Unforgettable Wild Ramp Bacon Chowder

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Unforgettable Wild Ramp Bacon Chowder! For American hunter-gatherers, as well as European foragers of gourmet plants, wild ramps are as coveted as the elusive morel mushrooms. Since the leafy garlic bulbs are popular with curiosity seekers, in addition to critters of the woods, the quest for a fragrant “bouquet” becomes a challenge between man and beast. Who will get there first to reap the wild-growing delicacy? Perhaps both have their secret stomping grounds. I invite you to stick around awhile to sample the wide variety of ways to enjoy wild ramps.

UNFORGETTABLE WILD RAMP BACON CHOWDER

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

1/2 cup ramps roughly chopped, bulbs and greens

1 potato, skin on and diced

1 3/4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1 1/4 cups coconut milk

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Crumbled bacon, for garnish

Charred ramp greens, for garnish

Instructions:

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, sauté ramps in bacon drippings until soft. Add diced potatoes, chicken broth, seasoned salt, and garlic and herb seasoning. Simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked thoroughly. Reduce heat to low. Add coconut milk, cheddar cheese, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, but do not boil. Gently heat for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes to thicken. Ladle into soup bowls; garnish with crumbled bacon and charred ramp greens.

Strawberries Stuffed With Chicken Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Strawberries Stuffed with Chicken Salad! Has anyone noticed the ginormous strawberries lately? I was beginning to wonder if I fell asleep for a few years, like Rip Van Winkle, and awoke to discover that gigantic plants have overrun the earth. Ordinarily I’d serve chicken salad on a cantaloupe wedge, but guess who has competition now. May the better fruit win.

STRAWBERRIES STUFFED WITH CHICKEN SALAD

Ingredients:

2 romaine lettuce leaves, washed

2 extra-large strawberries, washed

1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded

2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped

1 tablespoon almonds, chopped

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Mint leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Place romaine lettuce leaves on two salad plates. Set aside. Carefully slice strawberries, creating a pinwheel, without cutting through the bottom. Transfer each strawberry to the prepared salad plate. In a bowl, combine shredded chicken, chopped celery, almond pieces, and mayonnaise. Mix well. Fill each strawberry pinwheel with chicken salad. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve chilled.

Egg Noodle Chicken Casserole

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Egg Noodle Chicken Casserole! Do you ever become territorial with your food, perhaps hiding it in secret places no one ever looks? I do. In fact I keep a very unique bag of Iowa potato chips in the freezer to nibble on whenever I get the urge. Yes, you can freeze potato chips, but that’s another story. Comfort food also means having your very own individual crock in order to savor every bite, like today’s version of chicken casserole. It especially means the buttery cracker topping is all yours, to save until the very end or to mix into every bite. The choice is yours.

EGG NOODLE CHICKEN CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

1 cup egg noodles

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 cup frozen grilled chicken chunks, fully cooked and thawed

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

For the topping:

1/2 cup Ritz* crackers, crushed

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease two individual casserole dishes with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside. In a skillet over medium-high heat, warm butter. Add diced onion and celery. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine egg noodles, onions, celery, chicken chunks, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, and chopped parsley. Mix well. Divide between the two prepared casserole dishes. In a small bowl, stir together cracker crumbs, melted butter, and cheddar cheese. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the casseroles. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Let rest 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Knee-Jerk Chicken Wings

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Knee-Jerk Chicken Wings! Look ahead for a weekend meal that is Mmm Mmm Good. It takes a minute of advanced planning, but is, oh, so worth it. As with any marinade, its main purpose is to tenderize the chicken while bathing it with flavor and moisture. In the end you have chicken wings so juicy you won’t be able to put them down. As always, store the marinated chicken in the refrigerator. I don’t recommend reusing the marinade once you transfer the meat to a baking pan. As a general rule, any sauces that come into contact with uncooked meat should be disposed of properly to prevent harmful bacteria exposure. I’m good with that. In most cases an extra sauce or dressing can be offered instead.

KNEE-JERK CHICKEN WINGS

Ingredients:

1/4 cup vinegar

1 tablespoon dark rum

2 habanero peppers, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

1/2 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons nutmeg

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon molasses

2 pounds chicken wings

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon spicy honey

Chives, for garnish

Instructions:

To make the jerk paste marinade, combine vinegar, dark rum, habanero peppers, red onion, green onions, thyme, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and molasses in a blender. Pulse to mix until smooth. Place the chicken in a baking dish. Pour lime juice over chicken to coat on both sides. Wearing gloves, rub the jerk paste over both sides of the chicken wings, covering well. Transfer chicken to a gallon freezer bag. Use a rubber spatula to transfer all the marinade to the bag. Seal the bag and refrigerate overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a rimmed baking pan with nonstick oil. Place chicken wings in a single layer, skin side up. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, then flip to bake for another 20 minutes. Combine ketchup, soy sauce, and spicy honey in a small bowl. Mix well. Turn the chicken back over so the skin side is up. Brush with ketchup sauce. Bake 10 minutes longer. When chicken is done, transfer to a platter. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with celery sticks and bleu cheese dressing.

