Through the Kitchen Window

I’ve been thinking lately of picnics and barbecues and celebrations. Not that I have anything in particular to celebrate, but just because the onset of finally warm weather and the greening of the fields around me, put me in that frame of mind. Come to think of it, that’s reason enough to celebrate.

My housemate and I have been toying with the idea of a weekend bbq get together for a few dozen of our closest friends. Actually not that many at all, but still, it’s a great idea. Since many will be coming from some distance away, our bbq will be more like a weekend, but the main focus will be the Saturday night, Canada Day celebration. I’m thinking about my “killer wings”, burgers and sausages, a couple of salads and ice cream for dessert.

Killer Wings

    These wings are a standard at my house. Can’t bbq at all without making up at least a small batch of them. As most of you know, I’m a “seat of my pants” kind of cook and this recipe is no exception. Over the years it’s gone through some changes, mostly adjusting itself to the heat tolerance of those for whom the wings are intended. As my sons have become more adventurous in that regard, they’ve taken over the preparation and the heat level has increased exponentially.

    The smallest batch we’ve ever made was five pounds of wings, the largest was I think fifty pounds (for a family reunion). Funny thing though, no matter how many we make, there’s never any leftovers. So, for five pounds of wings, this is what we do. In small batches, deep fry the wings till they’re golden brown. Alternatively, you can par cook them by boiling them for 15 or twenty minutes, they should be just about done when you remove them. I do this on occasion then use the stock as a base for soup.

    When you’ve removed them and allowed them to cool and drain, sprinkle them with a quarter cup of cornstarch and mix well to coat evenly. Then in no particular order add the following ingredients: the juice of two lemons or ¼ cup malt/cider vinegar, 2 tbsp salt, 2 tsp thyme, two to four jalapeño peppers finely chopped. That’s the basic mix. Combine well to make sure it covers everything evenly.

    From this point is where the boys and I get creative. You can leave them as is and they’ll be great, or you can get creative and make them “killer”. Here’s how. There’s always several different products in my fridge for heat and flavouring. Sometimes we pick one or two, sometimes we use all of them, basically dosing the wings with anywhere from a teaspoon to a couple of tablespoons depending on what flavour we’re most trying to emphasize. This is a personal thing though, based on what your tastes are and how “hot” you like it. It’s helpful, if you are so inclined, to know what each of your different hot sauces tastes like, so you CAN take care to emphasize and achieve just the right “taste”. And don’t be fooled, while they are all hot, all hot sauces are not equal. While heat is important, flavour is essential.

    As a starting point, here’s a list of the products I try to keep on hand regularly. Emeril’s Bayou Blast, Endorphin Rush, several products from the Mild to Wild Pepper and Herb Company® ( such as Ralph’s Righteous Habanero Sauce, Red Savina Garlic Fiery Hot Habanero Sauce, and my personal favourite, Smokin’ Chipotle Sauce. I also use Sambal Oelek, Chinese Chili Garlic sauce and all manner of Chinese, Japanese and Thai pastes. (Thinking there may be a column here.) For a nice tangy but not killing heat, reduce the number of jalapeño peppers from four to two and use only Mild to Wild’s ® Smokin’ Chipotle Sauce or Finishing Sauce (for an even milder flavour) to coat the wings.

    Once the wings are suitably seasoned, set them aside to macerate for about half an hour then grill quickly to heat through and crisp them up. Set them out and watch them disappear.

Aahhh barbecue!!! Wings, burgers, sausages, almost heaven. Add a few quick and easy salads and you’ve got a perfect meal.

Try a couple of the following or come up with your own, just remember the key is to keep it simple and tasty.

Theresa’s Tuna Pasta Salad

    My good friend Tree makes this often in the summer and while I’m not a fan of pasta salads usually, this one is a good one and sure to become a favourite in your house. It’s a bonus that it’s easy to do too.

    Cook in boiling salted water till just al dente a one kilo (2 pounds) bag of your favourite medium to small size pasta shape. Shells are great, but just about anything will do. Drain, coat with a couple of tbsp of olive oil and allow to cool. Drain and crumble three or four 7 oz cans of tuna and add to the pasta. Stir well to combine and stir in about three cups of good mayonnaise (you may need more or less so add it one cup at a time until you’ve reached the desired moistness level). Adjust seasoning and set in refrigerator before serving.

Salade Sorta Niçoise

    This is my variation of the classic niçoise. I usually modify recipes, not for any grave reason other than that I love to put my “mark” on the foods I serve my family and friends.

    Cook 2.5 pounds of potatoes in boiling salted water until cooked through but not overdone. Drain, and while still hot season with freshly ground black pepper half a Vidalia or other sweet onion sliced thinly and 1/3 cup olive oil. Mix to combine and set aside.

    Steam 2.5 pounds of green beans for 8 to 10 minutes, until just tender. Again while still hot, season with a dressing made of the following: ¼ cup red wine vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 2 cloves garlic crushed, and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well to combine and set aside.

    Hard cook 6 large eggs, cool, peel, slice in half and set aside.

    Now to assemble the salad. I do it in a clear glass bowl rather than on a platter. But either way works just make your layers next to each other instead of on top of each other. Place the potatoes in the bowl first, then top with the beans and mix just enough to partly combine the two. At this point a classic niçoise has a tuna salad section and a tomato salad section and all of the sections are set next to each other on a large platter and surrounded by the egg halves that are garnished with anchovy fillets. I usually don’t bother with them and just top the whole with the egg halves (or quarters if you prefer) sprinkle a generous amount of capers over all and lightly sprinkle more of the green bean dressing over the top. Serve chilled.

Seafood Coleslaw

    A long time ago, seems like a different lifetime now, I made a venture into the world of the restaurateur. I owned for a while a café where we served breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas. One of the gals that worked for me there brought with her this recipe that she often made for family gatherings and was a perennial favourite. You’ll see why when you taste it.

    To half a large head of cabbage, shredded, add three carrots, and three stalks of celery also shredded. Season generously with salt and pepper and celery seed, (this was her crucial “secret” ingredient and we tried making it once without but it lacked that ineffable “something”). Combine well and add mayonnaise until the desired consistency is reached. We usually used two to three cups of mayonnaise, but it can vary. Once that’s all done, break up into the coleslaw an eight ounce package of imitation crab meat. (We sometimes used more.) Set it aside and allow the flavours to meld nicely. We found it was best served the day after it was made.

Well there you have it for another month!! Enjoy the lovely warm weather we’re being blessed with and spend some time cooking and playing out doors.

As always I can be reached via email here, and I would love to hear about your favourite summertime / barbecue time recipes.

Something I always wondered: how come you never see a recipe for leftover lobster?