A Love Affair: Buffalo Wings

My love affair with buffalo wings began my freshman year of college. Off campus, there was a little spot called Cosmos Pizza, a popular hangout for students and townies. During my first weekend at school, a few of the girls from my floor invited me out for a bite to eat. We ended up at Cosmos, stuffed into a small booth, laughing and sharing first impressions. One of the girls ordered hot wings and promptly passed them around. Curious, I decided to give it a try. Until then, I had never had hot wings. I know, I know, how is that even possible?? Sure, I’d had fried wings and wings with Spanish rice, but that was pretty much the end of it. The moment I bit into that Cosmos wing, I couldn’t believe what I had been missing. The flavor was unbelievable, the heat just right. I had never even tasted hot sauce before! Was this what is was like?? I devoured the wing and eagerly grabbed another. There was no going back.

From that point on, I never passed up the opportunity for hot wings. Luckily, I got my fix at least once a week, courtesy of the dining hall. Thursdays were wing night at Brockway Dining Hall, with enough chicken wings to feed an army. My girlfriends always knew to call my room on Thursday evenings, just in case I had fallen asleep after class. Heaven forbid I should miss out on my wings! More than a decade later, I still love hot wings. There’s nothing like that first bite into crispy skin, the taste of the sauce on your tongue, the heat that starts to creep up on you, licking your fingers after devouring each wing. The sign of a successful wing fest are the sniffles you get from the cayenne sauce. Yeaaah. Make sure to keep a cold glass of milk nearby. It helps put out the fire party in your mouth.

No wing joint nearby? Make your own! They’re super easy.

Buffalo Chicken Wings

What You’ll Need:

3 lbs small chicken wings, drumette and wing separated, tips cut
1 cup cayenne pepper sauce (I LOVE Frank’s Original RedHot!)
1/2 stick unsalted butter
Canola oil, for frying
blue cheese sauce, for dipping (Recommended: Marie’s Premium Super Blue Cheese

Using a deep fryer or large pot, heat oil to 350 degrees. Fry the wings until golden and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Place wings on a wire rack over a sheet tray lined with paper towels.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the hot sauce and stir until well combined and heated through. Pour the sauce into a large bowl, then add the wings. Toss until well combined and the wings are completely coated. Serve with blue cheese sauce for dipping. Enjoy!

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Savory Beef Empanadas

Empanadas are a savory treat that have been a favorite of mine since I was a young girl. My mother would make them often, as a midday snack or sometimes for dinner, filling them with chicken, beef, seafood or cheese. I usually preferred a combination of beef and cheese, biting into the flaky crust while it was still hot, then watching the cheese ooze out.

For those of you not familiar with empanadas, they’re basically turnovers filled with meat. In some Latin American countries, they’re often referred to as pastelitos. I grew up calling them empanadas, so that’s what I continue to call them! They make a great appetizer, snack or side dish. Many people make their own dough, but there are so many great, pre-made doughs out there that I save myself the time and purchase Goya Discos. Empanadas are also a great way to use up any leftover meat — shredded chicken, ground beef, pork — the possibilities are endless! Give this recipe a try. I guarantee your mouth will water at the sight of these flaky turnovers packed with flavor.

Savory Beef Empanadas Over Moros y Cristianos

Beef Empanadas

Beef Turnovers

What You’ll Need:

1 cup picadillo
1 14-oz package Goya Discos, thawed
vegetable oil, for frying

On a lightly floured surface, using a rolling pin, roll out each disco until about 1/2″ larger in diameter. Place 1 tablespoon picadillo in the center of each disco. Moisten the edge with water, then fold the disc in half, using a fork to crimp the edges and seal it.

Fill a deep frying pan with 2 inches of oil, then heat over medium-high heat. Fry the empanadas until golden brown, turning only once. Make sure not to crowd the pan or the temperature of the oil will drop, resulting in greasy empanadas. Fry in batches, if necessary. Transfer to a plate with paper towels to drain. Serve hot. Pairs well with moros y cristianos.

Note: These empanadas can also be baked, if preferred. After assembling each empanada, brush the tops with an egg and water mixture. Bake in a preheated, 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.

A Spanish Side: Moros y Cristianos

Moros y Cristianos, or black beans and rice, is a classic Cuban dish. The name literally translates to Moors and Christians, the “Moors” being the black beans and the “Christians” being the white rice. The name of the dish is a reference to the battle that began in eighth century Spain, between the Christians and Muslims. Spain has had a huge influence on the food and culture of Cuba.

This dish goes great with many beef, pork, poultry and seafood dishes. It’s a simple, one-pot meal that takes just 20 minutes to prepare.

Moros y Cristianos

Black Beans and Rice

What You’ll Need:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
5 ounces slab bacon, rind removed, diced
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium size green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 15-ounce cans black beans
2 cups long grain rice
4 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Cook the bacon for 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Cook until all the water has been absorbed and small craters form over the surface of the rice. Stir with a fork (using a spoon will result in mushy rice), cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until the rice is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Please refrain from lifting the lid before then, which will only allow your steam to escape and lengthen the cooking time. Discard the bay leaf. Serve and enjoy!

Cheap Eats: Picadillo

Every culture has their own cheap eats. You know, foods that are inexpensive, yet delicious. Picadillo is definitely a cheap eat. For those of you who have never heard of it, picadillo is a beef hash traditional to many Latin American countries. The name comes from the Spanish word “picar,” which means to chop.

Picadillo is an extremely versatile dish. Growing up, I remember my Abuela serving it with white rice, black beans, a fresh salad and lots of Cuban bread. Picadillo can also be used to fill tacos or savory empanadas. Topped with sweet plaintains, it becomes the base for a Tambor de Picadillo y Platano.

I prefer to use ground chuck for my picadillo, which gives a good beef to fat ratio. Fat not only adds flavor, but also ensures your meat isn’t dry. If you’re a little more health conscious, feel free to use a leaner cut. Ground round is 85 to 90 percent lean; ground sirloin only contains 8 to 10 percent fat.

When you try picadillo for the first time, you’ll marvel at how such a simple dish can taste so good. This is comfort food at its best.

Picadillo

A recipe from my childhood

What You’ll Need:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium-size onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef, preferably chuck
2 packets Sazon Goya
1/2 cup tomato sauce (Recommended: Goya Tomato Sauce with Onion, Cilantro & Garlic)
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, roughly chopped

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over low heat, then add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions and pepper have softened. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the ground beef to the pan, using a wooden spoon to break apart any large chunks. Season with Goya Sazon. Cook the beef until brown, about 10 minutes. Drain off the excess fat.

Add the tomato sauce and red wine to the pan, gently stirring to combine all the ingredients and make sure the beef is well coated. Let simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, allowing the sauce to reduce . Add the chopped olives. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve hot. Goes great with rice and beans. Enjoy!