Saturday, September 24, 2011

Free Bird

The last week has been guy food heavy. I'm not sure what prompted this savory, meaty, spicy food trend, but there's no one in the house complaining. Which is more than I can say when I go on a salad-and-salmon binge. Last weekend we visited a local meat market called Voget's Meats that's literally a 2-minute bike ride from my house, that I've never gone into before. Sometimes the stuff that's smack in front of your face has a way of blurring away. It's a small family place in the same vein as Gartner's on a much smaller scale. Couple this with the lovely fruit and berry stands in town, throw in a bakery, and I'd have my own version of provence right here in the middle of nowhere. Too bad everything shutters at 5:00, just as I'm hustling down to my car. Oh well.

So Voget's has their own house-made Li'l Smokies sausages, which come in a big sausage rope you have to cut up yourself. So authentic! So German! Makes me want to go order this thousand-something dollar cuckoo clock that I plan on asking for for Christmas and anniversaries the next decade and a half. Slow-cooking these little guys inspired me to try another football season classic that I've never attempted before: wings. I'm not a wing nut, and I think most restaurants and such make them really crappy more often than not, but I loved a classic version that Matt's friend Pete made for us last season. They're everything that the snack should be: crispy, hot, great with cooling blue cheese (in my case ranch, since blue cheese makes me gag... yes I know, send on the hate mail) but good enough to stand up on their own. We bought a bag of pre-frozen chicken drumsticks, since I don't like the other parts of the wing anyway, and Matt got the treasured recipe over the phone.

Interesting side note... as Matt pointed out, chicken wings have gone up tremendously in price the last decade or so. It used to be the garbage bulk meat, next to the big pack of chicken livers and hearts, that you ate when you were in grad school or trying to feed a family of 10. Now as a reigning snack of choice, it's like twice as much per pound. Just saying, start stocking up on beef tongue. Today's budget-stretcher is tomorrow's specialty foodie darling (see tripe).

Matt cooked the wings in small batches while I made the sauce, and then it was just toss-and-serve. How often do you get to have something so FUN to eat? Each wing is novelty in its miniature stature, its resemblance to food you usually have to be in either a dirty sports bar or crappy family-friendly chain restaurant to enjoy--it just feels like cheating nature. I'm eating delicious mini chickens in my OWN HOME! Take that, universe!

Despite how good these were, I'd also made that big pot of smokies (and another dish I won't admit to making here because it's really over the top embarrassing). So we had some leftovers. How do you use up leftover chicken wings? For some reason, spaghetti seemed perfect. I'm not sure where I've seen Spaghetti and Wings together before, but I know I have. And I know it didn't seem wrong. But instead of your normal marinara, I had a recipe I'd been wanting to try for a few weeks now. The clipping from Food Network Magazine had been sitting on the counter for a few months now, just waiting for a night we were feeling brave. The Neely's Barbecue Spaghetti. Pulled pork, homemade barbecue sauce and pasta. Ick! But also, hmm. I love all those things. Could they possibly work together?

We wouldn't know until we tried. The recipe calls for a slowly-cooked barbecue sauce that takes about 2 hours to cook, but I was making dinner on a weeknight and, typical to my don't-copy-me fashion, I didn't read the recipe beforehand. I always read the ingredients, but with prep I'm just like, "uh huh, yeah, I have a stove. We'll be fine." I reduced the cooking time by about half.

After the sauce is ready, you just toss in the pulled pork, stir it in with the noodles and serve. And taste! That was the crazy part. The verdict? Good, but better the next day. Right off the stove the sauce was still really sweet, so with the pulled pork with its candied, caramelly bark bits, it was a little too candy-ish for my taste. When I warmed up leftovers the next day, the spices had pulled through and made it a richer, more savory dish. If the sauce had been cooked the full time the first time around, the fresh results probably would have been closer to that end of the spectrum. You could always make the sauce the night before and warm it up to toss with the meat and pasta. If you actually plan ahead, I'd recommend giving it a try. Especially if you have a few extra wings lying around. The bold, hot flavors with the sweet barbecue tang was almost good enough to keep us from crying when the Eagles blew a 14-point lead.


Pete's Hot Wings
3 lbs frozen chicken drumettes
1 stick butter
1 large bottle of Frank's Red Hot sauce (Not sure on the ounces, but there's the two sizes--the one that looks like you're buying to have in the fridge to shake on things modestly, and the one that looks like you're buying WAY TOO MUCH.  Go for that one.)
1 habanero pepper, diced and seeded
1 jalapeno pepper, diced and seeded
4 cloves garlic
Vegetable oil for frying

To make the sauce:
Melt half of the butter stick over medium heat in a saucepan. Add garlic, 1/2 of the habanero, all of the jalapeno, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the peppers have softened (5-6 minutes). Watch out, the fumes are going to be strong. Open a window. Add the entire bottle of Frank's sauce, the rest of the butter and the remaining habanero. If you would prefer less heat, omit the un-sauteed additional pepper. Or if you're crazy and want way more heat, add peppers until you cry. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Keep warm while you prepare the chicken.

To make the chicken:
Thaw chicken overnight in fridge. Fry in small batches in either a deep fat fryer, or on the stove in a Dutch oven. Chicken is ready when the skin gets a nice golden tan. Keep completed wings warm in a 250 degree oven while the rest cooks. When complete, coat the wings in the warm sauce in a large bowl. Serve with blue cheese, ranch, and a whole crapload of napkins.

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