The Gleeful Gourmand: June 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013

Buck's Mixed Up Chicken Barbecue

Burgers. Hot dogs. Are you really going to serve them again at this year's July 4th cookout? No, is the resounding answer. How do I know? Because when I was going over our July 4th menu a couple of weeks back it was met with, "No burgers. No hot dogs. We need something different!" It seems like a lot of people out there want something different too. There is no more "norm" for a classic July 4th cookout. From what I've read, anything goes: from steaks with chimichurri sauce to Korean barbecue sandwiches. So there you are, sifting through countless magazines, foodie blogs, and Pinterest boards, trying to figure out what in the world to pair with all those patriotic snacks and desserts you've been pinning like crazy. Let's do different.

What could possibly go better with skewers of fresh fruit sliced from star-shaped cookie cutters? What is different enough, crowd-pleasing enough, and yet look fantastic next to that American flag you've painstakingly crafted from strawberries, blueberries, and mounds of whipped cream?

Barbecue Chicken. But not just any barbecue chicken: Buck's Mixed Up Chicken Barbecue. It's what we're serving this year as the main course. And it's super delicious, and super easy, which means you'll actually get to enjoy yourself at your party. Some of you may recall that I tacked this beauty of a recipe from my husband onto a post last year around this time, so I apologize if this is a little redundant. But guess what? This time I have pictures!

Looks good, doesn't it?

Buck's chicken starts in a marinade of your favorite Italian dressing the night before, which kind of acts like a brine. You know what you get when you brine, right? Tender, juicy meat falling right off the bone.

Sweet peaches, and crispy, tangy chicken. That's a whole lot of flavor for one grill.
Next, it gets hit with all sorts of spices, and breadcrumbs, then put on the grill to sear all the juices inside and give it a fantastic crunch - just like the crunch you'd get with fried chicken, but without all the frying! Crunchy, juicy... what are we missing? Tang. At the last half of your cooking time, slather on your favorite BBQ sauce (we like Stubb's original) and now you've got crunchy, juicy, kick-in-your-pants barbecued chicken that will have your guests calling out - nay - demanding for more!

Maybe it's not the prettiest plate at the dance, but it tasted damned good.

In these pictures we grilled some fresh peach halves, and served them both alongside corn on the cob, and a medley of tomatoes. It ended up being a rather orange/yellow plate, but the flavors were fantastic. This year for our July 4th cookout, we'll be serving it alongside the freshest gazpacho you can imagine, potato salad that has been passed down through generations, and my blueberry pie. So if you're looking for different this summer season, and you want a crowd-pleasing entrée; this chicken is just the ticket.

Buck’s Mixed Up Chicken Barbecue

• One large package chicken drumsticks (about 12), or a mix of drumsticks, and thighs (chicken breasts work nicely too, just adjust your cooking time)
• One bottle of Italian Dressing
• Sea Salt, Pepper, Paprika, Garlic Powder, Ground Red Pepper, Ground Ginger (Tbsp. of each)
• 2 eggs, beaten
• ½ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
• 1 cup Flour
• ½ cup Italian Breadcrumbs
• Any mild to medium Barbecue Sauce

Put drumsticks in a Ziploc bag and pour the Italian Dressing over them. Let marinate for 4 or more hours in the refrigerator - overnight is best!

Take drumsticks out and dredge through the beaten eggs, then through the flour, lightly shaking off the excess. Next put the chicken, spices, Panko and Italian breadcrumbs in a Ziploc bag and shake, being sure to coat evenly. Shake off excess again.

Place on a grill with the heat at medium. Grill for 40 minutes, turning as necessary to avoid burning. (Note: Buck didn’t use a thermometer, he could tell they were done when the meat started to pull away from the bone. Use your own discretion in this area)

In the last 5 minutes, baste the drumsticks all over with your favorite barbecue sauce. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Strawberry Cupcakes and Turning Two!

My, oh my, how the time has flown! I feel like I was just writing this post about the girls turning 1. Now here we are, one year later, and the girls are in the throes of toddler-hood. We so often called them "the babies" that it took us some time this year to change our way of thinking. We've got little girls on our hands. They talk in sentences, they eat everything we eat, they run and play and have perpetually scraped-up knees. They are coming into their own little personalities, and while they have a difficult time sharing, they genuinely love each other. Even though sometimes "love" looks a lot like whacking the other one across the face with a toy teapot. It's hard to believe that they were once the teeny tiny bundles you see to the left.

