Our Seafood Cioppino – Happy Birthday Mom!!!

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Today is our Mama’s birthday and although it’s been 10 years since she’s been with us, not a day goes by when we don’t miss or think of her.

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That fiery spirit that her daughters and granddaughters inherited……

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That deep sense of family, love and loyalty……

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The affinity to talk to strangers and win them over in minutes….

MomandDad
That strong “will” (yes…I was trying not to say stubborn)…..

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And that love to cook and explore new cuisines.

Kids
Of course there are dishes that I cannot help but miss her dearly when I make them. Like Thịt Kho Trứng (Vietnamese Caramelized Pork and Eggs), Thịt Bò Xào (Stir-fried beef), Mì Quảng (Turmeric Noodles) or even Korean Chap Chae —all dishes I used to ask her to make for me.

But then there are dishes like Seafood Cioppino, that although wasn’t her own, has now become a staple among my siblings every time we want to celebrate Mom.

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At least a dozen years ago when I lived in San Jose, Mom came to visit me and sister P who lived in San Francisco. We spent the time walking around the city, shopping, and eating everything possible. And one night for dinner, P and I decided to make her a decadent, quintessential San Franciscan dish–Seafood Cioppino.

Mom and Nam
Cioppino is a seafood stew that originated in the Italian American communities of SF. It layers tons of aromatics with wine and tomatoes to make a fragrant stock. A variety of seafood is then cooked in the stock –which then deepens in flavor from the juices of the shellfish and seafood.

It’s incredible and we knew Mom would love it.

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While P and I spent hours in the kitchen that late afternoon charring the peppers, sauteing the veggies, simmering the stock, and cleaning all the seafood we had scored on Clement Street, Mom sat at the table watching us. She kept asking what we were doing—-and then, what we were going to next. Then she would say that we were going to a lot of trouble just for one dish.

But honestly, I think of everything we did during that visit, she loved that day the most. Chatting with her daughters while they cooked and fussed over her.

Of course, she loved the Seafood Cioppino too!

And can we just say how fabulous Mama was sitting in her satin pajamas, wearing her black Tahitian pearls while digging into a big ol’ bowl of Seafood Cioppino??

Fancy.

Shortly after Mom passed, I made a photobook for my family that included old pictures and our favorite recipes from her. And soon after, that one dish P and I made that one SF visit became “Mom’s Cioppino”—something that is lovingly made many times a year since.

Cioppino

I’ve posted tons of pics on Instagram and Facebook of our Seafood Cioppino and often get requests for the recipe. Whether it was too personal or maybe it was still too “soon”–I just wasn’t willing to share it yet.

Cioppino
After all of the years, it doesn’t get “easier” and I still miss her so much. But these days, I am able to share more things about her and now it’s rather perfect to share with you all this dish on her birthday.

Yes, there are many steps with the Cioppino and it does take some time —but the good news is, nothing is really difficult. And it’s the perfect dish to share with your loved ones when you can spend the day together in the kitchen making memories.

I hope you love it as much as we do.

Cioppino
We love you Mama and Happy, Happy Birthday!

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Seafood Cioppino

Serves 8

Ingredients:
Stock
2 red bell peppers
½ red jalapeno pepper
5 Roma tomatoes, halved
olive oil
1 medium sized white onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 750mL bottle white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or mild White Blend
5 standard tomatoes (Mexican or Florida tomato), coarsely chopped
1 8oz bottle clam juice
½ cup tomato juice
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
sea salt
20 sprigs fresh thyme
6 springs fresh parsley
8 sprigs fresh tarragon
½ teaspoon saffron threads

Seafood (or a medley of your favorites)
2 dungeness crabs, washed and quartered
2 lobster tails, quartered
2 pounds mussels, debeared and scrubbed
2 pounds manila clams, scrubbed
1 pound firm white fish, such as halibut or mahi, cut into 1½ inch cubes
1 pound shrimp, deveined and shell intact
1 pound sea scallops, if they are large—cut them in half
½ pound calamari, cut into 1-inch rings

Garnish
chopped fennel fronds and parsley

Turn your oven broiler on. Place bell peppers, jalapenos and Roma tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Broil the vegetables for 5-7 minutes, using tongs to rotate frequently until the peppers have charred and the skin has bubbled. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and cover securely with plastic wrap. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the vegetables to steam.

