Hello there, friends. It’s a peaceful Monday morning, and I find myself in awe. I started my day by reading this inspiring update about Georgia girl Aimee Copeland’s progress. I was struck by her perspective. After losing limbs and nearly her life, Aimee articulated her feelings while enjoying her first hour of sunshine in 49 days, “I mean that I am blessed to have the opportunity to experience something that not many other people have the chance to experience. I am blessed to be able to have a challenge that not many others get to have. I am blessed to have the capacity to share my experience with others and have a chance to improve the quality of someone else’s life. I’m blessed to be different.” I am beyond humbled and gladly reminded of the strength of the human spirit. Knowing her story pushes me to embrace and appreciate every little moment of each day and to handle life’s ups and downs with more grace and positivity than ever before. With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the sunshine I was fortunate enough to enjoy this weekend.
Along with the summer solstice came the Atlanta heat and humidity, as if someone flipped the switch and said, “It’s summer time!!!!!!!!” By walking around the Grant Park Farmers Market, it was apparent too. The tell-tale signs were all in place.
Cucumbers were the star of the show, I’d say.
And how could one possibly make a cucumber salad without the likes of these??
Nature makes it real easy on us this time of year by providing loads of onions,
to infuse simple flavor into all of our foods.
It seemed like our dinner menu for the week practically wrote itself. Chicken salad is made, cucumber salad is marinating in the fridge, and on the horizon- baked lemon herb grouper with stuffed squash; pork chops stuffed with onions, peppers, parsley, and Parmesan with Italian potatoes- just to name a couple of the dishes we’ll be cooking up over the next few days. Yay!!
Members of Jackson Lowe Vegetable Farm have plenty to work with this week. Potatoes, cabbage, and parsley being on the top of the CSA share list, Adam and I decided to have a little fun. We are suckers for buffalo chicken wings. (Buffalo = tatanka in Lakota. Thank you Kevin Costner.)
Traditionally, these are paired with blue cheese, carrots, and celery,
along with some form of crispy potato.
(Inspiration ala Cafe Blue Fish, Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Florida.)
We harnessed all of those flavors into a homemade dinner built with local goodies.
Grilled buffalo chicken thighs with blue cheesy slaw and smashed roasted potatoes. This may not be the healthiest dinner I’ve ever posted, but it certainly would make an excellent meal for a 4th of July cookout.
We started by making blue cheese dressing.
about ½ Cup blue cheese, softened a bit and crumbled (our hunk was .24 ounces)
3 heaping T mayonnaise
1 heaping T sour cream
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 T red wine vinegar
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t white pepper
pinch of salt
1 T milk
Combine all of the ingredients except for the blue cheese and milk.
Add the blue cheese and stir to combine well.
Lastly, add the milk to loosen up the dressing just enough.
Meanwhile, take your bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs out of the fridge. Pat them dry and place them on a sheet pan lined with paper towels.
You want the chicken to dry out while it comes to room temperature. This will give you the best chance to encourage a crisp skin.
Next, we made our own buffalo sauce. You can certainly use a store-bought buffalo sauce- as we’ve done many times. But, here’s how you can quickly put your own sauce together.
2 T butter
5 T hot sauce of your choice
2 t champagne vinegar (or whichever vinegar you have on hand)
juice of half a lemon
3 cloves garlic, pressed
¼ t cayenne (or more to make it spicier)
1 t paprika
splash of Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Start by melting your butter and hot sauce together over medium low heat.
Add the remaining ingredients
and stir well.
Give the garlic a minute to heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Voila!
This yielded enough sauce to coat 6 chicken thighs. If you’re cooking more chicken than we did, go ahead and double the sauce recipe.
Next, you’ll want to get your potatoes goin’.
Use as many potatoes as you like, but plan to have at least 2 per person. And trust me, they will disappear like hotcakes. This smashed, roasted potato technique is a common one that affords excellent results. I think the first time I saw it done was by Rachael Ray years ago. But, the Pioneer Woman, Martha, and other cooking experts smash and roast potatoes too. Why? Because this method creates ample surface area for crisping the potatoes. Trust me. It will become one of your favorite ways to enjoy potatoes too.
After washing your potatoes, place them in a pot of salted water
and bring the pot to a boil. You want to boil the potatoes until they are soft and smashable. Allow about 30 minutes. (My potatoes were pretty big. If you are using tiny red potatoes, your boiling time and roasting time will be shorter.)
Meanwhile, you can work on the slaw.
1/2 head of fresh green cabbage, sliced thinly
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
2 ribs celery, sliced into matchsticks
handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped
about 1/2 Cup roasted sunflower seeds (You can roast raw seeds in a 300° oven. Just drizzle lightly with olive oil, season with salt and toss. Stir the seeds every 5- 7 minutes or so until they are golden brown.)
If you find your seeds too oily in the end, place them in a paper bag and shake. The excess oil will stick to the bag.
Add your ingredients to the bowl of cabbage
and use tongs or a couple of big spoons to incorporate the components. I added my dressing a little at a time, but I did end up using all of it.
Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking, of course. It’s so much fun to have the blue cheese, carrots, and celery all in one bite! Chill the slaw for at least 20 minutes before serving. You can totally make it a day ahead as well.
Once the potatoes are soft, you’ll want to preheat your oven to 450°. Carefully take your potatoes out of the water and set them out to cool for a few minutes.
When they are not hot as molten lava, take a clean kitchen towel and place it over a potato on a cutting board. Apply even pressure from the top and smash gently with the heel of your hand.
You want to flatten each potato out to about 1/2 inch to an inch in thickness. You can boil and smash your potatoes a day in advance, storing them in the fridge overnight.
When you’re ready to roast them, prepare a sheet pan by drizzle it with canola oil (higher smoking point than olive oil) and sprinkling the pan itself with salt and pepper. Then, use a spatula to carefully transfer each smashed potato to the sheet pan.
Use a brush to spread oil over all the nooks and crannies of each potato. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes, or until you achieve crispy potato nirvana.
While the potatoes cook, you have time to grill your chicken.
Brush the thighs with canola oil and season simply with salt and pepper.
Grill over medium high direct heat for about 5 minutes per side, and then slide the thighs over to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking to 165°.
Lastly coat your chicken in your buffalo sauce.
Time to plate. Serve your slaw and crispy potatoes alongside your buffalo chicken.
This meal is super fun to eat. Your mouth tells you that all of the flavors are so familiar…but the format is completely different. Nothing is fried, and all of it is homemade. The rich blue cheese balanced the tangy, spicy buffalo sauce perfectly- as it is destined to do. The chicken boasted a lovely hint of smokiness from the grill and was incredibly tender. The carrots and celery blended perfectly into each bite of slaw, the cabbage wilted just enough, and the roasty sunflower seeds brought a novel nuttiness to the party. And, oh. Those potatoes. Adam Lowe from Jackson Lowe Vegetable Farm needs to seriously pat himself on the back. Sweet, creamy, crispy, and divine. This meal was a real treat- from conception to party in my mouth. Please have a good ole time with it in your kitchen.
I hope this post finds you well-rested and recharged after a hot summer weekend. I encourage you to take a breath and a step back to marvel at the world. Please find time to hug, kiss, squeeze, call, write to, Skype with, etc. etc. those you love. Enjoy the beauty that lies in the simplicity of summer. Eat a tomato sandwich. Make cucumber salad. Play with your food- turn it into a fun adventure and twist it into something unique. And tell me all about it. I’d love to hear what you’re creating with the season’s gifts.
Happy cooking and eating to you.