Sneaky Spicy Chicken

Start to finish: 1 hour 45 minutes
Impresses: 10

Ingredients
2    quarts vegetable oil (omit if baking)
4–5    pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drummies
1    cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2    teaspoons paprika
1    teaspoon garlic salt
2    teaspoons salt
2    tablespoons cayenne pepper
4    eggs
1    cup buttermilk
2    cups flour
2/3    cup corn starch
2    tablespoons salt

Baking alternative: 
Heat oven to 400 F. Line two large baking sheets with foil. Place dredged chicken about 2 inches apart. Bake 30 minutes, flip and bake an additional 20 minutes or until golden brown and juices run clear.

Method
Add oil to a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to 350 F over medium-high heat (you can measure heat with a candy thermometer). Line two large baking sheets with paper towels and place one where you will begin dredging chicken and one on the opposite side of the pot, for draining the chicken.

Place chicken on the first baking sheet, skin-side down, to remove some of the moisture.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together butter, paprika, garlic salt, salt and cayenne until fully combined. Set aside.

In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Place next to the chicken.

In another shallow dish, whisk together flour, cornstarch and salt. Set next to the eggs for your dredging station.

Start by coating all chicken pieces with 2–3 teaspoons of the butter mixture, including underneath the skin. Once all pieces are coated, begin dredging and frying.

  • Step 1: Dip coated chicken into the egg mixture.
  • Step 2: Coat chicken in flour mixture on all sides. Don’t shake off the excess.
  • Step 3: Carefully place chicken in heated oil. Fry until golden brown and juices run clear, about 12 minutes for drummies and 15 minutes for thighs.
  • Step 4: Remove chicken and place on second paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all chicken is cooked. 

Serve in batches or keep in 250 F oven until ready to serve.

Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas

Start to finish: 45 minutes
Impresses: 6

Ingredients
1     cup onion, chopped
½    cup green bell pepper, chopped
5    tablespoons butter
3    cups baby spinach
2    cups chopped cooked chicken
1     4-ounce can chopped green chiles (or roasted anaheims/hatch chiles)
¼    cup all-purpose flour
1     teaspoon ground coriander seed
¾    teaspoon salt
2½    cups chicken broth
1     cup sour cream
1½    cups shredded Monterey jack cheese (or more)
12    6-inch tortillas

Method
Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

In large saucepan, cook onion and green pepper in 2 tablespoons butter until tender. Combine in a bowl with spinach, chopped chicken and green chiles. Set aside.

In the same saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Whisk in flour, coriander and salt. Stir in chicken broth. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream and ½ cup of cheese. 

Stir ½ cup of the sauce into the chicken mixture.  Dip each tortilla into remaining hot sauce to soften and fill each with about ¼ cup of the chicken mixture and roll up. 

Arrange rolls in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and pour remaining sauce over. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake, uncovered, for about 25 minutes or until the top begins to brown.

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos

Start to finish: 11 hours
Impresses: 8–10

Ingredients

For the carnitas:
1    tablespoon cumin
1    tablespoon paprika
1    teaspoon salt
1    teaspoon pepper
1    4–5 lb. pork shoulder/butt
1    white onion
6    garlic cloves
2    oranges
2    limes
2    bay leaves
1    10-ounce can whole green chiles

For the chipotle crema:
2    cups sour cream
2    chipotles in adobo with sauce

For serving:
    corn tortillas
    cilantro, chopped
    white onion, chopped
    lime wedges

Method
In a small bowl, combine cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.

Dry pork shoulder with a paper towel and then rub spice mix all over. Place pork into a slow cooker. Cut onion in half and smash each garlic clove. Place into slow cooker with skin on.

Add in the juice of the oranges and limes, bay leaves and can of green chiles
with juice. 

Set slow cooker on low for 10 hours.

In a blender, pulse together sour cream and chipotles until fully blended. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve. 

Pork is finished once it’s tender and easily pulls apart. Heat oven broiler and line a baking sheet with several layers of foil. 

Using two forks, pull pork until shredded, discarding the fatty parts. Place pork on the baking sheet and ladle 1–2 cups of the cooking liquid atop the pulled pork and toss to coat. Broil for 10–15 minutes, stirring twice.

To serve, place pork inside warm corn tortillas, top with cilantro, onion, a squeeze of lime juice and drizzle of chipotle crema.

Curry Thighs & Drummies

Start to finish: 1 hour 45 minutes
Impresses: 4

Ingredients
1    1-inch piece ginger root
2    cups plain yogurt
2    teaspoons turmeric
1    teaspoon garam masala
1    tablespoon red curry paste
1    clove garlic, minced
    salt and pepper
2    pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs and
    drummies (about 4 of each)
    canola oil

Method
Carefully remove the skin from ginger root. Using a handheld grater, grate the ginger into a small bowl. (You can mince the ginger if you don’t have a grater.)

Add yogurt, turmeric, garam masala, curry paste, garlic, salt and pepper to the bowl. Stir to combine.

