“Air Fryer” Jerk Chicken Wings

After much discussion, and consideration of all the newfound extra space in our remodeled kitchen, my husband and I have finally decided for certain on the matter of an air fryer.

Several of our friends with air fryers have extolled the virtues of their machines and enticed us with descriptions of the ultra-crispy and mouthwatering dishes they have produced with them. We got the rundown on the various styles and sizes and functions, and even made a special trip to Williams-Sonoma to compare the features for ourselves and measure and imagine exactly where we’d put such a device in our newly remodeled kitchen.

And after all that planning and considering, our final decision was that, well, we didn’t need one after all.

Most of the foods our friends described were not the kind of things we imagined we’d really make at home (though crispy French fries with minimal oil sounds pretty darn good), and when we really dug in to learn how air fryers work, we realized that we already have a version of an air fryer in our full-sized electric convection oven. If we use the convect-roast or convect-bake setting, in combination with a higher temperature, the effect is nearly the same as in an air fryer, at least for the foods we expected we would actually make. And to prove it (to ourselves as much as anyone else), we made these crispy chicken wings, using a tried-and-true method I learned from Food Network’s Alton Brown.

Tons of spicy flavor, without all the grease or drippy sauce of the usual Buffalo wings.

This method differs from others because it involves first steaming and chilling the wings, a process which renders excess skin fat so that better crisping can take place in the oven. No oil is required because there is plenty of natural fat remaining in the chicken skin. Roasting them at high temperature further tightens the skin, and you are left with a crispy-crunchy exterior and tender, juicy meat inside.

With football’s biggest game only days away, I thought it would be appropriate to share a different kind of wing recipe—one that packs plenty of flavor and as much heat as you want, but without the same old “Buffalo” flavors. These wings are covered in Jamaican jerk seasoning, featuring allspice, scallions, scotch bonnet peppers and brown sugar, which may sound complex, but I used a ready-made jerk rub that is easy to find in stores. The flavors are intense but not overpoweringly hot, and because we like to dip our wings into a dip or sauce, I made an easy mango and red pepper chutney to go with them.

I’ve made steamed and roasted wings before, but without convection and usually for my Just South of Buffalo Wings (which are still a favorite at our house). We also have done the jerk flavor wings many times, but usually on the grill during the summer months. This time, we combined methods and flavors and put the convection method to the test. As you’ll see, it passed with flying colors, and the convection chopped nearly 15 minutes off the previous steamed-and-roasted recipe. No need for one more appliance here!

This recipe is written for 16 pieces, but it should be very easy to double or triple as needed.


Ingredients

8 whole chicken wings (trimmed and cut into flats and drummettes if desired)

4 Tbsp. prepared jerk rub (a wet version from a jar)

2 Tbsp. canola, avocado or peanut oil (to thin the jerk rub)

1 Tbsp. light brown sugar

1 Tbsp. dark rum (preferably Jamaican)


Mango-Red Pepper Chutney

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

2 scallions, chopped (white and green parts)

Kosher salt and black pepper

1/2 cup mango, chopped (fresh or frozen, thawed)

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. dark Jamaican rum


Instructions

  1. Set a lidded steamer basket over a pot with about two inches of water and bring it to a low boil.
  2. Spray the basket with oil and arrange the chicken wings in it, overlapping them so that the rising steam can permeate the whole batch. Cover the steamer and keep at a low boil for about 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the steamed wings to a parchment-lined baking sheet and rest until they are cooled to near-room temperature. Cover and refrigerate the wings for at least one hour or up to overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 425° F on a convection setting, with oven rack in the center position. Spray a cookie cooling rack with oil and set over a foil-lined cookie sheet. Arrange wings on rack, with space between the pieces to allow easy air flow.
  5. Convect-roast for 15 minutes (or regular roast for 20 minutes). While wings are roasting, make the mango-pepper chutney.
  6. After 15 minutes, turn wings to roast the other side 15 more minutes (or 20 for regular roast setting). The wings should be nicely browned all over and the skin on the wings should appear tight but not too dry.
  7. During the second half of roasting, combine jerk wet rub seasoning, canola oil, brown sugar and rum in a large bowl. Whisk until evenly combined.
  8. Toss wings in the bowl of jerk rub, spooning the seasoning over any unglazed areas. Return the wings to the rack on the cookie sheet and roast about 3 more minutes to set the glaze in the oven.
  9. Serve immediately with the mango-pepper chutney.

