Fajita Chicken Wings with a Creamy Chipotle Dipping Sauce

     Some of you may know that yesterday was National Chicken Wing Day (7/29/14). If you lived in my house, you would have known for sure. One of my favorite food holidays of the year. What’s not to love? Crispy, bite sized food? You’re expected to use your hands? People don’t frown down on you if you get a bit messy? And most often come with some kind of tasty dipping sauce? Check, check and check. Sounds like the perfect food group to me.

     I’m always on the look out for a new wing recipe. This time, I used a little influence from growing up in South Texas and a nod to Chris over at NibbleMeThis to come up with my version of fajita chicken wings and a creamy chipotle dipping sauce. A little fusion of Tex-Mex and chicken wings.

Fajita Chicken Wings for National Chicken Wing Day
Fajita Chicken Wings for National Chicken Wing Day

     While Chris’s recipe is a little more in depth with more ingredients and a marinade process, I kept mine fairly simple by just using Fiesta Chicken Fajita Seasoning for two reasons. I like the flavor and I find that marinades can prevent the skin on chicken wings from getting crispy.

Ingredients

  • chicken wings
  • Fiesta Chicken Fajita Seasoning (or any brand you may prefer)
  • cornstarch (optional)
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 chipotle peppers, chopped + 1 tsp juice
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • juice of half a lemon or lime
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • dash of ancho chile pepper
  • pinch of sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Chicken Fajita Seasoning and my lil devil bottle opener
Chicken Fajita Seasoning and my lil devil bottle opener

Directions

  1. Lightly dust your chicken wings with corn starch (optional – this will help the skin get crispy as it cooks). Then dust the wings with fajita seasoning. Arrange the wings in a single layer on a platter and cookie sheet and place in the fridge for at least an hour and up to 12 hours. This process will allow the wings to air dry and will also help them crisp up.
  2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set the bowl in the fridge and allow flavors to marry for an hour or two.

    Creamy chipotle dipping sauce
    Creamy chipotle dipping sauce
  3. Preheat your grill to 400F. If using a Kamado style grill, set it up for a raised direct cook. If using other grills, set it up for a two zone cook (one side with the coals or burners on and one side without) so that you can shuffle the wings back and forth in case of flare ups.
  4. Grill wings for 30 minutes, turning two or three times to ensure even cooking. Keep an eye out for flare ups and move wings to the unlit side of the grill if necessary.
  5. Wings are safe to eat at 165F, but I usually like to take mine to 175-180 to get that crispy skin. Not to worry. The wings will not dry out.
Wings cooking at 400F raised direct. Almost done.
Wings cooking at 400F raised direct. Almost done.

     I went back and forth on what to serve with my wings. On the one hand, I wanted to keep with the Tex-Mex thing and thought about going with Mexican rice. Maybe some boracho beans. But that would require using a utensil and would counter balance part of the fun of wings…eating with your hands. Or I could just go with one of my other favorite foods…Tater Tots!! Yep, tater tots won out.

Wings and tots makes me happy.
Wings and tots makes me happy.

     It’s always interesting to switch things up on wing night. That first bite you expect to get some heat. These wings don’t bring the heat, though. They bring those flavors that you have come to expect from fajitas. Cumin, garlic, onion and a hint of citrus. The Chipotle Dipping Sauce doesn’t serve the same purpose as the normal bleu cheese or ranch that you get with Buffalo Wings. It’s not there to cool off your mouth from the heat from the wings. Most people enjoy their fajitas with sour cream. This sauce gives you that sour cream along with the smokiness of the chipotle peppers and some heat from the cayenne and ancho. Completely optional, but it adds that extra dimension to the wings that really set them off.

Demolished
Demolished

     Next time you are thinking about wings, try thinking outside the box. How could other cultures influence your wings and take them to a whole nother playing field? You might surprise yourself. You just might come up with a recipe that replaces Buffalo Wings as your favorite type of wings.

 

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Hatch Chile Salsa

Hatch Chile Salsa
Hatch Chile Salsa

     It’s that time of year again. Hatch Chiles have begun arriving in stores. At least, here in Dallas they have started popping up. If you don’t know if stores in your area have them, try checking out Central Market or Whole Foods to start out with. Central Market goes crazy with them. You can find everything from tamales to crab cakes to sausage to hamburgers made with them. They put them in tortillas and marinades and dips and queso. You can even pick up some Hatch Chile Chocolate gelato (which I was a little disappointed in. I thought it would pack a bit more heat). If Central Market makes it, I can almost guarantee they have a version with Hatch in it right now.

