Fire-Eater Chicken Mac-and-Cheese

I made a big ole batch of fire-eater chicken the other day. It has a really nice kick to it. Besides sandwiches and other great uses for the chicken, I made this insanely good mac-and-cheese. It’s based on a buffalo chicken mac-and-cheese recipe, so you know that it’s great. And you don’t have to use fire-eater chicken, any roasted (or rotisserie) chicken will do, but I highly recommend the kicked-up flavor of the fire-eater version.

Fire-Eater Chicken Macaroni and CheeseThis fire-eater mac-and-cheese is creamy, like it should be. And crunchy, thanks to the celery and panko breadcrumbs. And it has a kick to it. Just like I like.

Fire-Eater Chicken Mac-and-Cheese
Author: 
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 3 cups shredded or chopped fire-eater chicken (or substitute rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup hot or wing sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's Wing sauce), divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (or use gorgonzola)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Salt a large pot of water and cook the macaroni until al denta, about 7 minutes. Drain well.
  3. Spray a 9" x 13" baking dish with non-stick spray.
  4. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the celery and onion. Cook until soft, 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken and garlic and cook 2 more minutes.
  6. Add 1/2 cup of the hot or wing sauce and stir. Simmer until the mixture thickens slightly.
  7. In another small skillet or saucepan, melt 2 more tablespoons of the butter.
  8. Whisk in the flour and mustard until smooth.
  9. Slow pour in the half-and-half while whisking continuously.
  10. Whisk in the remaining hot or wing sauce and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken.
  11. Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses and sour cream until the cheese melts and the mixture is smooth.
  12. Pour half of the macaroni into the baking dish and spread out evenly.
  13. Top with the chicken mixture.
  14. Add the remaining macaroni.
  15. Pour the cheese mixture over the top and spread out evenly.
  16. In a small saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the panko, blue cheese and parsley. Stir and pour evenly over the top of the macaroni mixture.
  17. Bake 30-40 minutes or until bubbly hot.
  18. Let rest 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

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Okra Giardiniera

I was toodling around the house the other day, with the TV on in the background, when I heard a young lady say “okra giardiniera” in a southern voice. I instantly stopped what I was doing, grabbed the Tivo remote, and backed the show up a bit to see what exactly “okra giardiniera” was. The show was Kimberly’s Simply Southern on the GAC network, and Miss Kimberly (from the country group Little Big Town) was making hot dogs topped with okra giardiniera. And so… I made it too. I had to. It has okra in it.

Okra GiardinieraIt takes 2 days to make the mix, so don’t get in too big of a big rush. But it is so worth the time. The end result is lightly pickled (not too strong on the vinegar), with a little oil (almost like an olive salad), and a lot crunchy. Don’t fear the okra slime… you can rinse almost all of it away after the first day. Personally, I’ll eat okra any time, any way, full slime or not (see my Southern fried okra).

Oh, and I went with bigger cuts on the veggies just to get more crunch. That’s just me, you can make them as big or as small as you want.

Okra GiardinieraNext up, I’m going to top a muffuletta sandwich with this giardiniera. I know it’ll be outstanding!

Okra Giardiniera
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup sliced fresh okra (frozen okra, thawed works just fine)
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 3-6 jalapeños, seeded (if desired), diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
Day 1
  1. Place the salt, okra, carrots, jalapeños, garlic, celery and red bell peppers into a resealable container. Add enough cold water to just cover the vegetables. Seal and place in the fridge overnight.
Day 2
  1. Pour the mixture into a caldron and rinse well. You can mix the vegetables a bit to get them really rinsed well (read: remove any okra slime), but don't be too aggressive or all of the tasty okra seeds will fly out.
  2. Return vegetables to the resealable container.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, oregano, and pepper. Pour over the vegetables and stir gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The giardiniera is ready to use the next stay. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

Italian “Sausage” Baby Back Ribs on the Char-Broil Big Easy

A little bit ago I made baby back ribs on my Char-Broil The Big Easy TRU-Infrared Oil-less Turkey Fryer for the first time. I was really impressed with how well they came out. Tender, juicy, and tasty. Just another reason that my Big Easy is one of my favorite “grills”.