Mango-Red Pepper Chutney Instructions

  1. Place a small saucepan over medium heat. Swirl in oil and saute peppers and scallions, just long enough to soften them. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the cut-up mango pieces and stir until the mixture is heated through. Stir in brown sugar, vinegar and rum. When mixture begins to bubble, reduce heat and cover, simmering until thickened. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.



Les’s Atomic Buffalo Turds

The name alone demanded that I make this appetizer when I ran across the recipe sometime while preparing for my 2015 Super Bowl party. The fact that it was a heat-fueled bite made it even better. Not only did it pair well with my favorite chili, but it also helped get the guests to leave on time.

For some reason, I didn’t make these spicy bites for the 2020 Super Bowl bash at our house (the last time we actually had people over). And last year, when it was just me and Terrie for the Pandemic Bowl, no turds.

With this year’s Super Bowl coming up, Terrie asked me to make these and share the recipe, so here goes. I wish I could credit a specific source for these, but I cannot remember where I found the recipe. It’s just an awfully good one, and very conducive to substitutions of spices and topping sauce. So many different things can work. The key is the mix of sweet to offset the intense heat. The original recipe suggested cooking these on an outdoor smoker, but this adaptation is adjusted for baking in a home oven.

Behold, atomic buffalo turds!

My 2016 batch, enough for a houseful of hungry Super Bowl guests.

Ingredients (makes 12 pieces)

6 medium size jalapeno peppers, halved and trimmed*

12 li’l smoky sausages*

3/4 brick of cream cheese

1¼ tsp. smoked paprika*

3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or less, if you’re scared)

6 slices of bacon, cut in half crosswise*

12 toothpicks

2 Tbsp. sweet rub seasoning*

Sweet finishing sauce*


Notes

  • Scoop out the innards of the jalapenos, removing most of the membrane and the seeds. However, if you really want heat, feel free to leave some of that membrane intact.
  • There are different brands of li’l smokies. Ideally, we’d love to find some without nitrites, but if they are made, we can’t find them. You can, however, probably substitute other kinds of normal size sausage and simply cut them down to the bite-size smoky portion.
  • There are many different types of paprika. For this batch, we used a bourbon smoked paprika we’d found online at Bourbon Barrel Foods.
  • I usually wrap the bacon raw around the jalapenos, but there is something to be said for lightly starting to cook the bacon in a skillet to render some of the fat and help it be more crispy later. But don’t cook it too long, or it will either burn or crack and fall off in the oven. Thin slices of bacon work better than thick.
  • The sweet rub seasoning can be anything you find that suits the bill; it is used to offset the heat. You can also make some your own, as we did in this case, using 3 parts of brown sugar to one part of Flatiron Pepper Co.’s dark and smoky BBQ rub. Flatiron is a very good specialty pepper company and we have enjoyed many of their products, which tend to bring the heat!
  • The finishing sauce is usually a sweet/tart, often fruit-flavored BBQ-oriented sauce. It goes on after the turds have cooked and provide a beautiful cooling note. Or, if you’re like us, you can look for a fruit-flavored-but-still-has-a-kick sauce. One year, I used a cherry-ancho BBQ sauce. For this batch, we had a raspberry-habanero sauce I’d bought from a friend who sells Pampered Chef products.

Instructions

Preheat oven to 300° F.

The first thing to do is prep the jalapenos, which involves cutting off the stems, splitting them lengthwise and then taking out the seeds and membrane. The more of either you leave inside, the more the heat your turds will pack. Wash your hands thoroughly (unless you have kitchen gloves to work with, which I don’t) when you’re done. And don’t even think of getting that itch near your eye, even after you’ve washed your hands. Trust me. Been there, done that.

Prepare the cream cheese mix by adding the paprika and cayenne. The cream cheese will turn orange. Don’t be alarmed. It helps, by the way, to let the cream cheese get room temp for easier mixing. Scoop the cream cheese to fill the half jalapenos and be relatively generous. Then place one smoky right on top of the cream cheese, lining up your jalapenos on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Take one of the half slices of bacon and wrap around the jalapeno, covering the smoky and cream cheese mix and securing with a toothpick on top through the bacon. Push down through the smoky and keep going until you feel resistance from the bottom of the jalapeno. Do not pierce the jalapeno if you can avoid it, as that will cause the cream cheese mix to seep out.