Savannah (L), and Delia (R) with their Grams

For their second birthday we had my family over and celebrated all things Savannah, Delia, and Strawberries (since, if you've read the Summer Berry Pudding post you'll know that's their current obsession). We feasted on Strawberry Salsa with Pita Chips, my sis-in-law's awesome Peppadew Peppers stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese, a delicious Flank Steak, Tomato Salad with Shallots and Buttermilk Dressing, Roasted Potato Wedges, and the most scrumptious Strawberry Cupcakes I've ever had in my life (more on that in a minute).
Peppadew Peppers stuffed with Goat Cheese

The girls had a blast cuddling, playing with their cousins, and stuffing their faces full of steak and cupcakes. A pretty perfect birthday, all around.

Strawberry Salsa with Pita Chips - Yum!

So, those Strawberry Cupcakes. I searched the Internet far and wide, and finally found these beauties over at A Southern Fairytale. What I loved so much is that they use real ingredients, and real strawberries. They were fresh, light yet moist, and smelled outrageous as they were baking. I didn't even need to use the recommended strawberry extract, because I thought the flavor was perfect just as it was. The frosting was really simple, too. The only drawback to the recipe was that it ended up making only 20 cupcakes instead of a baker's dozen. I used an ice cream scoop to get an exact amount each time, but I still came up a little short. But honestly, who cares? Everyone gobbled them up, and the birthday girls absolutely loved them. With Rachel's permission, I've posted the recipe below. You can read her full post here.

The perfect strawberry cupcake? You'll have to make them yourself to decide!

Strawberry Cupcakes
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Approximate Time: 1 hour, 03 minutes
Yield: Approximately 2 dozen
Serving Size: 1 cupcake
Delicious Real Strawberry Cupcakes. The strawberry extract just enhances the flavor, it isn't necessary if you don't want to use it.
  • 2 Sticks Butter
  • 1 1/4 C white sugar
  • 2 3/4 C sifted cake flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 room temperature eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp strawberry extract
  • 1/2 C 2% milk
  • 16 medium strawberries (12 -14 oz) chopped and macerated (topped with white sugar and allowed to soak overnight)
  • Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz block cream cheese, softened
  • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 – 2 tsp pure vanilla extract (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp to 1/4 C milk
  • 3 to 5 C powdered sugar
  • dash of salt
  1. The night before, chop the strawberries (stems removed), cover with white sugar and refrigerate. When you’re ready to make the cupcakes, remove the strawberries from the refrigerator and mash them with a potato masher or lightly pulse with a food processor. You don’t want a puree — you still want strawberry chunks. Place them in a strainer over a bowl, you won’t need all the juice.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350 F and line cupcake tins
  3. In a medium bowl, sift cake flour. From the sifted bowl measure out 2 3/4 Cups of cake flour and add in 2 1/2 tsps baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt
  4. In your mixer, mix together the butter and white sugar until pale yellow and fluffy.
  5. Slowly add the room temperature eggs one by one, mixing for about one minute after each egg, make sure that you scrape down the sides of the bowl so you don’t leave any buttery goodness out.
  6. Add in vanilla and strawberry extract
  7. (if you leave out strawberry extract, just sub. more vanilla)
  8. Whisk together the dry mix
  9. Alternately add the dry mix and 1/2 C milk, blending well and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  10. Add in the strawberries and about 1/4 C + 1 Tbsp strawberry juice, fold in with a wooden spoon until well incorporated and you can see bits of strawberry throughout the batter.
  11. Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full and bake for roughly 18 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when pressed and they’re a bit of a lovely golden color.
  12. Allow to cool in tins for 5 minutes and then remove and finish cooling on a wire rack
  13. Butter Cream Cheese Frosting Instructions
  14. I think butter creams are too sweet but often cream cheese frostings aren’t sweet enough for kids — this is my family’s favorite.
  15. In your mixer whip together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.
  16. Add in vanilla* and 2 Tbsp milk, blend well
  17. Start with 2 C powdered sugar and dash of salt, mix well
  18. Add more milk and powdered sugar slowly and in alternating batches- mixing and tasting each time until the frosting has reached your desired consistency
  19. Place in a bag with your desired piping tip and pipe onto cupcakes or spread on cakes.
  20. Variations
  21. * 1/2 Vanilla Extract and 1/2 Almond Extract or whip in some kahlua for an adult twist

Friday, June 7, 2013

Southwestern Risotto

It's all about the billing. When you read as many food magazines, and food blogs as I do (not to mention the endless food pins on Pinterest); there are relatively few recipes that end up getting made. Even the photography sometimes is not enough to march past a sigh of "man, that looks good," into the kitchen, and start clanging pots and pans around. For me, it has to be about the billing, the way it's described.