Cast of characters for my salsa
Cast of characters for my salsa

     I’m not a big Hatch Chile snob. In fact, I’ve never cooked with them before. What little I do know about them boils down to this: Hatch Chiles are to the chile world what champagne is to sparkling wine. Let me explain a bit. All champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne.You can make sparkling wine anywhere, but for it to be called champagne, it must be from Champagne, France. Same with these peppers. For them to be called Hatch Chiles, they must be grown in Hatch, New Mexico. Anywhere else, and they just aren’t Hatch Chiles. If they are grown in nearby Mesilla, then they are Mesilla chiles. Anaheim peppers? Taken from Hatch chile seeds and grown in Anaheim, Ca.

     So what’s the big deal about the Hatch valley? Some say its the volcanic soil. Some say its the climate, the hot days and cool nights. Does it really matter that much? I’m not sure, to me it sounds like one helluva marketing ploy. So why bother with them? Mrs. G loves Hatch chiles and quite honestly, I just got curious about them this year. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And at $0.99 a lb, why not?

Roasting my veggies for the salsa
Roasting my veggies for the salsa

     For my first use of Hatch chiles, I figured I’d start out with a simple salsa to get the feel…uh…I mean taste for them. I’ve made plenty of salsas before by charring the veggies on the grill first. I thought this would give me an understanding of the taste and heat of the chiles I was dealing with before I moved on to more complex dishes.

Ingredients

  • 3 Hatch Chiles (hot variety)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
  • 1-2 limes, cut in half
  • 3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for salsa charred up
Ingredients for salsa charred up

Directions

  1. Setup your grill for a direct cook and preheat to 500F (or set your oven to broil)
  2. Roast the first five ingredients for 2-3 minutes, flip and continue the process until the vegetables are charred on all sides, roughly ten to fifteen minutes. For the limes, grill cut side down for 2-3 minutes if desired.
  3. Remove veggies from grill. Place chiles in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. Remove the outer skin from the tomatoes, onions and garlic and toss in a food processor, as well as the cilantro. Squeeze the juice from one lime over the veggies.
  5. Once the chiles have cooled, remove the outer skin (it should peel right off). Cut off the stem end of the chiles and slice open one side. Open the chiles up so that they are laying flat and scrape out the veins and the seed (reserving the seeds if you like your salsa extra spicy). Toss the chiles into the food processor.
  6. Give the food processor a couple of quick pulses until it has reached your desired consistency.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings by adding salt and pepper and/or more lime juice or cilantro. If it’s not spicy enough, add in some of the reserved seeds.
  8. The salsa can be eaten warm, or chilled. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will marry and develop.
Hatch Chile Salsa ready to eat
Hatch Chile Salsa ready to eat

     You may have noticed that the recipe calls for 3 Hatch Chiles and yet the pictures show I roasted 5. What’s up with that? I wasn’t quite sure what kind of punch these chiles would pack. This is our basic recipe for salsa, but we usually use jalapenos or whatever other peppers we have on hand. Never having used Hatch Chiles, I had no idea how many it would take, so I erred on the side of caution and went ahead and roasted extra. Better to have too many than not enough (not to mention my research has indicated that the chiles freeze better if they are already roasted).

Hatch Chile Salsa served up with tortilla chips
Hatch Chile Salsa served up with tortilla chips

     So was it worth it? Is the hype and fuss all blown out of proportion? I’m still on the fence about that one. The salsa was chocked full of flavors and had a nice complexity. I’m a big fan of charring the veggies for my salsa, always have been. It adds another dimension of flavor, a nice underlying smokey taste, but not to strong to overwhelm the other flavors. The Hatch chiles, while not super hot, offered up a new and distinctive heat than what I am used to. It produced a burn in a different part of my mouth than say a jalapeno. There was no back of the throat burn, more of a front of the tongue. It was nowhere near as hot as a jalapeno either, nor did the heat linger around half as long. It was there, and then it was gone. It was actually quite nice. I think Hatch Chiles would make a nice substitute for those who like milder salsas.

     To evaluate the taste and heat of the Hatch Chiles, I’m not sure salsa was the best idea. With so many other flavors for it to compete with, I guess its kind of hard to pick out and isolate that one flavor by itself. But that is OK, because this was a great salsa by itself, as well as with the tacos we had that didn’t get pictured. It would be great on eggs or breakfast tacos or anything else you like to put salsa on.