Place chicken pieces in a gallon-sized zip-top bag and pour marinade on top. Seal bag and gently toss to coat all pieces in marinade. Place in fridge and let marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Place a cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Once pan is hot, pour in a few tablespoons of canola oil.

Remove chicken from fridge and place two drummies and two thighs in the pan at a time. Sear until browned on each side, about four minutes per side. Remove first batch and place on a paper-towel-lined plate. Add more oil and repeat with second batch.

Once second batch has browned, place the chicken from the first batch into the pan with the second batch. 

Put entire pan into the oven and roast for 15 minutes, or until juices run clear. Serve immediately.

Jalapeño Popper Mac

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Start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Impresses: 6

Ingredients
2 green bell peppers
3 jalapeño peppers
½ pound bacon, diced
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons flour
2½ cups whole milk
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
salt and pepper
8 ounces corkscrew pasta
1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup panko breadcrumbs 

Method
Preheat broiler to 500 F. Place the bell and jalapeño peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet and char each side, turning the peppers every 2–3 minutes to ensure they don’t burn. 

Remove peppers from oven and place in a freezer-safe gallon bag. Seal shut and set aside to steam. 

Reduce oven heat to 350 F. Grease a cast-iron pan with butter and set aside. 

In a high-edge skillet on medium heat, add bacon and cook until crispy — about 7 minutes. Remove bacon and drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. Dispose of bacon grease and return skillet to medium-low heat. 

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. 

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the skillet and whisk in flour until all the butter is absorbed. Continue to work for about 1 minute to remove the flour flavor. Add milk and whisk to combine. Stir in cream cheese. Stir every minute for about 5 minutes to avoid scorching. 

While cream cheese melts, add pasta and a generous sprinkling of salt to boiling water. Cook until al dente, drain and return pot to stovetop. Note: The pasta should still have a bite to it because it will go into the oven for more baking. 

Add the cheddar to the skillet and whisk to combine. Add more milk if needed. Whisk until cheese is melted, smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper and pour over noodles in pot. 

Take the peppers out of the gallon bag and remove the seeds, top and skins. Dice peppers and place in pot with noodles and sauce. Add bacon. Stir until well combined and pour into cast-iron pan. 

Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and mix with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of pasta. 

Bake 10–12 minutes or until pasta is bubbly and top is browned.

Cowboy Lasagna

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Recipe courtesy of Miranda Rice

Start to finish: 1 hour and 5 minutes
Impresses: 10

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 24-ounce jar spaghetti or marinara sauce
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 stick butter
1 16-ounce package lasagna noodles, cooked al dente and drained
cheddar cheese, grated

Method
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine cream cheese, sour cream and ricotta cheese until blended. 

Combine meat and spaghetti sauce.

Place a few thin slices of butter in the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. 

Place ½ of the lasagna noodles on top of the butter. 

Pour ½ of the cheese mixture on top of the noodles and spread well. 

Repeat last three steps and layer remaining noodles, cheese and meat. 

Top with grated cheddar cheese. 

Bake for 30 minutes.

Lasagna Roll-Ups

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Recipe courtesy of Amber Talsma

Start to finish: 1 hour
Impresses: 10

Ingredients
20 lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground beef
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 30-ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 pound mozzarella, grated
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 large eggs
¼ cup parsley, minced
¼ cup basil, minced

Method
Preheat oven to 375 F. Boil lasagna noodles in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water to cool and then lay flat on a sheet of foil. Set aside. 

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, bell pepper and garlic, then sauté for 4–5 minutes until vegetables start to soften. Remove vegetables from the pan. 

Add ground beef to the pan and cook until browned. Drain the excess fat. 

Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Add the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Let the mixture simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. 

To make the filling, combine the ricotta cheese, ½ cup of the mozzarella, ¾ cup of the Parmesan, eggs, remaining salt and pepper, parsley and basil. Stir to combine. 

To assemble, spoon a thin layer of sauce into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan or five 6-inch disposable foil loaf pans. 

Spread 2–3 tablespoons of the filling on each noodle. Then, roll the noodles up so the cheese is on the inside of the roll. 

Lay rolls sideways in the 9x13-inch pan (four rolls will fit in each loaf pan).

Top evenly with the remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. 

Place pan(s) on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly. 

Classic Lasagna

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Recipe courtesy of Jenny Eisenga

Start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Impresses: 12

Ingredients
2 jars spaghetti sauce
1 pound hamburger
16 ounces cottage cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
9 lasagna noodles, cooked just until done

Method
Preheat oven to 350 F. Brown hamburger and drain excess fat if needed. Add spaghetti sauce and stir to combine. Let simmer for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, boil noodles until slightly undercooked. Drain and set aside. 

Combine slightly beaten eggs with cottage cheese, then set aside. 

In a greased 9x13-inch dish, pour ½ cup of the simmering spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the pan. Lay 3 noodles on top. Add another layer of the sauce, cottage cheese mixture, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and ¼ cup mozzarella cheese. Layer one more time, starting with the noodles. To finish, top with the last 3 noodles, remaining sauce and the last of the mozzarella cheese. 

Cover and bake for 1 hour, uncovering the last 15 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.