes a few minutes to make these and they keep for at least two months in the fridge if you don’t share them. The problem I have is when people tastes them, they just want more and more and soon they are gone.

My friend and writing mentor Monica Bhide shared my recipe for Carrot Pickle in the Washington Post a few years ago. Not much has changed in my recipe. It is a classic that everybody raves about.

Carrot pickle mise en place

Carrot Pickle  

Ingredients:

8 carrots, peeled and cut into julienne

¾ cup canola oil

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and rough chopped

4-6 small red chiles (depending on how hot you like it)

6-8 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons mustard seeds (I use brown, but black is fine too)

1 tablespoon methi (fenugreek) seeds

1 tablespoon of cumin seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon of fennel seeds

A hand full of curry leaves

2 tablespoons urad dal

1 teaspoon chili powder (hot)

1 tablespoon turmeric

A pinch of hing

4 tablespoons grated jaggery (or Thai palm sugar)

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider or white vinegar)

Method:

Lay carrots on a thick towel and roll and squeeze to remove all the water.

Puree the onion, ginger, chiles and garlic together in a food processor or mortar and reserve.

In a wok, heat the oil.. Add mustard seeds, methi seeds, urad dal, cumin and fennel seeds.

When they sputter, add 1 large onion, a chunk of ginger, and 4-5 garlic cloves that have been pureed together.

Throw in the curry leaves and fry the mixture until light golden brown. Lower the heat and add chilli powder, turmeric, cumin powder and a pinch of hing.

Add jaggery and salt.

Turn off the heat and add vinegar. Taste and adjust the spices – you want it to be hot chilli wise, but slightly sweet and sour from the sugar and vinegar. Mix in the carrots, place into a clean glass jar and store in the fridge. This will keep for several weeks. The recipe can be doubled so you can share some!

Guinness Braised Short Ribs

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short ribs 1
Ecstatic Meaty Velvet…. that is how I describe the end result of this dish. Short ribs are covered with spices and then seared, then the vegetables are caressed by the fire and finally the braising liquid of tomatoes, porcini mushroom broth and Guinness are married to the pot. In go the short ribs and they braise for 2.5 hours while the sauce concentrates as the veggies become succulent. I served them this time over Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with creme fraiche instead of milk. Sometimes I do them over grits. This is the kind of meal that ends with pristinely clean plates, except for those bones which gave up their marrow in the dish.  A sacrifice well appreciated.

short ribs raw

Here is how you do it, feel free to exchange out the spices to your personal palate, this is just what works for me. You will need 6-8 meaty English Cut short ribs to feed two. This recipe can be doubled, but when you brown the ribs, do it in batches.

spice blend

Spice Blend: 

1/4 cup of brown sugar or 1/4 cup of Sweet Onion Sugar (or you can do 50/50)

1 Tablespoon Sweet Smoked Paprika (or Hungarian Sweet Paprika)

2 Tablespoons Vik’s Garlic Fix

2 Tablespoons Bloody Mary Seasoning (or good black pepper if you don’t have it, the full bodied flavor is worth seeking out)

1 Tablespoon dry mustard

 

Alternately, you can use some much more conventional spices if you don’t have access to the above blends:

The smoked paprika is essential,  find it.

  • 3 tablespoons of salt
  • 1/4  cup of brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon of dry mustard

 

short ribs veggies en place

Sofrito: 

1 cup of re-hydrated dried shallots, drained or 4 medium leeks chopped (pale white part only)

4 tablespoons of home rendered lard or olive oil

4 carrots chopped into medium sized pieces

3 celery ribs chopped into medium sized pieces

2 bay leaves (4 if using fresh)

10 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup of dried porcini mushrooms re-hydrated and then strained, reserving liquid

For even more mushroom flavor, add 1/4 cup of kibbled mushrooms

1 440 mil can of guiness

1 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes with the liquid

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 (I use convection roast setting). Be sure that you will have room for the lidded pot or dutch oven to fit on the rack on the lower third of the oven.