Peel the skins off the peppers and discard along with the stems and seeds. Next, peel and discard the skins of the Roma tomatoes.

Place a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat on the stove. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and allow the oil to begin to slightly shimmer. Add the onions, celery and fennel inside the pot and cook until they have softened and become translucent—you do not want them to brown. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and cook for an additional minute until fragrant. Pour in the wine and allow the liquids to come to a boil. Add the roasted peppers, Roma tomatoes, chopped fresh tomatoes, clam juice and tomato juice. Add the thyme, parley, tarragon, bay leaf, ½ tablespoon sea salt and peppercorns. Allow the liquids to come a rolling boil, lower heat and simmer, partially covered for 1½-2 hours. The liquids will nearly have reduced by half.

Pass the stock to a fine strainer and discard the vegetables and aromatics. Pour the stock into a large clean pot, add the saffron threads and lower the heat to a simmer for several minutes to allow the saffron to bloom and flavor the stock. Taste the broth and add additional sea salt as needed. Bring the stock back to a boil and add in the crab and lobster—cover and cook until the shells have become pink and the flesh becomes almost fully opaque. Stir in the clams, mussels and cover the pot. Allow them to cook for about 2 minutes until they just begin to open. Gently stir in the shrimp, fish, calamari and allow them to cook over a simmering heat—avoid cooking the fish in a rapid boil as they will get tough. Once the last seafood items turn opaque, taste the broth again and adjust with additional sea salt and pepper as needed.

Ladle the seafood into a bowl and pour the hot broth over it. Sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds, chopped parsley and serve immediately with warm bread.

Enjoy!

Note: This stock can definitely be made ahead of time so double or triple the batch and keep some in your freezer for a chilly night!

Grilled Honey-Sesame Chicken Skewers

Honey Sesame Chicken Skewers

Easy, Delish and Versatile.

Now that’s the name of a cookbook I’d totally buy as I’d hope it would have satisfyingly scrumptious goodies like these Grilled Honey-Sesame Chicken Skewers.

Honey Sesame Chicken Skewers

These chicken skewers are super quick to prep, takes only a few minutes to cook and I like to serve them in anything from noodle bowls (bún), Vietnamese sandwiches (bánh mì), with rice or even as appetizers.

Oh the possibilities!!

Honey Sesame Chicken Skewers
And if you’re feeling a bit lazy to heat up the grill, you can even throw them in the oven. Just place the skewers on a tray and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Easy peasy.

Note: I prefer the flavor of chicken thighs and find that it tends to dry out less than breast meat. However, feel free to swap out whichever cut is your preference.

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Grilled Honey-Sesame Chicken Skewers
Makes 10-12 skewers

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sambal chili paste
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs – cut into 1½ inch pieces
10-12 bamboo skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes
vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

In a large bowl, whisk together the first 13 ingredients. Add the chicken, mix to coat well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat the grill (gas or charcoal) to medium-high heat. Brush the grates of the grill with the vegetable oil. While the grill heats, thread the chicken pieces through the soaked skewers.

Grill the chicken skewers, turning every few minutes, for 6-8 minutes until the chicken has cooked through. Remove the skewers to plate and sprinkle with scallions, cilantro and sesame seeds.

Easter Brunch Cheat Sheet

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree
Happy Friday Peeps!

I know many of you will be gathering on Sunday with loved ones for Easter festivities filled with egg hunts and hopefully–delish eats!

But if you’re still struggling on what to serve for brunch-2nd breakfasts-lunch-supper-snacks-dinner, don’t worry—I’m here to help! Here are some fantastic menu ideas that will keep your crew happily hoppin’ at the table!