     And as for the Hatch Chile…well I’ve already got an idea for dinner Friday night using it in a marinade and a sauce and there is still plenty of time to take advantage of them before the season is over. I wonder if I should stockpile some? Roast them and freeze them to use throughout the year? Hmmm…the gears are moving…

     So are you a Hatch Chile fanatic? Do you go crazy over them in August? Do you roast them and stockpile them for the rest of the year? What’s your favorite Hatch Chile recipes? I’d love to hear about them.

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

     When we cook whole chickens on the BGE, we generally like to spatchcock them and we usually do two or more if we have the time. Its a pretty simple, fool proof method of cooking them that doesn’t require much attention of the cook. The reason we like to do two or more is to have leftovers for later in the week to toss in casseroles or other chicken dishes (or to vacuum seal and freeze later).  This past Sunday, the weather was beautiful and we didn’t have any prior engagements demanding our time, so we decided to enjoy the weather, let the dogs play in the yard and cooked up a few yardbirds.

One spatchcocked chicken cooked solely for casseroles or other dishes.
One spatchcocked chicken cooked solely for casseroles or other dishes.

     When we cooked up this bird, I had no idea what we were going to use it for. Still didn’t yesterday morning. Now, Mrs. G has an arsenal of casserole dishes that she can whip up on the spot, but I was looking for something a bit different from the ones she normally makes. And then it hit me, why not make it Tex-Mex? How about some sour cream enchiladas? So off to the internet I went to gather some ideas, comparing recipes and ingredients for inspiration until I could come up with my own.

Every good sauce begins with making a roux.
Every good sauce begins with making a roux.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded (if you don’t have grilled chicken on hand and don’t feel like cooking one, grocery store rotisserie chickens will work just fine)
  • 1 lb Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 12 corn tortillas (yes, I suppose you could use flour, but why would you for enchiladas?)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 8 oz sour cream (1 cup)
  • 2 jalapeno peppers chopped ( for milder tastes, remove seeds and membrane, then chop)
  • 4 oz canned green chilies
  • green onions or cilantro for garnish
Soften the corn tortillas by frying them in oil for a few seconds
Soften the corn tortillas by frying them in oil for a few seconds

Directions

  1. Soften tortillas by frying them in hot oil for a few seconds, not too long, you don’t want them to get crispy. Drain on paper towels or a cooling rack.

    Filling the enchiladas
    Filling the enchiladas
  2. Once cool, fill tortillas with chicken, onions and cheese (use about half the cheese). Roll them up and place them in a large shallow pan.

    Your enchiladas should look a little something like this once you have finished rolling them
    Your enchiladas should look a little something like this once you have finished rolling them. Yeah, I know, I said 12 tortillas and there are 13 there, you got a problem with that? 😉
  3. Melt 1/4 cup of butter. Add flour and whisk until a light, blonde roux has formed. Slowly add in chicken stock while continuously whisking (you don’t want to break your roux). Cook over medium heat until thickened.
  4. Add sour cream and cook until hot, but do not boil.
  5. Add jalapeno peppers and green chilies and some extra Monterrey Jack cheese if you feel like it. We did and it really adds flavor to your sauce.
  6. Pour sauce over enchiladas and add more cheese (about 4 oz or more)

    Pour on the sauce and add a little extra cheese for good measure. Or a lot of cheese, I won't stop you.
    Pour on the sauce and add a little extra cheese for good measure. Or a lot of cheese, I won’t stop you.
  7. Cook indirectly on your BGE, cooker or smoker for about 25-30 minutes at 375F. If you are cooking in an oven, 350F for about 20 minutes.

    On the BGE, indirect at 375F (cook at 350 if using an oven)
    On the BGE, indirect at 375F (cook at 350 if using an oven)
  8. If your enchiladas haven’t “browned up” at the end of 30 minutes, pop them under the broiler for a few minutes. Watch carefully as they can burn pretty quickly.

    Finished, but something seems to be missing...
    Finished, but something seems to be missing…
  9. Top with green onions and/or cilantro.
Garnish!! Now it looks better!
Garnish!! Now it looks better!

     Green onions or cilantro work well for a garnish for this dish. We opted for green onions because somebody, meaning me, forgot to get cilantro while at the store. Whoops.

Ready to eat!
Ready to eat!