Sprinkle a generous portion of whatever your sweet rub mix of choice is on each smoky and place the cookie sheet in the oven. Allow about 90 minutes. The long, slow baking time simulates the process of smoking them.

When the bacon looks done, remove the turds and brush or drip your finishing sauce on top of the turds. Then, enjoy the burn!

Good to the last scorching bite.


Hot Artichoke-Cheddar Dip

When you make a recipe so many times, you no longer need to review the ingredients list or even bother measuring, and that is the case for me with this hot artichoke cheddar dip, which I made umpteen dozen times during my stint as a prep cook for a catering company called A Pinch of Thyme.

The holiday season was wild in the “Pinch” kitchen, as many of our regular, affluent clients planned and hosted extravagant parties and, naturally, they did not prepare the food themselves. My friend, Tammy, was the events manager for Pinch, and she often shared colorful stories about some of the luxurious homes where our food was delivered (like the one with copper pipes running hot water underneath the marble floors to keep everyone’s tootsies warm), and I often wondered if those hosts supposed the food came from an equally posh kitchen and was prepared by consummate culinary professionals donning crisp, white chef coats and hats.

If they only knew.

My day job at the radio station usually had me out the door by noon, which gave me plenty of time to change into my most worn-out jeans and a WKZL T-shirt before tackling the party menus at the kitchen. The rock music would be blaring, Chef Rodney would be barking orders to everyone, the dishwasher would start running full-steam ahead and, somehow, we’d get it all done in time for the serving crew to load the truck and shuttle our delicacies to the client. The menu for such a shindig might have included a whole roasted beef tenderloin and buttered red bliss potatoes, some exquisite pastry dessert that I probably can’t even pronounce, bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with bleu cheese and, more often than not, this artichoke cheddar dip. Because, simple though it was, everyone loved it.

Warm and bubbly from the oven, this artichoke cheddar dip is delicious served with pita chips or crostini!

No matter how elaborate (or not) you intend your holiday get-togethers to be this year, I promise this dip will bring rave reviews. From memory, I scaled down the recipe to make it at home and, over time, I have modified it to reduce the ratio of mayonnaise in favor of smooth cream cheese; I think it endures better, especially when guests will be mingling for a while. The cream cheese keeps this dip silky, the cheddar gives a little sharpness and the artichoke hearts are satisfying and tart with their lemony zing.

If you want to go overboard, as we usually did in the Pinch kitchen, you might serve the dip in a silver chafing dish with handmade toasted herbed pita chips, which we typically made in quantity to fill up a hotel laundry cart. We would cut pita breads into wedges, split them to expose the shaggy insides, brush them with melted butter and then toss them with dried oregano, basil and garlic powder before baking them to perfect crispness. It was delicious, for sure, but at our house this year, we simply baked the dip in a pie plate, opened a bag of Stacy’s multigrain pita chips and had ourselves a party!


Ingredients

8 oz. brick of cream cheese (full fat or Neufchatel)

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

A few shakes hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Texas Pete

2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced

8 oz. brick cheddar cheese (medium or sharp), freshly shredded* (see notes)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, finely chopped*

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

A pinch of dried thyme (of course)

1/4 cup parm-romano blend*


*Notes

I know that it’s tempting to use pre-shredded cheese from a bag, but don’t. The stuff is coated with a powdery substance that keeps it from clumping, which may be great for the purpose of packaging, but not great for cooking because it does not melt well. Break out the box grater and shred the cheese yourself. You’ll be glad you did!

I use artichoke hearts that are marinated in spices and oil, and I usually scoop them out of the jar with a slotted spoon without draining them. The herbs and oil add a pleasant layer of flavor. If you use artichoke hearts packed in water, drain them thoroughly and also drizzle them with a bit of olive oil before mixing into the dip. If they are plain, consider increasing the dried herbs slightly.

I use oil-marinated artichoke hearts. There is no need to rinse or drain them, and the herbs add flavor.

We make our own parm-romano blend, which is easy to do and super convenient, because we love the piquant flavor in so many dishes. If you don’t care to do this (or if you just don’t have the time), substitute a good quality grated parmesan from the supermarket.