First up– COCKTAILS!

Because, let’s be honest, if it’s a celebration at mi casa, lovely libations will always be available.

I call this first option, my Hair of the Dog Bloody Mary. But trust me, your struggle does not have to be real to enjoy this beauty. And heck- this little number has so many garnishes, you can even skip serving appetizers!

Hair of the Dog - Bloody Mary
Not into Bloodys? How about a flirty, pretty and potent Paloma? Full of bright grapefruit flavors with a tequila punch.

Palomas
Keeping with the grapefruit vibe, how about a Rosemary Greyhound? I love the floral and herb profile that the rosemary lends to this classic. And best of all—you can make pitchers of these so you won’t need to be mixing and shaking during your festivities.

Rosemary Greyhounds

And lastly, the Lychee Saketini which is quite easily, one of my most requested cocktails that folks ask me to make for them. Not only is a delicious but it’s deceivingly potent. You can easily polish off 2 or 3 before you realize you’re tipsy.

Which, of course, is not a bad thing.

Lychee Saketinis
Now on to the eats…..

For me, it’s against every fiber in my being to not serve some type of egg dish for brunch–particularly Easter Brunch. And do I have the perfect little beauty for you— Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree. The presentation alone will get you oohs and ahhs and once they dunk their spoons into the jars, songs will be written about your ingenuity.

And want in on a secret? They’re incredibly easy to make and can be prepped the day before!

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

And of course, there’s always the deviled eggs route! You can go OG or freaking over the top like my seester’s Mediterranean Inspired Deviled Eggs. These babies were flavored with white truffle oil, paprika and then topped with crispy applewood bacon, freshly made tapenade and fried kale.

June 2016 Fam Din
Little bites are always a good idea to have around.

And since we’re in the throws of Spring, how about some lovely Greek Zucchini Fritters {Kolokithokeftedes} with Tzatziki Sauce?

June 2016 Fam Din

Or fresh Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella?

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese
And how do you feel about using avocados as a serving dish? Because I feel AMAZING about it.

Which is why I implore you to make my Spicy Crab and Avocado Salad ….if not for Easter then at your very next free moment.

Spicy Crab & Avocado Salad
Speaking of salads, if I have to eat them, they’ve got to be pretty. And I think my Tropical Summer Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing is as lovely as it can get…..and so will your guests.

Tropical Summer Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing
I, for one, think pizza is a perfectly acceptable dish to serve when entertaining because who doesn’t love pizza???

For an Easter lunch, this Burrata Caprese and Prosciutto Pizza would definitely fuel folks for an egg hunt. It’s both hearty and bright at the same time. I love the contrast from the warm pizza with fresh tomatoes and basil.

Burrata Caprese & Prosciutto Skillet Pizza

If you’re looking for something heartier, I’d recommend Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops. I cannot tell you how delectable these buggers are and if you’re one who thinks you don’t like lamb or it’s too gamey—you’ve got to try these. Easily one of my fam’s favorites!

Grilled Lamb Chops
If you’re not interested in making multiple dishes, then might I suggest Bacon and Shrimp Cheesy Grits? Surf & Turf? Cheese?? Grits???

COME ON!

This is easily a no-brainer!!

Bacon & Shrimp Cheesy Grits
And last but not least…. Desserts.

Because no celebration is complete until sweets are involved.

First up, Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes! Aren’t they adorable and Spring-y??? And they’re also filled with a strawberry compote which is a sneaky surprise once you bite into them!

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
A citrus filled Key Lime Cheesecake would also be a wonderful ending to an Easter meal. And although you’d might assume cheesecakes are on the heavier side, this one is actually quite light and splendorous!

Key Lime Cheesecake
Fresh Strawberry Tart

Seriously, no other words needed for this gloriousness.

 

Fresh Strawberry Tart

And that’s it gang! Hopefully I gave you some ideas for your Easter menu and if you do end up making one of them (or more) — can I come over???

