Royal Wing-Ding!

Friends don’t let friends eat bland wings! Recently I had wings at a social get-together with colleagues and friends at a local favorite hang-out. My friends made multiple comments about how good the wings were. I was thoroughly underwhelmed. I didn’t want to contradict my colleagues, lest I be pegged a wing snob in light of their Midwestern pallets. Secretly I was thinking they had no idea what flavorful wings taste like.

Life is too short for the same-old basic wings, especially when the Royals have made it to the World Series! Instead of plain sauce or a mild rub, treat your World Series guests to a Royal Wing-Ding and amp up the flavor! Here on you can find two amazingly flavorful recipes that will give your wings new life, and light up the eyes of your guests.  Seriously — when I served piri-piri wings to some friends from Turkey last week, the first thing said was, can I have the recipe?!

Piri Chicken FlavorsPiri-piri is a wonderful fusion of Portuguese and South African flavors that can be easily made with Tobasco in place of the piri-piri sauce (the peppers are variants of the same species). But if you have never piri-piri, you are in for a real treat — the lemon, garlic, and cilantro are sublime!


Jerked Chicken PlatterJamaican jerk is another flavor that is so unique, fresh, and flavorful. You probably already have everything you need in your spice cabinet to make this wonderful dish. I bet you have not had wings anything like jerked wings!

Give either one of these recipes a try. Better yet, make them both and treat your geuests to a Royal Wing-Ding! I bet your tailgating and cook-outs will never be the same!

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Schwenker, baby!

German style Schwenker!

German style Schwenker!

What’s the most popular post on Somewhat surprisingly, it is a post about incredible German grilling style known as schwenker — it has been getting tons of traffic. If you want a small culinary adventure into the land of new flavor and tender, evenly roasted meat, try schwenker. Schwenk the World, baby!

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Unbelievable Butter Chicken – Murgh Makhani

Butter Chicken - Murgh Makhani

Butter Chicken is decadently rich, yet balanced. A creamy, flavorful sauce melds perfectly with tender, flavorful, fire-roasted chicken.

In the world of culinary arts, the incomparable North-Indian butter chicken (murgh makhani) stands alone. Decadently rich and flavorful but balanced, this dish is so very satisfying, yet it leaves one wanting more. A creamy, vibrantly orange, and spice-filled sauce perfectly complements tender, flavorful, fire-roasted chicken. Without a doubt, authentic butter chicken will make you feel like royalty. One has not lived unless you have eaten murgh makhani.

Butter chicken is best prepared over coals. A gas grill will make a fine substitute, but stewed chicken will simply not compare.

Butter chicken is best prepared over coals. A gas grill will make a fine substitute, but stewed chicken will simply not compare.

It was my very good fortune to tour the Golden Triangle in India in the summer of 2013. Looking for cultural experiences, I took an amazing cooking class with Chef Lokesh Mathur in the incredible city of Jaipur. This version of butter chicken is based on the dish made with Chef Lokesh, but as cooks are want to do, I’ve adapted and modified some details, creating my own version.

Yes, butter chicken does take a little extra time and requires some ingredients not usually found in typical Western kitchens. And yes, the amount of butter and cream in this luxurious dish may be off-putting to some. However, murgh makhani is a special dish best served without skimping on ingredients or details. For about $10-$15 and a trip to the local import market, you can purchase some wonderful ingredients for countless future flavorful dishes, AND have a culturally enriching experience.

About Some Indian Ingredients

Chef Lokesh Mathur's spice tray, at his Jaipur Cooking Class, India.

Chef Lokesh Mathur’s spice tray, at his Jaipur Cooking Class, India.

Preparation of butter chicken is fairly strait forward, but let’s cover a few details that will set you on the path to an authentic and perfect dish. It is easy for the uninitiated to be overwhelmed by the many (and often new) ingredients found in Indian cuisine — some of them with multiple names due to the many languages in India (23 official!) and their differing English names. However, let me guide you through it — it is completely manageable and so worth the effort. My cooking will forever be better for having learned some key Indian ingredients and techniques — some from Chef Lokesh, some from my own culinary explorations.