Before we get into the making of this recipe, I have a confession (as you’ll see in the photos). To satisfy our shopping list on the day I made the dip, my husband had to visit four grocery stores. I decided not to wait for the new package of cream cheese, and I dipped into our fresh batch of spreadable scallion cream cheese, which we make regularly as a bagel schmear. The spread has a bit of sour cream in it, plus chopped scallions and a touch of dill. I scooped out a heaping cup of it for this recipe and it worked great. Improvisation has led me to some of my favorite flavor discoveries, and I’ve learned to not be strictly bound to a recipe.


Instructions

Using an electric mixer, blend the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream together. Add garlic and hot sauce and mix until smooth. Give it a taste and adjust hot sauce to your liking. Add about 2/3 of the shredded cheddar and mix again. Season with about 15 twists of freshly ground black pepper. Blend in the chopped artichoke hearts until evenly distributed. Add oregano and, in keeping with the original recipe, a pinch of thyme.

Pile the mixture into a deep pie plate or 8 x 8 glass baking dish. Sprinkle on the parm-romano blend. Top with remaining shredded cheddar.

Bake at 375° F for about 25 minutes, until dip is heated through and cheese is bubbly. Serve warm with pita chips, sturdy crackers or crostini.



Turning Les’s Chili into “Kitchen-less” Chili

The first dish I cooked from scratch happened in fall 1981, my first semester out of college, living in Southern California. It was sometime after the appearance of the annual TV Guide Season Preview edition. We all of a certain age remember those, right?

This thick edition featured previews of all the new shows, updates on returning shows and, seasoned amid all that, some unique features. The 1981 edition had a clip-out thing with the actor Vic Tayback, in all his “Alice” glory (rolled-up white hat, white t-shirt), sharing the recipe for Mel’s chili. Curious thing is that I didn’t watch “Alice.” Ever. But I wanted to make that chili, and it came out great. Of course, at the tender age of 22, saying something came out great means it was edible.

Vic Tayback as Mel Sharples. Gruff, but likable. And everyone loved his chili.

My chili has grown considerably in depth of ingredients and flavor over the years, and I no longer need to refer back to Mel’s recipe as I did for at least 10 years, but the baseline recipe still has some “Mel” in it. Namely, I still typically use some type of ground meat, onions, garlic, tomato paste and red kidney beans. I remember my very first modification, probably the second time I made the chili, was adding diced green peppers. Diced red pepper followed shortly after.

Soon enough, my chili became the regular main dish at the annual Gura household Super Bowl party, and I tried to do something different with it just about every year. So, among the additions (which sometimes also required deletions), were diced tomatoes (I now use Rotel hot diced tomatoes), roasted garlic, cocoa powder, various types of chili powders and seasonings rather than the packets of chili seasoning the recipe called for, canned green chiles, and diced jalapeno. A breakthrough ingredient some 15 years ago (I think I have to credit chef Steven Raichlen for this) was dark beer, as substitute for the water needed with the tomato paste. I’ve used ground bison. Used ground venison. Used smoked brisket (that might have been my best chili ever, Super Bowl party 2017).

Now comes a new challenge. Making chili without a kitchen, which became my mission one recent weekend while Terrie was taking a trip to West Virginia to buy colorful new Fiesta dishes for our soon-be-be completed kitchen. Fortunately, in our current state of kitchen-lessness, Terrie and I have two useful things for making chili. A multi-purpose slow cooker and a toaster oven; the former was the star of the day for the new batch.

I’m not going to bore you all with the details. Suffice to say, while I roasted a bulb of garlic in the toaster oven, I diced up peppers and onions and lined up the other key ingredients (Guinness Foreign Extra Stout was the beer). I browned the bison in the slow cooker and flavored it with a taco skillet sauce, then removed the bison to sauté the vegetables. Eventually, everything went back  into the slow cooker and I left it on low for 2½ hours. With the jalapeno pepper flakes and ground chipotle that I added, this chili came out, to quote Jim Carrey in Masked, “ssssmokin!”


Ingredients (makes about 8 portions)

Counter space and lighting is even worse in the dining room than in the old kitchen, but I like to get “mise en place!” Everything ready, including a frosty beer for myself.