Pat ribs dry and and arrange in a sheet pan.

short ribs seasoned

Blend the spice mix and generously coat the ribs with it on all sides. There will be some leftover, reserve it.

Heat the lard or oil in a large deep pan or dutch oven. Brown the ribs taking care not to crowd them, do them in batches if your pan is not large enough. This should take about 1 minute per side.

short ribs browning

Transfer meat back to the sheet pan and ad the shallots, carrots, celery and bay leaves to the pot and cook over moderate low heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables begin to soften (about 3 minutes), clear a hot spot and add garlic. Cook for 1 more minute. Stir in mushrooms.

Add broth, beer and tomatoes with their juice, then add the ribs and any remaining spices and spoon the sauce over the ribs. Bring to a boil uncovered

short ribs ready for oven

Cover and place in the oven and braise for 2.5 hours, checking after about 1.5 hours to see if more liquid is needed, if so add beer, stock or water.

short ribs in oven

Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes, grits or polenta. Click here for the perfect grits/polenta recipe.

short ribs close up

I doubt that there will be any meat left, but if there is it makes amazing tacos. Any veggies/sauce left are great for a soup, just add more liquid and puree.

If you liked this, you might also enjoy Smoked and Braised Pork Shoulder Latin Style.

New Years Fun Food: Collard Green Empanadas

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empanadas with sauce

I had a New Years Day dinner party and decided to have a Hispanic theme. I usually make my Chiles en Nogada for Christmas, but I was busy working on Christmas Eve and decided to postpone that tradition till New Years. I have done a lot of regional Mexican and South American cooking, spent a great deal of time in Latin America from a young age and went to cooking school in Mexico.  Since moving to the Low Country, I have been interested in the spin that my friend Sandra A. Gutierrez has put on some of the traditional Latino recipes and ingredients in her book The New Southern-Latino Table. I decided to incorporate a few of her recipes into my menu for New Years and the first one  was Collard Green Empanadas. In the south it is a tradition to eat two things on New Years, greens  which represent folded money and black eyed peas which represent good luck. Sandra had recipes using both ingredients, so I made them her way with a few twists of my own.

New Southern2

Here is the recipe for the empanadas. She suggested frying  store bought empanada dough or baking pastry dough. and I wanted to bake, so I used store bought pie pastry & baked them because of the time and mess crunch with all of the other parts of the meal I was doing. But you can make them with your favorite pastry dough too. I have filling leftover and plan on doing that next weekend.

Heat oven to 375

Ingredients: 

  • 2 Tablespoons Bacon Drippings (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion or shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped in a a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 bag of chopped frozen collard greens
  • 1/2 cup cooked and chopped bacon (I bake my bacon with Sweet Onion Sugar on it)
  • 1 8 ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup cojita or fresco cheese (optional) these cheeses can be found at Hispanic markets or most grocery stores now days.
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 egg whisked
  • Raw sugar for topping
  • 16 empanada disks or 1 package of Pillsbury pie dough.

Method:

Empanadas

  • In a large skillet heat the oil/drippings and cook the onions till translucent. Add the garlic and saute for about 20 seconds, then add the drained collard greens. Saute for a few minutes and remove from the heat, cool for 20 minutes. Add cheeses and spices.
  • On a floured surface roll out the pie dough to an increase of about 25%. Cut circles with a biscuit cutter or glass. *you can make them bigger if you have a larger cutter, using more filling.
  • Put a teaspoon of filling on each disk and brush the egg wash around the edges. Close and seal, using a fork to crimp the edges. Use the remaining egg was on top of the empanadas. Sprinkle with the flavored sugar. Top with Habenero Sugar. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with salsa.

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Roasted Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Ravioli

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Wonderfully easy and fresh Ravioli! So easy 40 minutes from oven to table. You can also roast the tomatoes ahead of time and make this even faster.

The tomatoes are mostly small grape tomatoes, but I tossed in a few others too. The ravioli dough is actually won ton wrappers. I cannot find my ravioli cutters after the move, so I used a biscuit cutter. This recipe serves 2, but you could easily double it.