Italian "Sausage" Baby Back Ribs on the Char-Broil Big EasyI was looking for a different take on ribs, something other than the “usual” BBQ-flavor, when I came across a recipe for ribs with the flavor of Italian sausage (oh my!), courtesy Chef John. I knew right then that I was going to make them on my Big Easy.

Italian "Sausage" Baby Back Ribs on the Char-Broil Big EasyThe result is fantastic. They taste just like Italian sausage, with a wonderful twist. Again, tender and juicy. And with the hint (not overpowering) of fennel and the other seasonings found in Italian sausage. The orange glaze is absolutely to die for. The brown sugar gives the ribs a bit of a crust, a crunchy exterior. The glaze is not overly sweet thanks to rice wine vinegar, orange juice and zest, and chile paste (yum! a nice kick!). These are some of the best ribs I’ve ever had or made, and I’ve made a lot of them, from on the grill, on the smoker, and now on the Big Easy.


Italian "Sausage" Baby Back Ribs
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
For the brine
  • 2 racks baby back ribs, trimmed to fit the Big Easy (alternatively, if you have a particularly large rack, just halve it and the remaining ingredients). Remove the membrane from the backs of the ribs and trim any large chunks of fat.
  • 32 ounces apple cider or juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup loose packed brown sugar
For the rub
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, lightly ground
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the glaze
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup orange juice (2 big oranges)
  • 2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon hot chile paste
Instructions
  1. Place the ribs into a resealable container.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the brine ingredients. Pour over the ribs and seal.
  3. Refrigerate 12 hours, turning the ribs occasionally.
  4. Fire up your big easy
  5. Attach ribs to the rib hooks. Attach ribs to the Big Easy and lower into the cooker. Cook 35 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, make the rub by combining all ingredients.
  7. Rub ribs generously with the rub (being careful to not burn yourself on the rib hooks!). Wrap the ribs in foil, making sure that the rib hooks stick out enough to be used.
  8. Return ribs to the Big Easy and cook another 45 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, make the glaze by combining all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and simmer until reduced by half.
  10. Remove ribs from the Big Easy and remove the foil. Brush ribs on all sides with the glaze and return to the cooker for 10 minutes. Add more glaze and cook another 5 minutes or until the desired color is achieved.
  11. Let ribs rest 10 minutes before slicing.

 

Nutella Pretzel Brownies

Brownies. Pretzels. Nutella. You don’t really need to say any more about these little treats. They’re a bit sweet. And a bit salty. And a bit nutty. They’re really, really good. The pretzels also add a nice crunchy outside, and the fudge brownies have a smooth, tender chocolately inside.

Nutella Pretzel BrowniesI have to admit, Nutella’s rather addicting. It was tempting to lick the spoon while frosting these brownies.

Nutella Pretzel Brownies

Nutella Pretzel Brownies
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
For the crust
  • 1 1/2 cups pretzels
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the brownies
For the frosting/topping
  • Nutella spread
  • Pretzels
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
For the crust
  1. Place pretzels into a blender or food processor and process until they're all in small pieces.
  2. Add the brown sugar and pulse until combined.
  3. Add the melted butter and pulse until combined.
  4. Spray a 8 x 8 baking pan (or whatever size you wish to use, refer to the browning mix box) with non-stick spray.
  5. Pour in the pretzel mixture and spread out evenly. Press down on it with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
  6. Bake 12-15 minutes until firm.
  7. Make the brownie mixture per package instructions. Pour over the pretzel crust and gently spread out evenly.
  8. Bake per package instructions. Remove from oven and let cool completely, at least 45 minutes.
  9. Spread Nutella over the tops of the brownies.
  10. Add pretzels for garnish.
  11. Cut into pieces and serve.