  • Garam masala is a blend of spices that is frequently used for a variety of meat dishes. It is essential for this dish. One can make it, but a small amount is easily purchased at an import market for very little cost.
  • The same holds true for asafetida — a powdered plant-based extract of great potency. Asafetida is used in very small amounts (literally a pinch or two) to flavor a great number of Indian dishes. One could omit it, and many Butter chicken recipes do, but it lends an authentic flavor. If you like cooking Indian food, a few dollars will secure a bottle that will last a very long time
  • If you don’t keep ground turmeric in your spice cabinet, well, you should! Turmeric is bright orange, loaded in anti-oxidants, and imparts a mellow earthiness that I have difficultly describing. It is used as a base in a great number of curries. It is a must-have.
  • Ground coriander, the seed of the cilantro plant, is loaded in flavor and found in a wide range of cuisines such as Mexican dishes (incidentally, Indians refer to cilantro as fresh coriander). Like Turmeric, ground coriander is essential to butter chicken, and useful in so many other dishes.
  • Gram flour is flour made from a type of lentil. Westerners tend to use one or two types of flour; regular white flour to thicken this recipe’s marinade would be fine. However, Indians used a variety of flours in their cooking. Gram flour has a bean flavor that is very different from wheat flour, but I don’t think the flavor is essential for this dish in the small quantity used.
  • Roasting ingredients for Garam Masala.

    Roasting ingredients for Garam Masala.

    Curry leaf is a very flavorful shrub leaf that adds aroma and spice without adding heat. This addition makes for a distinctive butter Chicken, setting it apart from others. My package of curry leaf cost $1.25 and it will add priceless flavor to dishes for a long time to come; it is the best buck-twenty-five I’ve ever spent.

  • Fenugreek  (kasoori methi in Hindi) is found in many curries throughout India. Once roasted, its sweet aroma imparts a finishing note that is simply divine. This is a traditional ingredient and I suggest you do not omit it.
  • I made a Cashew paste quite simply from a small can of lightly salted cashews by dicing and grinding/mashing. Added to the sauces, cashew paste contributes to the texture, the creaminess, and of course, imparts a light nuttiness to the dish. One could leave it out, but the best recipes include a nut paste. If you are going to test the water, I say take the plunge and add cashews. Besides, you will have nuts left over to snack on.
  • Lastly, garlic-ginger paste is integral to this dish and easily made ahead of time from the garlic and ginger sitting on your windowsill. I use Chef Lokesh’s mix – simply combine peeled and diced garlic with peeled and diced ginger in a ratio of 2:1 in a small food processor. Blend thoroughly with a little water until reaching a paste consistency. Make loads of this flavor-bomb and freeze small portions in zip-lock bags. Your tastebuds will thank you. Again, this is a must-have for butter chicken.
A colorfully veiled woman walks through a courtyard in the city of Jaipur, India.

A colorfully veiled woman walks through a courtyard in the city of Jaipur, India.

My philosophy is that if you are going to make the effort to make an amazing dish like butter chicken, one should make a lot of it so there are leftovers or enough to freeze for a future date. This plan went awry at my house — we just kept eating it for dinner each night until there was nothing left to freeze! The amounts below are for serving 8-12, but the recipe can easily be halved.

Ingredients (Serves 8-12)

4 pounds (apx) chicken (breasts should be cut into uniform strips, thighs with bones work well)
1 1/2 C Greek Yoghurt
1/4 C (4T) garlic-ginger paste
1 1/2 T Turmeric
1 1/2 T Ground Coriander
1 t salt
1 T Gram Flour (basen)* or white flour
1 t lemon juice
1-2 T water

Marinade Directions
In a large non-reactive bowl, combine the dry ingredients, garlic-ginger paste, lemon juice, and yoghurt. Mix well to a medium-thick beautifully orange paste. Add a tablespoon or two of water if extremely thick. Add the chicken and stir to thoroughly coat meat. Allow to marinate for at least an hour, but four to six in the fridge is better — longer will increase flavor and tenderness.

1 Med Onion, diced
1 Stick Butter – divided (1/4 lb.)
1/4 C (4T) garlic-ginger paste
2 t Garam Masala
2 -3 lbs. Diced Tomatoes or 2 28-Oz. Canned Diced Tomatoes
2 t Cayenne (to taste)
1 C Cream
1 T Cashew paste*
1/2 t Asafetida*
2 t Curry leaf*
2 t Fenugreek (kasoori methi)
Salt to taste.


Skewering  Butter Chicken Kebabs

Skewering Butter Chicken Kebabs

Prepare grill for cooking chicken. Charcoal will impart unbelievable flavor, but a gas grill is just fine (tip: oil your grates with tongs and paper towel).

Heat half a stick of butter in a large stew pot and diced onion until caramelized — watch the butter so that it does not burn.