1 pound ground bison* (notes below)

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 each green and red peppers, diced

1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 bulb garlic

1 can Rotel diced tomatoes (I used the “hot” variety)*

2 small cans of chopped green chiles*

1 10-ounce can tomato paste

1 12-ounce beer*

1 packet Frontera brand taco skillet sauce (you will need less than half the packet)

2 cans red pinto beans (for this I used dark red; normally I mix dark and light red beans), drained

1-2 Tbsp. ground chipotle*

A pinch or two of dried jalapeno flakes

1 Tbsp. cocoa powder

Salt and pepper


Tools

Slow cooker and toaster oven for cooking*


Toppings/Extras

Shredded cheese*

Sour cream

Scallions

Tortilla chips


Notes

  • Bison can be substituted with ground beef, ground turkey or other favored protein; chili also works great with different kinds of stewed or smoked meats cut into small chunks.
  • Rotel makes three varieties of diced tomatoes; use whichever suits your heat preference.
  • I used Ortega’s fire-roasted, mild chopped green chiles for this batch, but any will do.
  • I like to use a dark beer; for this batch it was Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, which Terrie thought was too bold but it was the only bottle of dark beer in the “downstairs” fridge.
  • Ground chipotle can be substituted with other types of seasoning such as ancho chili powder or a seasoning packet mix or a combination of seasonings, all based on heat preference and desired flavor profile. And another thought on seasoning: add in whatever you like on a given day. Chili never comes out exactly the same, at least in our kitchen. And that’s OK.
  • If you don’t have a multipurpose slow cooker, you could brown the beef and sauté the vegetables in a fry pan, then add all other ingredients into a cast-iron pot.
  • Needless to say, garlic can be roasted in a regular oven. Unless you’re remodeling your kitchen.
  • I like to use a block of cheese rather than pre-shredded. Because this batch came out spicy, I used a Colby-jack blend. If your chili’s heat factor is low, Trader Joe’s makes a habanero pepper jack that works great and you can make your own bowl as spicy as you want.

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat toaster oven to 400° F. Cut off head of garlic bulb, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Cook 1 to 1½ hours until the bulb is soft and golden brown.
  2. Brown ground bison in multipurpose slow cooker on brown setting, adding in small batches to avoid steaming. After initial browning, add skillet sauce to coat bison, then remove from slow cooker.
  3. Add olive oil and sauté the vegetables about 5 minutes until soft and translucent.
  4. Change setting to slow cook on low, return ground bison to the slow cooker, and then add in Rotel diced tomatoes, beer and tomato paste. Add seasonings. Mix all ingredients well. If mixture appears too thin, gradually add more tomato paste; if too thick, add water.
  5. After cooking about 90 minutes, add kidney beans and heat through.

In Terrie’s new Fiesta ware, the leftover chili looks like a party in a bowl.


Buffalo Deviled Eggs with Bleu Cheese

There was more than a little bit of disappointment this year in limiting the number and scale of dishes my husband, Les, and I create for our annual Super Bowl party. Obviously, we didn’t have 25 people in the house this year—that would be ludicrous in these times—but the Super Bowl wasn’t cancelled, and neither was our celebration, even if reduced to just the two of us. The challenge for us was finding new ways to enjoy the flavors we’ve come to expect on this ultimate football occasion.

Deviled eggs are always on our party table and so are Buffalo wings. Why not combine the flavors into one tasty bite?

These little hors d’oeuvres have the big, bold flavor of Frank’s RedHot sauce, which is the only acceptable flavor for Buffalo wings, in this Western New York girl’s humble opinion. Little bits of crunchy celery do their part to mimic the experience, and crumbled bleu cheese is the proverbial icing on the cake.

Deviled eggs are one of my favorite “blank canvas” foods, meaning that you can twist up the flavors to suit the occasion. I made these Buffalo-flavored eggs at the same time as the Dirty Martini Deviled Eggs, which is in keeping with my usual practice of putting more than one flavor on the table. The ingredients and instructions below describe my process for splitting the two flavors, but if you’d prefer to make only the Buffalo deviled eggs, no problem—simply double the ingredients as noted below.

Two flavors are better than one!

If you are intrigued with the idea of trying new flavors, check out my post from last spring, Egg-stravaganza. I’ll bet you will find a flavor combination that’s right up your alley!