 

2 Birthdays Means 2 Desserts for Family Dinner

January 2017 Family Dinner
Somehow along the journey of our Family Dinners, I decided that even if there’s more than one birthday for the month, each bday babe gets their own dessert.

So when it was seester T and Nini’s bday, I found myself baking TWO cakes. Albeit, Nini’s was slightly larger and 15 pounds heavier.

I’m royally screwed in July since there are FOUR BIRTHDAYS!!

Oy vey.

Why do I do this…..

January 2017 Family Dinner
Actually, our birthday gals were very low maintenance. They didn’t request anything over the top which made things quite easy for the other dishes.

PHEW!

We opened up with fresh Salmon Shōyu Pokē and Chips — Nini’s choice.

I have to admit, salmon generally isn’t my fish of choice. It’s fine but I think I went through a period where I was eating it all of the time and then one day….BLEH! NO MORE!

Nowadays, I rarely order it when out and generally just prefer my salmon as lox over bagels. But when seestrah N whipped up this pokē, I was about it!! Fresh, slightly sweet and savory. She based it off my Ahi Shōyu Pokē that can be found here.

Onolicious!

January 2017 Family Dinner

As for the entrée, we went for the rich, stick to your ribs type of dish — as in short ribs!!!

T made a GINORMOUS pot of Red Wine Braised Short Ribs that had tons of herbs, aromatics and ‘shrooms! I may or may not have stolen the below pic from her IG.

Alright…I totally did.

Once the ribs were utterly tender and at the melt-in your mouth consistency, she shredded them and topped them over the freshly made Ricotta Gnocchi by brother V and my SIL L.

And since the beef was so rich, we added a big dollop of gremolata (garlic, lemon zest, and parsley) that our niece prepared. The gremolata adds a much needed freshness and bite to cut through all of that unctuous goodness.

January 2017 Family Dinner
Then one of us (it sure wasn’t me!) thought it would be a good idea to add some greens to the meal and pulled together a Gorgonzola and Asian Pear Salad.

Don’t get me wrong, it was lovely but I would have been fine with just the greens from the gremolata!

January 2017 Family Dinner

And then….DESSERTS!!!

Nini requested a coconut cake. She asked and I delivered this three layered Toasted Coconut Cake.

January 2017 Family Dinner

I used Thomas Keller’s recipe that can be found here. It’s a pretty standard southern coconut cake recipe that uses a combination of coconut milk, buttermilk and mayonnaise for a dense but moist cake crumb. The cake is frosted in a thick Italian Meringue but instead of desiccated sweet coconut shreds, I covered it all in toasted coconut flakes so that it wouldn’t be too sweet. And I generally prefer the texture of the flakes over the shreds too.

Nini was a fan. Success.

What a cutie-patootie.

January 2017 Family Dinner
Seeestrah is slightly obsessed with the Butter Cake from Mastro’s so I did my best to try and replicate it. If you’ve never had the cake from Mastro’s, think of an incredibly rich and dense pound cake….but with more butter!!!

After scouring the internet, I went with this recipe here. Truthfully, I had mediocre success with it and it took nearly twice as long for the cakes to bake. Not to mention we had a heck of a time removing it from the pans. But the flavor was pretty good and there’s nothing that a ton of fresh whipped cream and berries can’t hide—am I right?

Sorry seester, I’ll definitely try again for ya…..

January 2017 Family Dinner

Needless to say, we all nearly knocked out after our heavy meal — but it was worth every calorie!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Salmon Shōyu Pokē
Entrees: Red Wine Braised Short Ribs over Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi
Sides: Gorgonzola and Asian Pear Salad
Dessert: Toasted Coconut Cake, Butter Cake with Berries and Cream

A Fam Din Fit for Leonidas

December 2016 Family Dinner
The fact of the matter is, our munchkins have an extremely well tuned palate.

So it’s no surprise that when it came to Leonidas’s 5th birthday, he knew exactly what he wanted for his Family Dinner menu.