     Plated it up with a simple salad of iceberg lettuce, some cherry tomatoes and green onions and chipotle cheddar salad dressing for a cool, crisp contrast with a bite of heat to the creamy, cheesy enchiladas. For a relatively quick and easy meal, this one packed quite a bit of flavor. They had just a bit of smokieness from the grilled chicken and then cooking the enchiladas on the BGE. Creamy and cheesy goodness with just a hint of heat from the jalapenos. 

So good that I had to go back for one more! :)
So good that I had to go back for one more! 🙂

What I’d Do Differently

I opted to take out the seeds and veins on the jalapenos. That’s where the majority of the heat is stored and taking them out removes the heat but still gives you a nice flavor. I think next time I’ll leave them in as I wanted a bit more heat. Either that or get the Monterrey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers instead of plain ole Monterrey Jack. Other than that, I’d leave it just the way it is.

 

Pulled Beef Nachos

     Do you remember a while back when we smoked some chuck roasts to make pulled beef? We didn’t eat all that pulled beef by ourselves. No, some of it got vacuum sealed and frozen for a later date. Last night was one of those later dates. What do you do when you are sitting on a mountain of pulled beef and your wife goes out of town? Make Nachos!!

Pulled Beef Nachos
Pulled Beef Nachos

Ingredients

  • Tortilla Chips
  • Pulled Beef
  • Refried Beans
  • Cheese, any kind will do here, I used a mixture of cheddar and Mexican blend
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Jalapenos
  • Sour Cream and guacamole if desired
Assembling the nachos
Assembling the nachos

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Warm up refried beans (makes it easier to spread on chips)
  3. Lay chips out flat on a plate or baking sheet. Spread on refried beans, top with gobs of cheese and pulled beef.
  4. Bake in oven 5-10 minutes or until cheese melts
  5. Top with pico de gallo, jalapenos, sour cream and guacamole.
Pulled Beef Nachos
Pulled Beef Nachos

     One of the reasons we have a vacuum sealer is just for this reason. We smoke large quantities of meat (doesn’t take any extra charcoal or time) and then freeze them for quick meals later down the road. Or, for when Mrs. G goes out of town and I don’t feel like cooking just for myself. Pull a bag out of the freezer the night before and allow to defrost in the fridge. The next night, you can heat the bag in a gently boiling pot of water or nuke it in the microwave and you’ve got yourself a quick and easy meal. No muss, no fuss.

Pulled pork Nachos

Pulled Pork Nachos

     I was rooting around in the freezer the other night, trying to see what had become lost in it and to plan some dinners for this week when I discovered a bag of pulled pork that I had totally forgotten about. How is that possible? Anyway, this was from an Overnight Pork Butt back in April and was our first time using a pit controller (don’t worry, the pork was vacuum sealed so no freezer burn).

     I didn’t want to just reheat it and make pulled pork sandwiches, however. Just wasn’t feeling it. I was looking for something different. I asked on Facebook on Wednesday what people’s favorite ways were to use leftover pulled pork and got some really great answers – loaded baked potatoes with BBQ sauce, pulled pork pizza, pulled pork smoked mac n cheese (think Mrs. G really wants to try this one), tacos and BBQ sundaes. Although all seemed good (and I’m gonna try some with the next bag, did I mention I found 3 bags?), I opted to stick with my first inclination…pulled pork nachos.

Building the bottom layer

Ingredients

  • leftover pulled pork
  • tortilla chips
  • shredded cheese (I used a mixture or Oaxaca, Chihuahua and cheddar cheese, what I had on hand)
  • Hatch Enchilada Sauce
  • pico de gallo
  • optional – sour cream, guacamole, jalapenos
Add some pulled pork

Directions

  1. Begin  by laying down a bed of tortilla chips on a cookie sheet.
  2. Top generously with cheese, enchilada sauce and pulled pork.
  3. Add another layer of chips on top and repeat with cheese, enchilada sauce and pork. Build it as high as you want.

    Second layer added
  4. Place  under a broiler (set at 500F if you oven allows you to do this) and bake until cheese is melted. It only takes a few minutes.

    Hot, fresh, right out of the oven
  5. Remove from oven and top with pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole and jalapenos.
Ready to eat

     The pulled pork really added another level to the nachos. The smokey flavor from the pecan and hickory came through along with the twang from the North Carolina Vinegar Sauce that was drizzled on before freezing it. The pico de gallo had just the right amount of heat and the sour cream and guacamole did a nice job of cooling it down. It’s nachos, so I’m not sure why I am explaining them to you. You’ve had them before. Now go out and try them with pulled pork.