While the onions caramelize, removed chicken from marinade. Use a spoon to scrape off excess marinade, but the meat should remain coated in heavenly flavorful marinade. Reserve the marinade. Start grilling the chicken on medium heat. You can lay meat strait on the grill or skewer as kebabs.

When the onions start to turn golden brown, add the garlic-ginger paste, and garam masala. Cook 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Bask in the glory of Indian aromas… this is living right. Add the asafetida.

City Palace of the Pink City, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

City Palace of the Pink City, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Add the diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Many chefs pure’ the tomatoes first, but I skip this step and used finely diced tomatoes.

Check your chicken — when grilled to a golden brown, flip or rotate your skewers.

Add the reserved marinade, cream, remaining butter, and bring to a simmer, then add the cashew paste, cayenne, salt. Simmer and reduce to the consistency you want, but a medium thick sauce is what is usually found.

Remove chicken from grill when fully roasted (cook to 165º F.) and beautifully brown. Allow to rest while the sauce (masala) simmers and reduces. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, add to the sauce.

Add the curry leaf. Allow to simmer about 5 minutes

While the chicken simmers in sauce, heat a small, dry skillet and toast the fenugreek seeds until fragrant — a minute or two. Add to sauce. This is an extra step that will dramatically add to the flavor of your dish — allowing the scent of the oils in the spices to bloom with roasting is like catching a whiff of heaven.

Taste your divine creation, and add cayenne and salt — adjust to suit your taste.

Serving and Garnishing

There is not a single way to serve Butter Chicken. One can make a vibrant and colorful

Fire-roasted Butter Chicken served with a cilantro-lime chutney.

Fire-roasted Butter Chicken served with a cilantro-lime chutney.

presentation by serving with a dusting of paprika and freshly chopped cilantro — a fantastic flavor complement. A bed of aromatic basmati rice is a wonderful way to serve an individual portion, but a bowl filled with flavorful chicken and its creamy masala is so satisfying. I like to sprinkle lightly with curry leaf — a lovely flavor that does not add heat. A cilantro chutney for dipping roasted meat is an entirely different approach that gives a new life to this wonderful dish. If presenting a decorative serving dish to a table, a light drizzle of white cream topped with diced peppers and chopped cilantro makes for a visual feast.

Regardless of your choice of presentation, I hope you try this dish. It is so very worth the effort. Your friends and family will find it hypnotic. Enjoy. Namaste.

Gates to Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Gates to Jaipur, Rajasthan.

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Best Beans Ever!

This is a BBQ classic that has endured. Simply put, they are the best beans ever! Doesn’t your BBQ deserve more than a can of beans? Get the recipe here!

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Rajma Masala

Rajma Masala

Flavor abounds in this slightly exotic veg dish that is simple to make but complex in taste. A medley of onion, ginger, and garlic underscore a red bean base with a rich tomato gravy. Native to northern India, this dish is easily prepared with most ingredients found in your pantry. While you are out and about this weekend, pick up any of the ingredients you may not have around your kitchen for one of the most flavorful Meatless Mondays ever. If you do not already keep ground coriander or garam masala in your pantry, you should start now!

1-2 large peppers (bell pepper is just fine or choose a spicier pepper to suit your taste)
1 onion
1 to 1 1/2″ piece of ginger, peeled
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
4-5 medium tomatoes OR 1/2 can tomato paste
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can light red kidney beans
1 1/2 Tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon (scant) cayenne
1 teaspoon whole coriander (not necessary, but certainly wonderful)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (don’t skip this!)
Salt to taste

Chopped cilantro, diced onion, strained plained yoghurt (Greek style in America)

1. In a large skillet, sauté sliced peppers in a little oil.
2. In a food processor, blend the onion, peeled ginger, and garlic to a paste, but reserve some onion to dice for garnish.
3. When peppers begin to change color, add onion-garlic-ginger paste and cook a few minutes until in starts to turn golden brown.
4. Add the ground coriander, cumin, and cayenne. Cook another minute or two to bring out flavors.
5. Blend tomatoes in processor and add to skillet OR add tomato paste with about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups water. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
6. Add drained beans to skillet and water to suit you preference (reserved juice from beans adds flavor and body) and the whole coriander if you are using it. Simmer 15 minutes or so…. or less if you can’t resist the temptation, and depending on your preference for thickness.
7. Add garam masala and salt to taste, cook another 2 minutes to bring out flavors.

Garnish with diced onion, chopped cilantro, and perhaps a small dollop of plain yoghurt. Serve with rice.

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