 

Fire-Eater Roasted Split Chicken Breasts on the Char-Broil Big Easy

After enjoying (ok, devouring) a batch of fire-eater chicken wings the other day, I just had to find another use for Steven Raichlen’s fantastic fire-eater rub. The rub has a tremendous kick and flavor thanks to celery seed and a few other things. So, I decided I’d fire up my Char-Broil Big Easy and roast some split chicken breasts. Chicken and turkey are the reason I bought my Big Easy – it’s beyond easy, and always produces tender, juicy, flavorful meats.

Fire-Eater Roasted Split Chicken Breasts on the Char-Broil Big EasyI removed the skin from two family packs of bone-in split chicken breasts, gave them a little rub down, and two hours later put them into the Big Easy (I used a Bunk Bed Basket, which essentially doubles how many chicken breasts I can cook at once). Total weight was around 10 pounds, so at 10 minutes/pound, the chicken was all done in about 2 hours. And boy did it smell and look fantastic.

Fire-Eater Roasted Split Chicken Breasts on the Char-Broil Big EasyYou can serve these as-is and wow everyone. Or remove the meat and use it anywhere you need some kickin’ chicken. I shredded some for tortilla soup, and cubed some more for an outstanding Fire-Eater Mac-and-Cheese.


Fire-Eater Roasted Split Chicken Breasts on the Char-Broil Big Easy
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle rub mixture over chicken. Please in a resealable container and shake to coat.
  2. Refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
  3. Fire up your Char-Broil Big Easy.
  4. Spray the basket with non-stick spray.
  5. Place 4 chicken breasts in the bottom of the basket (I stood mine up on end to fit without over-crowding them).
  6. Add the bunk bed basket (spray it with non-stick spray first) and add the remaining chicken breasts.
  7. Cook until done, about 10 minutes/pound. Check for doneness in multiple places to be safe.
  8. Let rest 10 minutes before serving/slicing.

Hobo Hash

I love a great hobo hash for dinner. You can pretty much just grab whatever’s in your fridge and pantry at the time and toss it into a skillet. Eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes, cheese. Anything and everything.

Hobo HashI recall breakfasts like this from when I was a kid, at a diner in the town where my grandfather lived. The cook there would throw everything onto a flat top and in just seconds you had a hot breakfast on your plate. It was cheap and it was good, but I think I probably skipped the mushrooms as a kid.

Hobo Hash
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 pound bulk sausage
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups shredded Russet potatoes
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and scramble with a fork. Pour into the skillet, season with salt, and cook until done, scrambling them as they cook. Remove.
  3. Crumble sausage into skillet and cook until done. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
  4. Add onions and mushrooms to the skillet and cook until they are tender. Remove to a bowl.
  5. Add the oil and potatoes to the skillet. Season with salt. Do not stir. Let them cook until well browned on one side.
  6. Flip the potatoes and cook a few more minutes until just starting to brown.
  7. Add the eggs, sausage, onions and mushrooms. Mix all ingredients together.
  8. Sprinkle with cheese and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until cheese melts. Serve.

 

Grilled Chicken Fajita Sandwiches

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts were on sale the other day so I backed up the truck and bought a few family packs. I often make chicken sandwiches, but I like to butterfly the breasts first so they aren’t so thick. You get more flavor that way, you get more out of your chicken, and the texture is better I think. I don’t like biting through a 1″ thick piece of chicken breast. But that’s just me!

Grilled Chicken Fajita SandwichFor these grilled chicken fajita sandwiches I first marinated the chicken for 2 hours then tossed it into the grill. Meanwhile, I made a simple (but fantastic) roasted poblano cream sauce for topping the sandwiches. The sauce itself is amazing (and perfect as a dip, or in baked potatoes) and it compliments the smoky grilled chicken flavor perfectly.

