Buffalo Sauce!

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Okay, it’s true – I have a little bit of a hot sauce problem. But how can you blame me?! It’s the nectar of the Gods and offers us such amazingly tasty treats as Buffalo sauce! Of course, you can use any vinegar based hot sauce as the base for Buffalo sauce, but I would be wary of telling anyone you used anything but Franks’s. It’s just not right. It’s like using a cactus and the color pink to decorate for Christmas. Yes, it works. But is it right?

It’s almost so easy it doesn’t even need a recipe. Almost. What makes it deserving of a recipe is the little flair you can add to it to pizzazz it up and make it more than just Franks Red Hot and butter. I hear a lot of people say that’s all they do – melt the butter and add hot sauce. NO! You know you can do better than that. And, while you’re at it, why not break out of the box and use the sauce in a new way? Wings? That’s been done. Try something else.

Non-wing things you can do with this Buffalo sauce:

  • Toss with pulled chicken thigh and serve with saltine crackers, celery, and extra blue cheese for a super simple but super impressive party snack.
  • Make the best pizza ever using Buffalo sauce as the base, chicken pieces, cheddar cheese, blue cheese, very thinly sliced celery and – for the win – onion rings right on top!
  • Toss with pulled chicken, and spread between two pieces of bread with cheddar or mozzarella cheese for one OUTRAGEOUS grilled cheese. Serve with blue cheese dressing for dipping those sandwich corners!
  • Stir Buffalo sauce into sour cream and add to a baked potato covered with bacon, sliced green onion, sliced celery and cheddar cheese

Buffalo Sauce

  • 3/4 cup Franks Red Hot
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • a large pinch or so of each: white pepper and garlic powder
  • pinch (or more, adjusted to your desired heat level) cayenne pepper or Sriracha hot sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter slowly without browning; add hot sauce and whisk together to blend. Once blended, whisk in the rest of ingredients except for cheese and simmer on low, whisking occasionally until dry ingredients are fully dissolved and integrated – about 4 minutes. Then, add blue cheese and whisk slowly until mostly melted in and smooth.IMG_2048Once done, give it a taste test and adjust seasoning as desired, noting that salt is probably not needed because of the saltiness of both the blue cheese and the Worcestershire sauce.

And then, get creative, and put Buffalo sauce on everything!

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

dry ingredients

I used to hate chicken, but not too long ago I realized the true beauty of perfectly roasted, moist dark meat with an oven crisped skin. I think I got used to going out and having dry, dull, under seasoned, boneless, skinless chicken breast. I know there are reasons for eating white meat – and congrats to all of those out there who put up with it for the sake of health. But I can’t do it. It’s sooooo boring! So, I go for the dark meat only –  always bone-in, skin-on thighs. The best part of the bird.

I also love hearty, chunky, herbacious comdiments for any meat – chimichurri, gremolata, variations of persillade – so on and so forth. Lucky for this recipe, chicken just happens to lend itself very well to all of these.

It’s important to note that when added before cooking, the flavor of your condiment will mellow out pretty significantly in the cooking process. In this particular recipe, that’s exactly what you want.

Barely a Gremolata

  • 1/2 bunch parsley (preferably flat leaf)
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 3-4 medium sized garlic cloves
  • 3.5 Tablespoons capers
  • 1.5 Tablespoons chopped green olives, or prepared tapenade
  • 2 anchovy fillet, very small dice
  • 1 teaspoon chili flake
  • pinch of dried thyme (app. tiny palmful)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • splash of white wine
  • dried oregano, reserved
  • extra pinch dried red chili flakes, reserved
  • salt and pepper

Pulse all the items, except olive oil, reserved oregano, chili and the salt and pepper together in a food processor. Once all the ingredients have been coarsely chopped and fairly well mixed, (about 5 pulses) slowly add extra virgin olive oil and continue pulsing to blend. The consistency should be fairly coarse and oily, similar to a chimichurri or Italian salsa verde. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Next, pack a ceramic or glass baking dish with a well buttered bottom tightly with 4 skin-on chicken thighs and 3-4 quartered red potatoes. Be sure to very lightly salt and pepper both sides of the chicken, salt and pepper the potatoes. Lightly sprinkle everything with the reserved pinch of dried oregano and chili flakes. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Next, pour the contents of the food processor over the top of the chicken and potatoes, distributing evenly and making sure it covers everything. Let marinate for up to 2 hours.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Once marinated, add 5 or so small pats of room temperature butter directly on top of the potatoes and chicken, cover baking dish with tin foil and slide into a pre-heated 400 degree oven.

Check every 10 minutes or so and, using a baster or large spoon, redistribute the melted butter and juices that will accumulate on the bottom of the dish. After 20-25 minutes, remove the foil and replace the uncovered dish in the oven to start browning the skin.

Check their doneness with a meat thermometer, or just cut a small slit into one thigh to check. If using a thermometer, it should be around 165. The higher the temp, the dryer the meat will be.

While you’re waiting for your chicken to cook, make a quick salad that will compliment the flavors of the chicken.

Super Simple Dressing

  • Fresh lemon juice (use the lemons you just zested)
  • Olive oil
  • Whole grain brown mustard
  • Dried oregano
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Use an basic ratio of 2 parts olive oil to 1 part mustard, 1/2 part lemon juice, adjusting to taste. Add oregano, salt and pepper to taste and whisk if mixing in a bowl or shake furiously if mixing in a jar or bottle (my preference).