Quartered Chicken with Oranges

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Quartered Chicken with Oranges! If you are fortunate enough to be the recipient of a Fruit-of-the-Month Club, you will not only have premium fresh fruit delivered to your door, but tucked inside the box is a recipe card with serving suggestions. Thanks go out to the families of Brandi and Jennifer! Today’s special features the Cara Cara Orange, which is a sweet seedless variety with interesting undertones of cherry and blackberry. The delightful taste is less acidic than ordinary oranges. And the pinkish-red flesh reminded me of its distant cousin, the blood orange. My compliments to Harry & David.*

QUARTERED CHICKEN WITH ORANGES

Ingredients:

2 sections of quartered chicken, leg and thigh portion

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 Cara Cara oranges, quartered

1/2 onion, chopped in chunks

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

2 sprigs fresh thyme

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. Place chicken in an iron skillet. Surround it with oranges, onion, and garlic. Rub the chicken well with olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary leaves and Herbes de Provence. Tuck two sprigs of thyme in between chicken. Bake one hour until golden and internal temperature is 165°.

*I receive no recompense for featuring Harry & David Fruit-of-the-Month.

Duke’s Kauai in Lihue, Kauai

Dining Outside the Home: Duke’s Kauai in Lihue, Kauai! An open-air view of the deep blue Pacific Ocean may leave you wondering what tasty sea creatures lie beneath the surface. One glance around the dining room may answer that thought. The chefs at Duke’s Kauai respect the Hawaiian tradition of local fishermen. Their catch-of-the-day is determined by the season. It could be Ahi with its steak-like texture seared and crusted in furikake seasoning. Or it may be Ono with its juicy and mild flavor grilled in a spicy sesame-ginger glaze. Other island favorites are always an option. Add vegetables, fruit, and bread selections from their famous salad bar to complete the entree. When it’s all said and done, no one walks away hungry from Duke’s Kauai.

Kalapaki Joe’s in Lihue, Kauai

Dining Outside the Home: Kalapaki Joe’s in Lihue, Kauai! Sometimes you gotta go for bar food cravings and skip dinner in favor of Happy Hour. That translates to dine-in appetizers. At Kalapaki Joe’s, the food and beverage specials have a way of appealing to the palate. Indulge yourself with tasty chicken wings as hot as you like them. No pain, no shame. Put out the fire with a classic salt-rimmed margarita. It goes down cold and easy. Menu items are still available if you want to tag on a salad or another small plate to balance out the flavors. You’ve got time for grazing and conversation before the dinner crowd rushes in. You know what they say, the early bird…has the advantage, or something like that.

Kung Pao Chicken

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Kung Pao Chicken! When I promise savory, I deliver. Combine sweet and sour, garlic and spice, with the crunch of peanuts, to pull off this do-it-yourself version of a Chinese restaurant favorite. By making it at home, you may have it faster than takeout. One bite and you’ll love it, but remember to share. Add a few red chili peppers for a dynamic taste experience, if you dare.

KUNG PAO CHICKEN

Ingredients:

2 cups boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons sherry cooking wine

2 tablespoons soybean sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons chili paste

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

4 green onions, snipped

8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

Instructions for Marinade:

Mix together 1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine, 1 tablespoon soybean sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water. Stir until smooth. Place chicken chunks in a glass dish. Pour in marinade. Toss to coat. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Instructions for Sauce:

Combine in a glass bowl 1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine, 1 tablespoon soybean sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water. Mix until smooth. Add chili paste, vinegar, honey, brown sugar, and garlic. Stir. Gradually fold in green onions, water chestnuts, and chopped peanuts. Transfer to a medium skillet. Cook on low/medium heat until aromatic, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, remove chicken from marinade. Discard marinade. Sauté chicken chunks in a large skillet until meat is white and juices run clear. As the sauce becomes aromatic, add in sautéed chicken chunks. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. Serve over noodles or rice.

Whole Roasted Chicken

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Whole Roasted Chicken! Go nontraditional this Thanksgiving. Scale things back a bit for an intimate dinner for two. By choosing a free-range whole chicken for roasting, you still afford classic results in each juicy bite. Prepare this succulent bird in half the time. Then go crazy with your favorite sides.

WHOLE ROASTED CHICKEN

Ingredients:

3-pound chicken, whole

3 fresh rosemary sprigs

3 tablespoon butter, sliced

1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

5 tablespoons butter, melted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place chicken in a shallow roasting pan. Season cavity with sliced butter. Insert rosemary sprigs. Generously sprinkle outside of bird with Herbs de Provence, onion powder, celery seed, sea salt, and black pepper. Brush skin with melted butter. Bake uncovered 1 1/2 hours. Skin will be golden and internal temperature should read 180°. Juices should run clear. Remove from heat. Baste with drippings. Cover. Let rest 20 minutes to allow juices to absorb before serving.