Ingredients

9 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled

1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. light mayonnaise


Carefully turn out the egg yolks into a medium-sized bowl. Mash thoroughly with a fork until yolks resemble dry crumbs. Add mayonnaise and blend until smooth. Divide yolk mixture by transferring half to a second bowl (unless you intend to make all one flavor). Follow additional instructions below for making the two kinds of deviled eggs I made this particular day.


For the Buffalo flavor (double if making all nine eggs)

All the flavors of Buffalo wings, ready to take over my deviled eggs.

2 or 3 tsp. Frank’s original RedHot sauce (adjust to your heat preference)

2 cloves roasted garlic or 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. celery, finely chopped (for filling) + small, thin sticks celery (for garnish)

1 1/2 Tbsp. finely crumbled bleu cheese

Frank’s RedHot dry seasoning, to sprinkle on at serving time (or substitute paprika)


Instructions for Buffalo eggs

  1. Add RedHot sauce, roasted garlic and black pepper to one bowl of the yolk mixture. Blend smooth with a fork or spoon. Fold in chopped celery bits.
  2. Place a small zip-top bag into a glass, and use a spatula to scoop the filling mixture into it. Seal up the bag, snip one corner to create a makeshift piping bag, and gently fill half of egg whites. Garnish top of Buffalo eggs with crumbled bleu cheese and mini celery sticks.

For the Dirty Martini flavor (double if making all nine eggs)

No vodka or gin in my dirty martini deviled eggs, but the vermouth and garnishes add all the right flavors.

1 Tbsp. dry vermouth (or use additional olive brine)

2 cocktail olives, finely chopped

1 or 2 cocktail onions, finely chopped (for filling)

1 tsp. olive brine

4 cocktail onions, halved (for garnish)


Instructions for Dirty Martini eggs

  1. Add dry vermouth, chopped olives, onion and brine to yolk mixture. Blend smooth with a fork or spoon.
  2. Place a small zip-top bag into a glass, and use a spatula to scoop the filling mixture into it. Seal up the bag, snip one corner to create a makeshift piping bag, and gently fill half of egg whites. Garnish with cocktail onion halves, skewered on a toothpick if you wish, to mimic the appearance of a martini.


Want to try these deviled egg recipes?


At serving time, I sprinkled the Buffalo eggs with the Frank’s dry seasoning. These deviled eggs made a fine appearance at our Super Bowl party for two! 🙂


Dirty Martini Deviled Eggs

Every Super Bowl party my husband, Les, and I have hosted together has been a little different in terms of food offerings, but you can count on two things—his incredible, thick and meaty chili (one day I promise I’ll squeeze the recipe out of him) and at least a couple of flavors of deviled eggs. This is one of those foods that everybody (except the vegans) goes a little nuts over, and I love making them because the deviled egg is what I call a “blank canvas” food. If you can dream up a flavor, a deviled egg can probably carry it.

When I shared my Egg-stravaganza post last spring, I made mention of my “Bloody Mary” deviled eggs, filled with all the signature savory flavors you’d find in the ubiquitous Sunday brunch cocktail. Today, I’m presenting a non-spicy counterpart in this Dirty Martini version of deviled eggs, which includes the tangy brininess of lemon-stuffed cocktail olives, pickled cocktail onions and a splash of dry white vermouth. This new riff on a classic hors d’oeuvres will undoubtedly make a repeat appearance on our table at some point in the future, and it’s a fun way to enjoy one of my favorite cocktail combinations, too.

Two flavors are better than one!

I made these tasty bites at the same time as my Buffalo Deviled Eggs with Bleu Cheese, and the ingredients and instructions below describe my process for splitting the two flavors. If you’d prefer to make only the dirty martini deviled eggs, no problem—simply double the ingredients as noted below.

Cheers!


Ingredients for base filling

9 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled

1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. light mayonnaise



Carefully turn out the egg yolks into a medium-sized bowl. Mash thoroughly with a fork until yolks resemble dry crumbs. Add mayonnaise and blend until smooth. Divide yolk mixture by transferring half to a second bowl (unless you intend to make all one flavor). Follow additional instructions below for making the two kinds of deviled eggs I made this particular day.


For the Dirty Martini flavor (double ingredients if making all nine eggs)

No vodka or gin in my dirty martini deviled eggs, but the vermouth and garnishes add all the right flavors.

