Grilled Chicken Wings

Summer is just around the corner and winter rules no longer apply!  Winter rules, as it relates to wings, call for fried or baked chicken wings.  The heat of the oven is wonderul in the colder months but now, with temperatures reaching over 90°, I want to cook outdoors, whenever possible.  

This weekend has brought a heavy dose of hot sun and no rain, so grilling is a great option!

I thought long and hard about the dry rub and sauce for the wings.  The small amount of ghost pepper powder worked well in the rub because the grilling process nearly removed all of its spiciness.  The vinegar, apricot jam and hot sauce balanced perfectly.  These were not crazy hot, like I am prone to do.  They were sweet with a hint of heat.

Ingredients:

For the wings:

2 Tbs garlic powder

2 Tbs paprika

2 Tbs dried thyme

1 tsp ghost pepper powder (or cayenne pepper)

For the basting sauce:

½ cup apricot jam

½ cup hot sauce

3 Tbs butter

2 Tbs vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

3 cloves roasted garlic

Directions:

Heat an outdoor grill to 400°.  I used charcoal with a few small chips of mesquite, for a little smoky flavor.

Mix the garlic powder, paprika, thyme and ghost pepper powder in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Rinse and wash the chicken wings under cold water.  Remove any quills that might be lingering on the wing tips (I always find a few).

Allow the wings to air-dry for 10 to 15 minutes.

Prepare the basting sauce by adding all of the sauce ingredients to a mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Pour the sauce into a small skillet and cook at low/medium heat until the sauce begins to bubble.  Cook for a few more minutes and return to the mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Toss the wings with the seasonings in a large bowl to coat evenly.

Carefully place the wings on the grill and cover.  Go ahead, bunch them together.  This is one of those times that crowding is a good thing.  The wings will steam and roast, at the same time.

Grill for 15 minutes and turn the wings over.

Grill for another 15 minutes and turn them again.  Baste the wings with the sauce.

Let the wings roast over the coals for another 15 minutes and turn them again.  Baste one last time and roast for another 15 minutes.

Carefully remove the chicken wings and place in a large mixing bowl.

Add any remaining basting sauce and toss to coat the wings.

Serve with crisp carrot sticks and ranch dressing.

I added a little fresh cilantro from the garden because, hey, I’ve got fresh cilantro!

Salsa Verde

I like all kinds of food, but I turn to Mexican cuisine more often than not.  Mexican cuisine can be simple or complex.  As a home cook, I often head down the simple path…tacos, enchiladas, fajitas…   But, there are times that I want to go “all out” and make something special. 

Salsa verde is one of those special things that I can’t resist.  It is an essential component in my Mexican Flag Chimichangas, which I will share with you soon.   

The salsa verde that I am making is comprised mainly of tomatillos and serrano chiles.  There are many types of Mexican green salsas but this particular one is common to many dishes.  The thing that I find funny about making salsa verde is that it can be prepared simply and quickly, or it can be a time consuming project.  I have chosen the time consuming variation, because I am poco loco, which is to say, a little bit crazy. 

First, let’s get something straight.  Tomatillos are not green tomatoes.  Although the tomatillo is in the same family as tomatoes, they are not the same thing.  Tomatillos can be found in grocery stores all over the U.S., due to an ever-growing population of Latinos.  And to that, I say gracias!  You can buy salsa verde in a jar, but homemade salsa verde is mas sabroso (tastier.)

Smoking tomatillos on the grill makes it even better!  So, lets grill some tomatillos.

This recipe will yield about one quart of salsa. 

Ingredients:

12 tomatillos

5 serrano chiles

1 Tbs coarse salt

1 Tbs olive oil

3 garlic cloves

1 small onion

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

Directions:

Peel the stems and husks off of the tomatillos and pull the stems off of the serranos.  Slice the tomatillos in half (along the equator, if you know what I mean).  Toss the tomatillos, serranos and garlic cloves in a bowl with the coarse salt and olive oil.  Set aside.

Directions for grilling:

Wrap the grate with heavy duty aluminum foil, covering about ¾ of the grill.  Cut slits in the foil to facilitate air flow.  You can skip this if you feel lucky but, I know from past experience that little things, like peppers and garlic, can find a way to slip through grating before you know it!

Heat charcoal briquettes and place them in the grill.  Lay a piece of piece of wood on top of the coals.  I used mesquite wood but hickory or oak is fine.  It’s all about your flavor preference.

Place the foil-covered grate on the grill and then place the tomatillos, serranos and garlic on the grate.  Close the lid of the grill and wait several minutes.   Open the grill and inspect the everything.  Once the bottoms have blackened, pull them off. 

Purée

Drop the smoked tomatillos, chiles, garlic, the teaspoon of salt and the tablespoon of sugar in a blender.  Add the diced onion, cilantro and a splash of water.  Purée for several seconds.  That’s it.  You have made salsa verde!  Store in a mason jar and allow to cool before refrigerating.  The salsa will last about a week.  If you want to extend the life of your salsa add about 2 Tbs vinegar.