Root Beer Chicken Wings? It Works. Honestly!

Root Beer Chicken Wings

Root Beer is generally NOT something I’d typically apply to chicken wings, chicken or most anything else I can think of. But the truth is, these root beer chicken wings actually work — much better than I would have thought.

First of all, I started out with some chicken wings with some oil and a little salt, made sous vide, and ready to go. With nothing else in the chicken, I breaded them with some flour, egg and panko bread crumbs and cooked them in a deep fryer. From there, you can use any number of sauces, but this time I wanted to do the root beer sauce which began from a blogger friend, who offered up the idea. I was skeptical, of course, but with a great chicken base, what could go wrong, right?

For the sauce, I used root beer, ketchup, a little brown sugar, some honey, Worcestershire sauce a little lime and a bit of garlic and onion. You can taste the root beer in the sauce, but fortunately, it’s not the only or even the strongest flavor in the sauce. And on the chicken, it blends nicely and works very well. I wouldn’t have tried it without a friend’s suggestion, but yeah, it really does work.

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Italian Chicken for the BBQ

Italian Chicken

Italian chicken is one of my favorites, in part because it’s easy to make but produces a very moist succulent bird that defies an adequate description — other than delicious. 

Here, everything is in the sauce, which is made from fresh lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and a generous helping of oregano, basil, a little thyme and some red pepper (as much as you’d like). Start with a spatch-cocked chicken, you know, the one with the backbone and ribs removed. Then cover the chicken liberally with the spices and cover with the lemon and balsamic vinegar. Let it sit for an hour at least (more if you like it).

Then finally, the whole thing heads to the grill. Keep any eye on it. It cooks somewhat more quickly than you might imagine. Through on a few oregano leaves and you’re all set. 

One thing to note is that the sauce has a tendency to make the chicken look somewhat black. That’s normal and the skin is a crispy as you might think it would be.

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A Nice Little Italian Minestrone

Italian minestrone

This is called an Italian minestrone — which usually means whatever you have in the fridge made into a soup — and it is a wonderful soup for those occasionally cool rainy days that still show up in April. This came originally from a Bon Appetite article I saw, probably four or five years ago, and with a little tweaking, became a fast friend at my house, at least.

The base for this soup is relatively easy, and it’s very good in just about every situation I can think of. But what’s great, is there are a whole host of other things you can add, which only make it better. I’ve use a little broccoli, some asparagus, some spinach (added late in the soup) and a few other things. I’d stay away from zucchini (courgette) for this recipe, mainly because it drastically changes the taste, but otherwise — go for it. I tend to like the leeks and carrots in this soup. You might try scallions or better yet shallots instead of the leeks, but keep the carrots.

And for the pasta, main thing is to keep it small, little pasta leaves, ditalini, small shells. Just small.

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Spanish Chicken of a Sort

spanish chicken

Spanish chicken is one of those things that make no sense, but it does come out a little Spanish, sort of. This is something else that I picked up on another blog somewhere, made my own changes, and it turns out to be something very good, in fact. That said, I’m pretty sure it did not come from Spain (or Mexico) and apart from some of the flavorings, is just a good Chicken dish.

The best of this dish is the Taco seasoning, which I make myself, but which works even if you have to buy it from the store ready made. Same for the black beans, which you can make or just buy.

In short, it’s very good, even if you can’t let the Spanish thing go bye…

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Cashew Chicken

Cashew Chicken

Cashew chicken.  There are a handful of recipes you can find on almost any Chinese restaurant menu you can think of, yet most of them are very Americanized to say the least. But I spent a great deal of time in China, and yes, I’ve had cashew chicken there, and I can tell you that with a couple of changes in ingredients, you can have the “real” dish on your own menu, in a flash.

Here are the things you’ll want to have before you start the dish: Shao Xing cooking wine, dark (mushroom flavored) soy sauce, and Zhenjiang vinegar. If you have a local Chinese grocery available, these are things that are easy to find. If not, all of them can be found online. You might have to wait a few days, but trust me, it’s worth it. Generally, this would be one of several dishes at a Chinese banquet, but you can either serve with other things or simply serve it itself.

It will be darker, and have a few hints of flavor you might not otherwise expect, and yet it will be the same in most respects. The main thing is it will have nothing but actual Chinese ingredients in it, which is a good thing. How much different is it from Americanized cashew chicken? Well, a great deal of it has to do with how sophisticated your palate might be, but in general it’s richer and a lot more filling than the kind of thing you might find in any but the very best Chinese restaurants. 

For a lot of reasons, I used a wok to make my version. You can use a large skillet, but like a lot of things in Chinese cooking, a decent wok does make a difference (though probably small) in the final recipe. If you’ve got one, use it. If not, don’t worry much about it.

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Huli Huli Chicken, from Hawaii

huli huli chicken

Huli huli chicken? It’s one of those special dishes that somehow manage to come straight from Hawaii, even though they don’t really require any special ingredients or exotic know-how. But done right, huli huli chicken is quite a treat. Apparently, if you know something about trademarks and the literal translation that huli huli means turn, turn, you’ve got the whole idea about the chicken dish underway.

The trademark notion came from Ernie Morgado, the early 50s chef who is thought to have made the first huli huli and a few years later, decided to trademark the name. That meant that every chef or would-be chef in the area had to call his chicken dish something else, even though it was in fact huli huli. As far as I know, that still holds true there. And the key to huli huli, it’s literally to turn the chicken often, to cook it evenly and to even out the browning all around.

The marinade for the chicken is basically pretty simple, and then there’s the little extras that make’s each cook’s recipe a delight, and a great way to tool around the islands, try one huli huli here and another somewhere else. You could almost spend several days trying them all out.

In any case, here’s my huli huli.

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Ham and Chicken Succotash, Easy Slow Cook Recipe

Chicken and Ham Succotash

Succotash is a pretty ordinary side dish, but this chicken and ham succotash makes it into a nice main dish and with just a little tweaking, turns it into something to rave about. And if you’re lucky enough to have some fresh or canned corn and baby Lima beans, the amazing flavors are truly something to dream about. And it actually works best in a slow cooker.

So what makes it different? Start with some great ham and nice chunked chicken breasts (you can do them sous vide if you like), add some fresh cream of chicken soup (I make my own, which I have to condense a bit, but you can certainly find store-bought or better yet, something made fresh from some other source), a little red pepper and a little scallion. Add a little (or maybe more) red pepper to spice it up a beat and you’ve got a good, fresh meal.

Oh, and to be sure, get some (or make some) biscuits. They’re essential.

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