1 Tbsp. dry vermouth (or use additional olive brine)

2 cocktail olives, finely chopped

1 cocktail onion, finely chopped

1 tsp. olive brine

4 cocktail onions, halved (for garnish)


Instructions for Dirty Martini eggs


  1. Add dry vermouth, chopped olives, onion and brine to yolk mixture. Blend smooth with a form or spoon.
  2. Place a small zip-top bag into a glass, and use a spatula to scoop the filling mixture into it. Seal up the bag, snip one corner to create a makeshift piping bag, and gently fill half of egg whites (See slides for Buffalo deviled eggs for a visual on this technique). Garnish with cocktail onion halves, skewered on a toothpick if you wish, to mimic the appearance of a martini.

For the Buffalo flavor

All the flavors of Buffalo wings, ready to take over my deviled eggs.

2 or 3 tsp. Frank’s original RedHot sauce (adjust to your heat preference)

2 cloves roasted garlic or 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. celery, finely chopped (for filling) + small, thin sticks celery (for garnish)

1 1/2 Tbsp. finely crumbled bleu cheese

Frank’s RedHot dry seasoning, to sprinkle on at serving (or substitute paprika)


Instructions for Buffalo deviled eggs


  1. Add RedHot sauce, roasted garlic and black pepper to one bowl of the yolk mixture. Blend smooth with a fork or spoon. Fold in chopped celery bits.
  2. Place a small zip-top bag into a glass, and use a spatula to scoop the filling mixture into it. Seal up the bag, snip one corner to create a makeshift piping bag, and gently fill half of egg whites. Garnish top of Buffalo eggs with crumbled bleu cheese and mini celery sticks.

Want to make these deviled eggs?


If you like the fun idea of switching up flavors on your next batch of deviled eggs, have a look at my previous post for Egg-Stravaganza, and see how I made these fun varieties!

(L to R) Bloody Mary, jalapeno pimiento cheese, bacon, egg and cheese.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies

Pardon me for a moment, as I ponder the best part of Super Bowl LV—I don’t mean the game, though I’m sure that Tampa Bay fans everywhere are still celebrating and bragging on social media about the blowout win. I’m not talking about the fun party, because as much as I love chilling at home with my husband (and making great food together), we were definitely feeling the void and missing our usual houseful of friends and neighbors. Nope, I am calling out the best part. For me, it was these brownies.

With a winning combination of all the right flavors, these brownies deserve their own trophy.

I’m not trying to ruin anyone’s diet or anything; just hear me out for a sec on these brownies. Soft and fudgy, peanut butter swirly, crunchy pretzel salty, holy moly, yum. They smelled fantastic while baking, and I don’t feel one bit ashamed for taking a major shortcut—a box brownie mix.

There, I said it. Though I love my time in the kitchen, especially creating fun, new twists on foods everybody loves (pizza, for instance), I don’t make desserts very often because I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. That’s probably what attracted me to these brownies in the first place—they are not only sweet, but also nutty and salty and crunchy. I’ve adapted these from a scratch recipe by Valerie Bertinelli, the actress who now has her own cooking show on Food Network. I considered (for about a second) making them from scratch myself for our quiet, at-home Super Bowl festivities, but the reality is that Ghirardelli does it way better than I do. It was the peanut butter swirl and salty pretzel topping that won me over, anyway.

I gleaned a few bits of wisdom from the reviews for Valerie’s scratch-made recipe, such as using a smaller pan and a lesser amount of the peanut butter swirl mixture, and then I settled in to enjoy a shortcut version of what so many fellow bakers had to say—”best brownies ever!”


Ingredients

1 box Ghirardelli brand “dark chocolate” brownies, + ingredients to make them, which included an egg, 1/2 cup oil and 1/4 cup water.

1 Tbsp. dark cocoa powder

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks

1/2 cup smooth and creamy peanut butter (not the “natural” variety)

1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted to remove lumps

3 Tbsp. salted butter, melted

A handful of salted mini pretzels, broken by hand

An extra sprinkle of coarse sea salt, if you like a bit more of this contrasting flavor


Instructions

The photos tell the story, but if you keep scrolling, you’ll find a downloadable PDF you can save and print for your recipe files. Enjoy!