Take, for instance, my dear friend Kiki over at I Still Hate Pickles. We were on one of our weekly phone calls when she started rhapsodizing about this Southwestern Risotto she had just made, on the fly. The way she described it to me was like this risotto was the best thing she had eaten all year - and this was coming from a very pregnant woman.

"We ate so much of it we felt sick. And then we ate some more. It was that good. I'm going to blog about it."

Kiki's Southwestern Risotto. So good. So very, very good.

Blog about it she did, and I have to say, after looking at the ingredients, not only did it seem easy, but it seemed interesting. The Southwestern angle was a departure for me, and the fact that it was risotto didn't deter me. I've never been one to mind standing and stirring for a long time, or even doing several extra steps as long as a dish turns out magnificently. I had to try it and find out if it was really as incredible as she made it out to be.

I found out that it absolutely is. In fact, it is so easy, and so excellent, that it's now a staple in our recipe rotation during the week. So, here's how I would bill it: As I said, besides the standing and stirring, it could not be easier. The addition of a deli rotisserie chicken makes prep work so quick. The tomatoes and rice together create a robust, comforting taste, and that's even before the Monterey Jack cheese. But what really makes this dish a winner in my book is the way the spices wake up the whole thing before it can taste too heavy. Of course, I'm also in awe of how she just came up with this on her own (if you know me at all, you know this is not how I cook, but it's a way of cooking I completely envy).

Kiki's Southwestern Risotto

1 T coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 sweet yellow onion, diced
2 T minced garlic
2 jalapenos, seeded, cored, and diced
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 chicken, shredded in pieces (we used a mix of pre-cooked white and dark meat, and a rotisserie chicken would work well) 
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups water 
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 dash sugar (less than 1 tsp) 
Monterey Jack cheese, grated
seasonings: cumin, Tony Chacheres, salt, pepper (or any southwest or fajita seasoning). All to taste.

Heat the coconut oil in a medium to large saucepan. Saute the diced onions until clear, then add the garlic and jalapenos. I seasoned at this point with just a little salt. Once everything is sweating, add in the spinach and let it cook down, then the chicken. If things are getting too dry, add a bit more oil. 

Toss in the abrorio and stir in, letting it mix in with the flavors and whatever oil is in the pan. I seasoned again here with a bit of Tony Chacheres, mostly because I was feeling too lazy to get out the normal mix of spices I might have used (coriander, cumin, cayenne--all the C's). I kept it mild because we were also feeding the kids, but wish we hadn't, since they weren't into this dish and Rob and I wanted it hotter. The jalapenos didn't add a lot of kick...or maybe I've just lived in Texas too long.

When the rice is popping, add in the can of diced tomatoes with juice and 1 cup of water. Turn the heat down a bit and stir as the liquid starts to absorb. Toss in a tiny dash of sugar (optional, but I always do to cut the acidity of the tomatoes). This is when the standing and stirring begins. You want it to be simmering, and you don't want to have the rice sticking to the pan. As the liquid absorbs, add more of the water and keep simmering and stirring. For me, this took about 15 minutes. There was a little liquid left, but it was mostly creamy, lovely risotto deliciousness.

Top with Monterey Jack and stir to let the cheese melt and incorporate. (If you have cilantro, that would be a great addition on top as well.) Eat. Then eat some more.

Here are my notes:

• I used olive oil.

• For some reason every time I've made this dish, the bottom of my dutch oven starts to brown way too much, so here's an addition I don't miss now: I put in a healthy splash of whatever wine I'm drinking (white or red, it doesn't seem to matter) to deglaze the pot. The flavor of the wine only enhances the entire dish.

• I omitted the spinach. I forgot to buy it the first time, and I've left it out ever since. We eat a lot of spinach in our house, so I didn't feel bad leaving it out.

• I used a full packet of Fajita seasoning and it was just perfect. Even the kids loved it.

• If you've never made risotto before, here's the deal: Yes, in the end, there is a lot of standing and stirring and adding water. Kiki's assessment of 3 cups of water is spot-on, but it took me more like 20-25 minutes. Every stove will be different. What you're looking for when you taste the rice is a tender, but firm bite. You don't want it crunchy, but you also don't want it to be soft like other cooked rice. Enjoy!