(Note: If you’re not doing it already, save your small jars from jam and whatnot or your small glass bottles with a top from products like Strauss Family Creamery heavy cream. They make fantastic dressing bottles to mix and store. Also, places like Big Lots and 99cent stores are great. I got a package of picnic ketchup and mustard bottles for $1 and I use them all the time for homemade condiments of all kinds.)

Toss together a mix of torn lettuces, any mixed salad greens you have around. Thinly slice some carrots and radishes. Toss together with the greens and have ready to dress when chicken is done.

Plate the juicy chicken with the potatoes and a side salad and enjoy!

(oh, ps: Use any leftovers for a fantastic chicken sandwich! Mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, some greens and left over salad veggies for a crunch. Pull the chicken and skin right off the bone and mix it all up together. Serve between 2 slices of buttered, mayo-ed toasted bread and left over potatoes on the side.)

Homemade (Chicken) Stock!

This little lady is cute as a button, but she’s also gonna make some yuuuummy stock!

Like the sign of a good stock, it’s clear: you should be making your own stock! Homemade stock sets your food worlds apart from the food of other cooks, and it’s not as big of a production as you think – it’s great for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Get it going and put on a movie or clean the house. Once you get it in the pot, it just sits there on the stove for a few hours. And, in case you’re still using water (like some kind of fool)- you should be using stock for just about everything savory that calls for water: lentils, rice, beans, soup – all of it. It’ll triple the depth of flavor.

I do, though, know it can be confusing. It can be daunting. What parts of the chicken (sub: beef, or veggies, or whatever…) do I use? Well…use any parts…that’s kinda the point of stock….you can use new parts or you can use left overs that you’ve saved. Generally, its the discarded, post-butchery parts that are used for stock, so if you’re going to the market or the butcher for it, just say:

“Hello sir/madam. Do you per chance have any chicken (sub: veal, turkey, beef) parts for stock?”

and they’ll generally know what you want (they might think you talk funny, though). Necks, backs, left over bones from de-boned breasts, you can even use feet. All that business. Anything, really. Except for kidneys, livers and hearts and innards (aka offal) – The innards, generally get really bitter and gross when boiled.

You can also use legs, thighs, whole carcasses. Whatever you have around works fine. If you just roasted a chicken last night and you have all the left overs – that is the most perfect.

How I get it together:

1. I keep a big ole tupperware in the freezer that I fill up with veggie scraps from cooking and veggies from the fridge that have become less that super perfect, and then another ginormous tupperware of meat scraps (bones from dinner, carcasses from whole roasted bodies, etc). As an example, a friend of mine asked recently:

“Ally, I get fried chicked all the time from the place down the street, can I use those bones?”

“Totally you can!” I said.

Shove them in the freezer and save them up until you’re ready. You don’t have to do anything to them. Leave the left over fry on, whatever. Then, when you have enough, or you’re ready, get started. What I do – if I don’t have enough when I’m ready, I head to the market and I buy what I need. No biggie. It’s so simple, forgiving and versatile.

 2. The frozen items that I’ve (you’ve) saved are fine to go directly into the boiling bucket (the stock pot), but to really amp up the flavor in there, defrost a bit (doesn’t have to be too serious) and roast them at 450 in the oven until they get a little brown and they become veggies and bones again. Be sure to use two separate sheet pans (one for the veggies, one for the bones) because they’re going to be done at different times and you don’t want them to be “cooked” – not soft, not squishy – especially the vegetables! You just want to barely start smelling them, and then take them out. They should still be fairly hard, the bones should be just defrosted and smelling delish.

3. Here’s the loose recipe. Remember, this is stock, you can always add water, so you want it stronger if anything. An estimate for proportions should be about 2 parts chicken to 1 part veggies, and best is in a 5 gallon stock pot.

For 2 1/2 pounds or so chicken, add:

  • 2-3 celery, halved crosswise and halved again lengthwise (leaves included)2
  • a few carrots, halved crosswise and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 1/2 or so onions (yellow and/or white), peeled and quartered (root on, so it stays together)
  • 1-2 leeks, halved lengthwise and cleaned out of any dirt in the layers
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, just the dirty bottoms trimmed
  • 1 small palmfull whole black peppercorn
  • 1/2 bunch thyme (fresh)
  • 1/2 bunch oregano (fresh)
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • just a sprig or two of rosemary (fresh)
  • 2 whole flowers of garlic, top cut off and as much peel removed as possible

*most people tie herbs together and wrap them into cheese cloth, but my theory is that if you are simmering it at a low enough temperature and you strain it, it’s fine; throw everything in and make it easy on yourself. I’ve always done it that way and my stock is awesome.

Cram this all into your 5 gallon stock pot, and fill it to the brim with water. It should look like this:

Everything should be packed in there so that the liquid that comes out is rich – you can always water it down if you want it more bland, but you can’t make it more flavorful once it’s done.

Once you turn on the heat, start the chores around home, turn on a movie, whatever. Make sure it doesn’t turn up to a heavy boil. At most, you want a heavy simmer (NO boil!). Check it here and there, give it a stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom or sides.

Skim the impurities and some of the fat that will come off the chickies that rise the surface (it looks like wierd foam). Just use a big spoon, skim it off and throw it out; this is a huge boost in how to get a beautifully clear stock.

Keep peeking in, skimming and stirring here and there, salting it mildly as you go, and give it a taste in a couple hours.

Let it simmer for 3 hours, and start tasting. It should take 3-4, maybe 5 hours for really rich, good chicken stock. Taste along the way, salt along the way, skim along the way and when you like it, take it off the heat to cool and then strain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth into glass jars when done.

 

And look at how beautiful that stock is! Use it in everything now!