Ingredients:

  • 1# of ripe cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Vik’s Garlic Fix (or fresh garlic minced with a sprinkling of Kosher salt)
  • finely chopped Italian Parsley, Basil and rosemary (about 3 tablespoons total)
  • 8 nice leaves of Italian Parsley and Basil for the raviolis
  • 8 small balls of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers
  • 1 cup of dry vermouth (or chicken stock)
  • Reggiano Parmesan for grating
  • Additional seasoning to taste for the sauce, smoked salt, Vik’s Garlic Fix, coarse black pepper & crushed red pepper.

Cut the tomatoes in half. Place on a cooking sheet with rim. Drizzle with olive oil, Vik’s Garlic Fix, a spring of rosemary leaves and black pepper.

Roast at 350 for 30 minutes

Remove and cool slightly

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On a floured counter, lay out 8 wonton wrappers and place one parsley leaf, one basil leaf, one tomato half and one ball of mozzarella ball on each. On 8 other wonton wrappers, brush the egg wash and then place on top of the “loaded” wrappers. Seal carefully and then cut with a ravioli cutter or leave square. Place these on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and allow to dry a bit. 10 minutes is optional, but 5 is fine.

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While the ravioli is drying, put remaining tomatoes and juices in a saute pan and simmer with the vermouth and additional basil, parsley and rosemary. Season to taste.

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In a pot of boiling water, cook the ravioli for 3-4 minutes in small batches. Use a slotted spoon to plate and cover with sauce and top with cheese.

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Sriracha Buffalo Chicken Wings

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Wings plated with Beer

I love sassy stuff. Sriracha is a staple in my house. So is Frank’s Hot Sauce. This recipe is easy and delicious too. If you want to make it healthy, you can use the sauce as a marinade and grill the wings. I opted for the fry method here, but I do grill them too.

Sauce:

1 stick of unsalted butter

1 bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce

2/3 cup Sriracha Sauce (Rooster on the bottle)

3 tablespoons Vik’s Garlic Fix 

1 tablespoon Sweet Onion Sugar 

Place all in a pan and simmer while frying the wings.

sauce

I used Drummets, they have more meat on them and they are readily available here. When we lived in Hawaii they were impossible to find. I wonder what they do with all of the other wing parts…. cat food?

In a large deep pan, heat oil to 400 and then adjust the heat to maintain 350-400 degrees while frying.

Fry in small batches so the wings do not stick together.

This should take about 6-8 minutes, remove when golden brown.

wings fried

Drain.

Place in a pan once all are fried and pour the sauce over and stir to make sure the wings are completely covered with sauce.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Serve with celery, carrots and blue cheese dressing. FINGER LICKING good.

wings plated

Want another great wing recipe: Here I recreated Husk’s Sweet Tea Brined Smoked Kentuckyaki Chicken Wings. 

And here is a post from my friend Scotty Harris, who lives near Buffalo about wings… he insists there is no such thing as Buffalo Wings, they are just wings to him.

Candied Bacon, Beyond Delicious

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bacon candy

File this one under DELICIOUS! This recipe could not be easier, especially if you have access to the flavored sugars mentioned. But you can also make your own by adding chile powder to raw sugar. The Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston is part of a larger company with many franchise stores around the US. They also sell everything on their corporate website. I have provided links for the sugars in case you would like to order them. You can also play around with other flavors, but this is a terrific combination.

1 package of bacon, I used thick cut black pepper bacon

3 tablespoons of Spice and Tea Exchange Sweet Onion Sugar

1 tablespoon of Spice and Tea Exchange Habanero Sugar

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  • Place the bacon strips close together on a broiler pan
  • Sprinkle the bacon with the sugars and fresh ground black pepper
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is crispy

You may want to double this recipe… it is impossible to resist eating these.

All of the grease will go down to the bottom pan and after you pour that out clean up is easy.