I mean c’mon.…take a looksies below. On the left, you can see our little man on his very first birthday cradling a bottle of Dom. Four years later, nothing has changed except instead of a 2000 bottle of Dom Pérignon, he opted for a 2004.

Oh, he knows the difference in subtle notes.

December 2016 Family Dinner
When asked what he’d like for Family Dinner, Leo looked backed to one of his comforting favorite spots when they lived in NYC — Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter.

Our little man wanted their sweet tea brined fried chicken that he used to drizzle honey over. I’ve had their chicken—and it’s lovely! So for our birthday boy, a menu surrounding sweet tea brined fried chicken it is!

December 2016 Family Dinner
I adore all the fun we have with creating our meal but it’s seeing all the kids together that I love the most.

These two rascals—Lucas and Luna. They are only a few months apart in age so you can only imagine the mischief they get into together. Not to mention, one moment they are thick as thieves and the next, they are bickering and arguing about everything under the sun.

It keeps us on our toes.

December 2016 Family Dinner
And here’s Nina and Maya having some cousins cuddling time.

December 2016 Family Dinner
While the kiddos were amusing themselves, the grown “kids’ turned our attention to a sip or two of libations. These pretty in pink beauties were a Cranberry-Thyme Champagne Cocktail I whipped up.

December 2016 Family Dinner

Yeah, I’m not 100% sure what we’re doing here but I wouldn’t doubt if there was a selfie stick involved.

And yes, there’s still the Christmas tree up in the corner — I’m still catching up on these Fam Din posts!

December 2016 Family Dinner

Sibbies!!

Oh, and the lumberjack look was no coincidence. At the 11th hour, the older nieces decided that we all needed to wear flannel that night. No clue why….sometimes you just got to go with it.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Seestrah N made us two appetizers to nosh on while the chicken was being fried….we like options.

First up, these wonderfully savory, Crispy Stuffed Mushrooms. The caps were stuffed with the mushroom stems, aromatics, cheese and panko breadcrumbs.

December 2016 Family Dinner
She also made a big ol’ pot of Ina Garten’s Cheddar Corn Chowder. Chunks of potatoes, sweet corn, half and half, cheddar cheese and bacon–so comforting and delish.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Now let’s turn our attention to the star of the show–the fried chicken!

Here’s our big gal Luna helping her momma out with the breading of the chicken.

December 2016 Family Dinner
And when you’re frying enough chicken for 13 peeps, you need to employ two dutch ovens.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Nini did a good deal of the frying for us that night—isn’t she a trooper? I keep envisioning her a few years from now in her college dorm frying up chicken for her roommates at 2am.

December 2016 Family Dinner

Life skills folks, life skills!

December 2016 Family Dinner
And voila! Aren’t they GORGEOUS!!

The chicken was extremely moist and juicy with a fantastic crunchy crust. As for the flavor, it had a light herbal touch to it from the tea. Definitely a different spin from the Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken we made a few years but equally delicious!

December 2016 Family Dinner
Here’s seester T’s Whipped Garlic Mashed Potatoes……butter on butter on butter!

December 2016 Family Dinner
She also roasted these Parmesan Zucchini Spears that were tender on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside from the panko bread crumbs.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Brother also made some Buttermilk Biscuits……

December 2016 Family Dinner
And L made a colorful Coleslaw.

December 2016 Family Dinner
I seriously could have this plate all day, any day!

December 2016 Family Dinner
I had to sneak this pic in of the boys. Now usually at Fam Din, we all sit crammed in together at the table–no phones, no devices.

But there happened to be a big game on that night. So we let the boys set up an adjacent little table next to the dining room so that they were right in front of the TV.

And yes, they’re eating off of Star Wars paper plates — it still was Leo’s birthday dinner after all!

December 2016 Family Dinner
Speaking of the birthday boy, when I asked what he wanted for his birthday dessert, he promptly said CHOCOLATE CAKE! Which then he changed to chocolate cupcakes….then seconds later, he said ice cream cupcakes!