  1. Preheat oven to 325° F, with rack in center of oven. Butter a glass 8 x 8” baking dish.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar and melted butter. I used my handheld mixer for this step, but Valerie mixed it up just fine with a spoon, so do what you like there. Set this mixture aside while you prepare the brownie base.
  3. Add dark cocoa to the brownie mix. Add the egg, oil and water, blending together until all dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the extra chocolate pieces. Spread batter evenly into baking dish.
  4. Spoon dollops of the peanut butter mixture randomly over the top of the brownie base. You may find that you have a little bit of the peanut butter mixture left over, as I did. But if that’s the case, just follow my lead and eat it straight off the spatula, the beaters, the bowl, and that little bit that spattered on the counter. No problem (it’s delicious).
  5. Use a butter knife blade to drag the peanut butter dollops through the brownies, marbling as much or as little as you like.
  6. Use your hands to break the mini pretzels into pieces, scattering them all over the brownies. Sprinkle on a few pinches of coarse sea salt (optional).
  7. Bake brownies 45 to 50 minutes, according to package instructions. Cool completely before cutting, and try not to eat the whole batch in one evening.

The center of the brownie is soft and fudgy, the corners and edges are perfectly chewy, and that whole peanut butter swirly pretzel thing? Totally elevating my happy!

Want to make these brownies?


Smoky Guacamole

Terrie and I enjoy surprising each other with gifts that we know the other will appreciate and play to our sense of adventure in the kitchen. So it was a few Christmases back when I opened one of my gifts and unveiled the book Buenos Nachos! by Gina Hamadey. Terrie knew that I already enjoyed making different kinds of nachos and had come to recognize herself how enjoyable nachos could be as a dinner, and relatively healthy, too, if you plan for it. The book is, as the title indicates, a treasure trove of nacho recipes, many of which come from restaurants whose owners shared their secrets. The part of the book I’ve put most to use, though, is in the smaller section on accoutrements such as salsa, guacamole, queso and “refreshments.”

Specifically, I’ve latched onto “Smoky Guacamole” as a go-to offering at parties or pre-dinner snacks at our house. I was a latecomer to guacamole, I have to admit. I moved to Southern California after college and refused to get into the chill, SoCal swing of things and eat a disgusting-looking condiment with a questionable consistency. Instead, I simply expanded George Carlin’s skepticism about “blue foods” to include pasty green stuff. I don’t remember exactly when I gave in and tried guacamole, but I cannot imagine life without it now. The freshness of the lime and cilantro added to chunks of avocado and tomatoes was made for a nacho chip. Or, in the recent case in our household, as a side/add-on to homemade barbacoa tacos.



The reason I like this particular recipe—the very first one I tried from Buenos Nachos!—is the boost guacamole gets by simply adding in a couple of tablespoons (or more, as I like to do) of chipotles in adobo sauce. The smoky spice of the adobo sauce gives guac exactly the kind of “elevate your happy” that my better half talks about so often.

Coincidentally, smoky guacamole also serves as a fine topping or side for any of the nacho dinners I put together. Next up for me out of Buenos Nachos! will be liberating and enhancing a savory cheese sauce from one of the nacho recipes. But for now, I hope you enjoy this smoky guacamole as much as we do.


The usual guac suspects are all here, but the chipotles in adobo is the standout ingredient that puts the smoke in Smoky Guacamole.

Ingredients

3 avocados, halved and cubed

2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

Juice of half a lime

1/2 medium red onion, chopped

2 Tbsp. or more pureed chipotles in adobo sauce* (see notes)

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and pepper


*Notes

To make the chipotle puree, empty an entire 7 oz. can of chipotle peppers with adobo sauce into a food processor. Pulse several times until mixture is mostly smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl and keep in the fridge for about two weeks. In this recipe, use as much adobo as your spice meter desires. Add some to your next batch of chili, or use it to kick up a homemade bbq sauce.


Instructions


  1. Put the diced avocado in a large bowl and add the lime juice. Toss lightly to prevent the avocado browning.
  2. Add in the tomatoes, onion and chipotle-adobo puree. Stir with a large spoon or mash with a fork; if you prefer a smoother guacamole, you can mash the avocados first, but fans of chunky texture can settle for just mixing up the ingredients.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Finally, add the cilantro and fold again.

Buenos nachos!

Heaven on a chip.

Want to make this recipe?