Local Folks Foods

Excellent Kosher Food

November 13, 2009

Baked-Grilled-Roasted Chicken Wing Heaven

OK. I admit it. I am a huge fan of chicken wings. Grilled, baked, fried, roasted, slow cooker. If you want to see an empty plate at your home, put these on the table and see what happens. Now in this economy, I wouldn't mind being a chicken wing salesman. Think about this when you go shopping next time. You can buy wings for $2.00-$2.50/lbs. Yet the entire bird might cost half of that on a given week. So go figure!!

Now lets get to the bottom of this issue. How do I make them? I would like to share that and I will try to explain why I do it the way I do.

- Clean the wings with water and dry with a paper towel or air dry on a plate. I do this to wash away any blood that may be in the packaging.

- Once the wings are cleaned, I prepare my own little seasoning but I do in in two stages. In stage one, I will combine equal amounts of the following spices in a shaker. I'll fill it so I can use the spice combination for future use. Which spices do I use the most? They're listed below and in no particular order, and will not include salt and pepper unless I can really get it fine (I prefer to salt and pepper and not mix with the other spices. I see that as two small extra steps= 5 seconds if I take my time):
a. cayenne- nice for color flavor. Also good for your circulation among other things as well (1). See. You kill two birds with one stone.
b. paprika- this is where I get most of my heat because I use hot paprika. Use sweet paprika otherwise.
c. oregano- this provides a nice herby flavor and is also a good antioxidant.
d. garlic powder- you still get the same healthy benefits as well as the potent flavor as well. I prefer using garlic powder because the other spices are all dried and keeps w/ consitancy (2).
e. if you have a store bought mix of all spices, feel free to use that (that is if you like it). You're the one eating the wings so make them to your liking.
f. I will not use flour unless I am going to fry them. This is just my personal preference and I would not create a spice mix with flour because I don't presently fry that often.

- These I prefer to add if I don't decided to grind the spices. I tried to uses these in a shaker and didn't work very well. So I didn't do it going forward.
a. ginger- another nice flavor and beneficial to your health (3).
b. rosemary- not so much if you will fry the wings but if you cook them any other way, this will give a nice aroma, especially if you roast or bake them. This is an herb that if you have an epileptic seisures or a friend who is pregnant or nursing, some adverse reaction could occur. Studies are being done to see any connection between using rosemary and those who experienced strokes or other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers and ALS (4).

- You can cover the wings with olive oil, especially if you're baking them. Should you do this, make sure that cover them enough where all parts are well covered. Smooth flavor and heart healthy.

- IF you decide to use a marinade (which I will not address now), make sure that you place them wing on a bowl or plastic bag. Make sure the marinade gets on all parts of the chicken. If you don't, you just defeated your purpose of marinating. As how the sauce relates to this, I'll will address that later.

- Now that you've prepared everything, follow the instructions on the bag as cooking times relate. Otherwise for every 12 wings, you would bake them for about 25-30 minutes.

- Now as it relates to the sauce, I'll admit it. I have not invented one yet because there are several I like alot. Some are wing specific but I also use some of my favorite bbq sauces. Most people make the mistake of putting the sauce on while they cook and that is a mistake. What you want to do is when the wings are done, make sure you have a metal bowl. This is key in the process. I don't suggest not using a metal bowl. Take the wings while they are still warm and place them in the bowl. Then add the sauce of your choosing. The reason for this is that the metal conducts heat and the sauce will coat best that way. Then place the newly-well-sauced wing on a plate. Keep an eye on them because unless you're alone, they may vanish.

- Blue cheese or ranch? If I'm really drifing in my mind, I make the following:
a. take 3/4 of a cup and mix the two.
b. take a spoonful of sour cream, chopped or grilled onions, fresh garlic and take part of the mixture from "a" for a different taste.
c. celery is not mandatory to have so if you like them, chop some up and enjoy to your hearts desire.

Works cited:
1. "5 Ways to Stay Young with Dr. Oz Anti-Aging Checklist on Oprah": television, Detroit:

2.  "Garlic Benefit"by Amy Thomas, MD, :;;

3. "The Benefits of the Use of Ginger in Herbal Preparations", Martha Whitney, :

4. "Rosemary Chicken Protects Your Brain From Free Radicals", ScienceDaily (Nov. 2, 2007)

Macaroni Obseseed (or so it seems): John's Mystery Mac & Cheese

I promise this will be the last time I post on this particular topic (for a while at least). If you think I know only macaroni, you would be wrong and I will prove that in the days ahead. I wrote how easy it is to cook it so now you'll get the chance to see how I do it. The thing is it's not always set that I am going to make it this way but this will give those who are interested to see how I think.