December 2016 Family Dinner
Who am I to say no to the little guy on his birthday? So I enlisted Nina to help bake the chocolate cuppies and then I hollowed out the centers. I filled them with softened vanilla bean ice cream and threw them back in the freezer to firm up before topping them with swirls of chocolate flavored whipped cream.

And let’s not forget the Darth Vader and Stormtrooper chocolate toppers!

December 2016 Family Dinner
A perfect TWO IN ONE! I’m not sure why I’ve never made these before but I will most DEFINITELY make them again!

Oh our munchkins….how I love them so…..

December 2016 Family Dinner

Happy, Happy Birthday Leonidas! We hope you enjoyed your dinner!

I love you to the moon and back—and back again!! ❤

December 2016 Family Dinner
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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Cranberry-Thyme Champagne Cocktails, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Crispy Stuffed Mushrooms, Cheddar Corn Chowder
Entrees: Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken
Sides: Whipped Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Cole Slaw, Buttermilk Biscuits, Parmesan Zucchini Spears, Pickles
Dessert: Star Wars themed Vanilla Bean Ice Cream filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Our Smokin’ Family Dinner

November 2016 Family Dinner

As you may have noticed, I have a few Sunday Family Dinners I need to catch y’all up on. Three to be exact.

I know, totally tardy to my own party.

I was having one of those existential moments for a bit. You know…those “Who am I? What am I? Where am I?” moments where you begin questioning everything under the sun. And that included an evaluation of this blog.

I’ve been sharing on this space with you all for a little over seven years now and I wondered if it was all still relevant. But after a lot of musings, I’ve decided—what the hell? As long as I still have something to say, I’m gonna say it! And if I’m still having Foodventures, I’m still going to share them.

That’s not to say that I won’t be experimenting with a few things this year to give some new things a try. So stick with me gang—I’m still here and I hope you still will be too. ❤

Back to our Fam Dins!

Let me pick up where I left off–which is our Smokin’ Family Dinner! It happened to be our brother’s birth-month so birthday boy opted for beef… in the form of Smoked Brisket! And not only that, but he also volunteered to be in charge of the main dish for his dinner. What a trooper!

In full disclosure, V (well actually, NONE of us) had ever smoked a brisket before. Heck–we didn’t even have a smoker! So brother, being my brother, decided to do a trial run the month before and bought a 14 pound brisket to experiment with.

V ended up rigging seester T’s grill into quite the MacGyver smoker! And it turned out beautifully! So when it came time to make it for Fam Din, he was prepared!

 

November 2016 Family Dinner

If any of you have smoked a brisket before, then you know it takes FOH-EVAH! Low, slow and even heat. So what do we do when we’re all sitting around for 14+ hours waiting for brisket?

We have a few cocktails!

I’ve no idea if he’s sipping on whiskey or Sculpin here….because truthfully, we consumed a lot of both throughout the entire cook time!

And YES, that is a Christmas tree you’re seeing in this pic.

Told ya’ I’m trying to catch up!

November 2016 Family Dinner

Oh! And because we just happened to have a spare turkey around (I mean, c’mon…don’t you have spare poultry laying around??), we decided to smoke it to. Why the heck not?

See the little wood chip chamber V made on the left of the turkey?

I’ve got to say, that’s pretty damn gorgeous–isn’t it?

November 2016 Family Dinner

And because even WE cannot live on smoked meat alone, we put the kiddos to work helping with the side dishes.

November 2016 Family Dinner
While the smoke was going and the veggies were being chopped, I whipped up this super easy and fun Armadillo Cheese Bread for us to nosh on. Warm and toasty sourdough boule stuffed with mozzarella, parmesan, tons of garlic herb butter and topped off with fresh parsley.

I mean, COME ON! EVERYTHING is beautiful about this situation!

November 2016 Family Dinner
Pssst! Caught brother watching a quick video by Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin for some guru brisket tips!

November 2016 Family Dinner
After a total of 20 hours combined smoking time for the brisket and turkey—-it was finally done!!! We carved the turkey before bringing it to the table and here my niece Nini is prepping the bones for some good ol’ fashion stock.