Grilled Chicken Fajita Sandwiches
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
For the marinade
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the sandwiches
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the marinade ingredients and pour into a resealable baggie or container.
  2. Add the chicken, seal, and shake gently to coat.
  3. Place in fridge for up to 2 hours, turning often.
  4. Fire up the grill for direct and indirect cooking.
  5. Shake off any excess chicken marinade and place over direct heat on the drill.
  6. Grill for 3-4 minutes then turn 90 degrees and cook another 3-4 minutes.
  7. Flip and cook 3-4 minutes then remove to indirect heat and cook until the chicken is done.
  8. Toast buns as desired.
  9. Assemble sandwiches by topping buns with chicken and a good amount of the cream sauce.

 

Spinach and Orzo Salad

What a wonderful salad this turned out to be. Anita and I were at our local Whole Foods Market the other day when Anita purchased a pound of their spinach and orzo salad. It was so good that I immediately looked at the ingredients list and went on a hunt to find a clone of it. And here it is.

Spinach Orzo Salad RecipeThis salad has a great almost creamy texture from the orzo, with a crunch of celery and red onion. The dressing is simple and straightforward – I used a bottled tomato balsamic vinaigrette but any variation of a vinaigrette would work just was well. The salad is finished off with my favorite, feta, and toasted pine nuts. Perfect!

Spinach and Orzo Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound dried orzo pasta
  • 6 ounces fresh baby spinach, washed, dried, chopped fine
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette (I used Kraft Tomato Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Instructions
  1. Cook the orzo according to the package directions. Rinse in cold water and drain well.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, feta, onion, and cooked orzo.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette, basil, and pepper.
  4. Pour dressing over the orzo mixture and toss to coat.
  5. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
  6. Serve garnished with toasted pine nuts.

 

Smoked Provolone Cheese Sauce

This smoked provolone sauce adds great flavor (and texture) to any recipe you need a cheese sauce. I love it over pulled pork since it has a nice smokey flavor, but not so overbearing that you can’t taste the meat. I made a big batch and squirted it over pulled pork tater tot nachos (below) and stromboli, but you’ll also love it over grilled burgers or chicken sandwiches, or the best, Italian sausage sandwiches.

Pulled Pork Tater Tot Nachos with Smoked Provolone Cheese SauceThis sauce would also be great as a dip (maybe add some green chiles or Rotel) or over “regular” tortilla nachos, or over an omelet. Heck it’s just great. Make it!

Smoked Provolone Cheese Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces sliced smoked provolone cheese, torn
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Whisk in the flour and continue whisking for 2-3 minutes until the flour is cooked.
  3. While still whisking, slowly pour in the milk.
  4. Add the cheese, salt and pepper.
  5. Stir often until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth.
  6. Keep warm until ready to use.

 

Boneless Buffalo Wings

Wow. These boneless Buffalo wings aren’t just sorta good. They’re crazy good. It’s embarrassing how many I devoured, so let’s just say I had more than two. The key to these is double-dredging them and letting the mixture set for 20 minutes before frying. The coating is fantastic. It’s light, not heavy, with just a little heat kick from the cayenne.

Boneless Buffalo WingsI served these boneless Buffalo wings with a wing dipping sauce and your ‘usual’ Ranch dressing.

Boneless Buffalo Wings
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-8
 
Ingredients
For the boneless wings
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • Oil, for frying
For the Buffalo wing dipping sauce
Instructions
  1. Combine the flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder and paprika in a pie plate or shallow bowl.
  2. Whisk together the egg and milk in another pie plate or shallow bowl.
  3. Working in batches, dip the chicken into the egg mixture, coating well.
  4. Shake off excess egg mixture and then roll the chicken in the flour mixture, coating well.
  5. Shake off excess flour mixture and return the chicken to the egg mixture, coating well.
  6. Shake off excess egg mixture and return the chicken to the flour mixture, coating well.
  7. Shake off excess flour mixture and place chicken on a plate and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  8. Heat oil in a deep-fryer or Dutch oven to 375 F.
  9. Working in batches, fry chicken until golden brown and the chicken is done, 5-6 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
  10. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the wing sauce. Serve along with Ranch dressing for dipping.