For this exercise, let's just keep this simple. You do not have fresh pasta to work with (although that really isn't an issue unless you don't know how or have time to make it). So here's how I make mine.

John's Mystery Mac & Cheese
*= optional.
+= beware for potential allergic reactions.

- 1 lbs of Cellentani (or any pasta I mentioned in my prior blog posting; use caution when using wheat as some are allergic to wheat products. I'm a fan of Barilla PLUS).
- 12-24 oz cheese (your choice; if you use more than one type of cheese, try to use even amounts. This is especially true if you live somewhere like Wisconsin, where access to different cheeses is available).+
-  about a cup of pasta water (as or milk as for those who are not milk intolerant).
- 1-3 eggs+
- spices (I prefer the obvious salt & pepper. I add others such as cayenne pepper, oregano, and hot paprika to name 3). Add to your liking (some people like more of one and less of the other.
- 2 bell peppers* (you choose the color or use what you have).
- onion (I use at least 1/2 of an onion, type again is what you have on hand).
- mushrooms (at least 8 oz, button mushrooms should be ok but if you have other types, they will also work here).*
- diced chiles*
- peas*
- at least 1 tomato (or minimum 12 oz can of DICED tomatoes).*
- 1/4 cup flour*
 - 1-2 tablespoons of of Miracle Whip or salad dressing.*+.
- bread crumbs
- olive oil
- garlic (fresh or powder)
- meat or chicken; seafood can be used but since I am allergic to seafood, I can't use it.

1. First is to boil the pasta as per the instructions on the box. I add some of the seasoning to the water while it boils. The box may say let the pasta sit in water for about 5 minutes. Once cooked to your liking, drain the pasta but try to leave at least enough pasta water to cover the bottom. I have been known to place a bowl under my strainer while draining pasta. I NEVER rinse pasta. This should help thicken the mac & cheese when it's time to add the sauce. It will also eliminate the need to add milk should someone not be able to consume it. Once I drain the pasta, I will add some olive oil (enough where I can coat the pasta) . When I use Miracle Whip and eggs, I add them here and mix them while the pasta is still hot. Mix well.

2. You can do one of 2 things. You can remove the "mac" and start the "cheese" in the same pot or use a different pot altogether. This is part of the reason I season the water, bringing the water to a boil then back to a simmer. If you're using milk, then you may not want to use the pasta water. I take whatever cheese and flour I am using and place it in the liquid and then mix. It should blend in and have the same consistency. I would not use more than medium heat. This is if you wish to do this on the stove and not bake at all.

3. Here's where it gets fun. Did you notice the optional ingredients I listed? These are the ones I like using the most. If you use canned tomatoes, do NOT use stewed tomatoes. I made that mistake once and won't do it again. I found that the texture of the stewed tomatoes had made the dish too soggy. So that's why I use diced. Bell peppers, chiles, mushrooms, onions or whatever you wish to add can go into the sauce.
a. I will add the canned goods or something like a tomato to the sauce (almost like a queso dip).
b. I use raw onions and bell peppers. Once the sauce is added, they do seem to cook. At the most, I might sweat the vegetables. Peas I will fully cook and add to the pasta but before adding the sauce.
c. Mushrooms can be added towards the end with sauce. If you sweat them, don't do it for long because mushrooms give up their own liquid.
d. In the event that you use garlic (powder or fresh depending on what you have), put that in last.
e. If you add meat (such as poultry), I find it best if the meat has already been cooked (eliminating any chance for e-coli or anything of the like).
f. Chiles can be canned, dried (like ancho) or fresh. You can roast these and the bell peppers should you have the time to do it.
g. I do not always use the flour. In fact, I've experienced better results when I didn't.

4. As it relates to bread crumbs, I only use them when I bake the mac & cheese. What I would do is make sure that the bread crumbs have been properly seasoned (again with salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano and whatever other spices I decide upon). I take the sauce and mix in with the pasta. Then I place the pasta in a baking dish (should I want more a lasagna feel) or just use the pot I boiled the pasta in. Once the pasta is in my dish, I cover the top with the seasoned bread crumbs. I will bake it for about 35-40 minutes, of which the last 10 would be uncovered. Let it rest for about 5-10 minutes and enjoy. It tastes even better the next day.

Next time (if time permits), I'll add pictures. This is somewhat new to me but am having fun doing this.