Teaching them young!

And yes, Bella is trying to get some of that smoked turkey goodness! In case you were curious, she was successful.

November 2016 Family Dinner
We had quite the plethora of fixins’ to go along with the protein.

Seestrah N made my Cheddar Skillet Cornbread……..

November 2016 Family Dinner
….a pan full of Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli .

November 2016 Family Dinner

……and of course, Baked Bacon Macaroni and Cheese. I mean, if you’re gonna do it, DO IT!

And we always do.

November 2016 Family Dinner
Seester T knocked it out of the park with this soulful Cheesy Shrimp and Grits. Now peeps, I like to think that I make a pretty mean bowl of Shrimp and Grits, but I think hers is better. The use of the shrimp heads in the sauce created this deep, rich, flavor that was glorious!

Hmmmm….maybe I can convince her to make it for me this weekend? #ImTheBabySister

November 2016 Family Dinner
And finally, the pièce de résistance — the Smoked Brisket! I mean look at this BEAUTY! Isn’t the color just splendid!! Tender, fatty (in a wondrous way) and smoky.

Completely worth the wait.

November 2016 Family Dinner

Bella totally thought so.

She was completely hypnotized by her uncle’s cutting skills.

November 2016 Family Dinner
After inhaling what I deemed to be an INSANE amount of food, I began prepping dessert. Because OF COURSE I would.

The kiddos colored….

November 2016 Family Dinner
And played ginormous JENGA.

As for the adults? Well, let’s just say we broke out into a solid karaoke and dance session of our favorite 70s-80s songs (A-Ha! Erasure, ABBA, New Order...) and maybe even the fog machine and strobe light came out. And by maybe…IT DID!

You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not.

For reals.

Unfortunately I was told that if any pictures or videos of us singing/dancing surfaced on this site, it would be the last y’all would ever hear from me. But trust me, it was quite epic.

November 2016 Family Dinner
And after all the dancing and shenanigans was done, it was time to dig into the Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream!

November 2016 Family Dinner
Smoking brisket and turkey…another first for us but what a Foodventure!

Cheers Friends!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Assorted Wines, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, Suntory Hibiki Whiskey
Appetizers: Armadillo Cheese Bread
Entrees: Smoked Brisket, Smoked Turkey
Sides: Skillet Corn Bread, Baked Bacon Macaroni and Cheese, Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli, Shrimp and Grits
Dessert: Chocolate Molten Lava Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Game Day Garlicky-Parmesan Chicken Wings

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There’s no hiding it, I’ve been seriously MIA. With the holidays and the craziness of the Death Eaters overtaking the Ministry, I desperately needed a break to recharge. Trust me, there’s been a TON of cooking with the winter holidays, family dinners, both Western & Lunar New Year, and endless sporting events—-all of which I plan to share with you all soon.

But I needed something to kick start me back into the writing game….and that, my friends, is Football.

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Truthfully I don’t have a pony in tomorrow’s Super Bowl Game.

Falcons? BLEH!

Patriots? Patooey!

But football, oh–for the love of FOOTBALL! Nothing can beat the frenetic craziness when it’s a good game.

And although I don’t have much stake in the game tomorrow, let me tell you of a game where my whole being was on the line….the 2017 Rose Bowl Game!!!

Did you smell those Roses?!?!

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Yes Friends…it was the GAME of GAMES where my USC Trojans battled Penn State. Both teams had undergone years of drama, leadership changes, team changes, injuries. But both fought and somehow they found themselves battling it off at one of the most iconic collegiate bowl games–the Rose Bowl.

Despite weeks of endless indulgence, we convened at big seestrah’s house to watch the game. And when it’s game day, there MUST be game day eats!!!

Seester T made a huge pot of rich and comforting Beef and Beans Chili. Her chili is way better than mine which is somewhat unnerving because she just throws things into the pot and poof–amazing chili.