November 4, 2009

Macaroni has an interesting twist

That's right. Macaroni is TOO easy to make it borders on boring. Hey. Sometimes boring is good. What can you do to make a good mac & cheese better? I have a few ideas, based on what other family and friends have enjoyed. Is it just me or do people tend to over think about things sometimes? This can be especially true with cooking. What got me to write this? I remember I was speaking to a friend a while back and they felt uncomfortable with cooking macaroni. I said that mac and cheese is one of the easiest things to make. Think about it for a minute. If it's so hard to do, why is it one of the more popular foods college students make? You boil water. Place pasta in the boiling water. Wait 5-10 minutes (depending if pasta is fresh or dried). Drain the water (I generally keep enough to cover the bottom of the pot. This helps me melt the cheese should I not use milk). Add the cheese. Done.

In fact, you can actually substitute macaroni with another pasta. In fact, it’s been a while since I used macaroni. So what type of pasta did I use instead? I use several (especially when I can find them) but tend to use those that can hold a sauce well. As you read below, you'll notice I mention the Italian root word or phrase that the pasta gets its name. I'll start off with these listed below:

1. Cavatelli (from the Italian root word "cavare", which means "to hollow"). I don't see this much when I eat out but I do tend to see this more in supermarket delis (in particular with salads). It's just as the name implies- hollow. It might be the width of a tip of a pen (and that might be big).

2. Conchiglie (Italian word for seashell with conchilglioni being its larger sibling) is just as the name suggests. It looks like a seashell. It's better when the cheese (or whatever I put in it) can actually get in this pastas hollow shell-like space. Great texture and one I use on a regular basis.

3. Fusilli, (from the root word fucile meaning rifle). This I don't think works as a substitute for what I have mentioned before but could work well in a cold dish.

4. Orrechiette, or in Italian meaning "little ears", is a cross between a bowl and a human ear. That's what it looks like.

5. Gomito (Elbow) Macaroni. This is the one many tend to be familiar with. This is part of the tubular pasta family because it looks a tube (makes sense, right). There are different sizes to this pasta as well. Some tend to make them bigger and some smaller (like what you see in stores). Its sibling is the pipette (Italian for "little pipes" and both are related to the Cavatappi. Cavatappi is also known as cellenati, which translates from the Italian words cavi tappi, meaning "tap extractor" or "corkscrew."

Now I'm no expert on this but let me be honest. I am only speaking from my own personal tastes alone. I put this list together because these are things I know worked for me. I believe all of these can be a substitute for your basic macaroni and cheese or macaroni salad for that matter. In fact, if I make a soup, I might you two of these pastas listed to add a different dimension to the dish (or at least create an illusion that I am anyway). The reason I picked all of the pastas I selected is because all of them have a few things in common. One obviously is shape. As a result of the shape, the next reason is that they tend to hold a sauce well (not only coating the outside but also the inside). I won't get into how to make them because the tubular pastas I mentioned I have made (flap pasta, I'm pretty good with although I don't have my own recipe for it). Could you use rigatoni, ziti, or even penne? Sure I could but I feel for the twist on mac and cheese I am using, the ones I listed worked better for my tastes.

Now for the twist. I think I posted this in a different entry but it is worth repeating:
1. Type of cheese- Velveeta (yep, I admit it because if I am adding other cheeses, it serves as a good base and melts easily), colby, monterey jack, colby jack/coljack, hot pepper, or cheddar (sometimes cheddar is hard to melt but has a nice flavor). I think ricotta and provolone among others seem to be better for lasagna. Goat cheese is fantastic but may be awkward tasting if you never had it or has been overcooked. I had some with goat cheese years ago in Maui and loved it.

2. Please consider this. Always remember those who may have some allergies. Some people can't eat eggs, some can't eat cheese and some can't have any dairy whatsoever (I've know many people use some or all to make the sauce thick). There are dairy free options of cheese but I have not tried them (and doubt I will unless I have to).

3. Imagine if you want to put something else in as well. For example, I may put tomato, chopped onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, peas or similar foods to create an almost one-pot effect.

4. Anyone recall this Emerilism? "The water doesn't come seasoned. Well, I put whatever seasonings I am going to add, I put it in the boiling water while the pasta cooks. People have shared that it DID make some difference.

5. Do you want to bake it? No problem. Get the cheese and whatever you want to put in it and use the pot you will bake it in. Then find some bread crumbs and cover the top layer of the dish. Some believe you should cover for the entire time, some not at all and some (as I do) starting covered and finishing uncovered (the last 5-10 minutes or so).

For the record, I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. Seriously. My goal was simple. I hoped to give others who might see this confidence to try it out. Even those who are more advanced in their cooking skills to think outside the box. Only time will tell if I succeeded (if I find out at all).