Brother and Seester N tag teamed to get the components together for Loaded Beef Nachos using tortilla chips that I freshly fried. I know it sounds laborious but fresh fried chips make a huge difference!

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As for me, I was in charge of the Chicken Wings because hot damn–we love us some wangzzzz’!  When in doubt–wing it out!!

I ended up brining the wings overnight in a solution of water, salt, sugar, hot sauce and some other aromatics. I don’t always have the time to do this, so if you don’t–skip it. But I do think it’s worth this extra step as it infuses in an oompf of flavor. Obvi.

I also despise rubbery chicken wings. You know what I’m talking about– wings that haven’t been crisped enough or opt not to use a flour coating. Don’t get me wrong, other than K.F.C. (and I mean Korean Fried Chicken), I generally don’t like a thick breading on my wings–the meat to coating ratio just doesn’t work out well.  But I do like how a light toss in a mixture of AP flour and rice flour (or cornstarch) helps with the crispiness factor.

I ended making two types that day – my standard Buffalo Wings and per my niece Nina’s request, these Garlicky-Parmesan Chicken Wings. Super garlicky, super cheesy, super crispy….definitely not diet food.

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As for the game….I WAS STRESSED!!!

I won’t lie, I was the hottest mess in all the land.

There was some ridiculously high moments and some terribly low ones when the fam was terrified of what my wrath would be if it didn’t end well for the Trojans. But in the last second, my boys pulled the big W and we (more like I) LOST OUR MINDS!! The joy–OH THE JOY!

So although I don’t have much at stake in the game tomorrow….I can 100% empathize with those who do.

For the love of football, make it a great game tomorrow Pats’ and Falcons……..and as for y’all—please make my Garlicky-Parmesan Chicken Wings ❤

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Garlicky-Parmesan Chicken Wings
Serves approximately 4

Ingredients:

8 cups warm water
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup hot sauce, I like Frank’s
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
8-10 sprigs fresh parsley
1 head of garlic, cut in half
1 lemon, cut in half
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 pounds chicken wings, separate wings at the joint with tips removed
vegetable oil
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup rice flour or cornstarch
1 tablespoon onion power
2 tablespoons garlic powder, divided
1 teaspoon cayenne power
1 cup unsalted butter
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese*
½ cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large container, whisk the warm water with salt, sugar, and hot sauce until everything has dissolved. Add the thyme, parsley sprigs, garlic, lemon, peppercorns and bay leaves. Add the chicken wings and push down to ensure that all pieces are submerged. Cover the container and refrigerate overnight or about 8 hours.

Drain the chicken and pat dry with paper towels.

In a large, heavy bottom pot, fill 2-3 inches of oil. Heat until temperature reaches 350 degrees F.

While the oil heats, combine the flour, cornstarch, onion powder, 1 tablespoon garlic power, and cayenne power in a large resealable bag. Close the bag and gently toss until the ingredients have combined. In batches, toss the chicken wings in the dried mixture until well coated and shake off any excess. Place the coated wings on a rack fitted over a baking sheet. This will help set the crust.

Begin making the garlic butter sauce by adding the butter, olive oil, remaining garlic powder, minced garlic and pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Over low heat, cook for 10-15 minutes–be careful not to burn the garlic.

Once the frying oil reaches 350 degrees F, begin frying the wings in batches, turning occasionally. Fry the wings for about 10 minutes each batch until they have turned golden brown. Transfer the fried wings to a clean rack fitted over a baking sheet and keep warm in a low temperature oven. Repeat until all the wings have been fried.

Place all the wings in a large bowl. Add several spoonfuls of garlic butter sauce and grated Parmesan cheese. Toss well until all the wings have been coated—adding more garlic butter sauce as needed. Plate the wings and sprinkle the tops with the shredded Parmesan cheese and parsley. Serve immediately with blue cheese dressing, ranch dressing, carrots and celery sticks.

*I like the different textures that come from using both grated and shredded Parmesan. But if you want to use one over the other–knock yourself out!