My name is Thomas Lott. I am a proud husband and father of two. Two of my favorite things are football and cooking. I'm no expert in either, but I certainly like to fool around with both. I’ve been a home cook for about 10 years, and been around football since I was 4 years old. This fall, perhaps I’ll find out which one I know better! So I'll be checking in periodically to make a pick - or picks (even I'm allowed a bye week here and there!). Again, I'm no expert, so please don’t go betting the mortgage on my humble picks! From that, I’ll make a dish that has something to do with the game - who I think will win, a star/key player, or other story line. Don’t worry - I’m a home cook so it won’t be anything you can’t do - I promise. I’m still learning so most of these will come from my stash of cookbooks or another recipe floating around the internet. I won’t pawn anything off as my own or pretend there’s some super-secret family recipe that I can't share. Most of these I will probably have made before, others might be an experiment. I hope all will go well, but some may go from stovetop right to the dumpster! I'll be sharing my successes, mishaps, and maybe even a few gratuitous shots of my crew of sous chefs and tasters :-)

I'm always a work in progress, so my food won't *always* be pretty (or healthy!), but it's going to taste good--and if it doesn't I'll tell you that, too. And just so you know, it's also a mathematical certainty that I'll whiff on some of my football picks, too. The whole point is to get better at both! So I hope you keep up with me this fall as I have some fun with the kitchen and the pigskin! I welcome all comments, suggestions, requests and discussions on all things pigskin and kitchen!

Friday, December 27, 2013

BCS Bowls

Well first of all, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and enjoyed some great food! I know we had a huge Christmas feast at my house!

Now it’s time to talk about the big bowls. As I said before, I’m not crazy about the bowls as a whole, but there are a few that I think might be worth a look.

The Rose Bowl features somewhat surprising Big Ten Champ Michigan State against Stanford. These teams are actually pretty evenly matched. Despite the presence of a Big Ten team, I think this should be a pretty decent contest. I’ve got a lot of faith in The Cardinal. They are too well coached to not be ready for a team they’ve had a month to prepare for. I like Stanford in this one. 

I'll be watching Alabama vs. Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, but not necessarily because I think it's going to be a really competitive game. Bama got stung last game and while their national title hopes were dashed, I also think a huge weight has been lifted off their shoulders. This will be the last game for AJ McCarron and I know he'll want to go out with a win. Bama is still one of the best teams in the country and 1 or 2 crazy plays from being in the championship game. Meanwhile, I don't think the Sooners even belong in a BCS game. They're outmatched in just about every way possible and I don't expect them to beat The Tide. It could be competitive for a hot minute, but the only way the Sooners win is if Bama completely lays an egg and doesn't show up (like the 2009 Sugar Bowl). Not likely.

I think the Orange Bowl is somewhat intriguing. Ohio State is a very good football team as is Clemson. Tajh Boyd and Braxton Miller are two very, very good quarterbacks. It'll be pretty exciting watching these two go at it. That being said, no way I'm picking Clemson. I like the Buckeyes in a statement win that will be a springboard for the 2014 season.

I sure would love to see the Oregon Ducks in one of the BCS bowls instead of UCF, but I suppose it is what it is. Baylor is a fearsome offensive team, and while the Knights have had a great season,  I just can't see how they stop the Bears. I don't plan on watching this one for too long. As bad as the Big Ten was this year, this Athletic American Conference thing is even worse!

So with all these games, you have absolutely got to have some wings going on. This is a recipe I have tinkered with this fall and is a combination of a couple of different internet resources. The best part is these aren't fried, so they are maybe a teeny tiny bit better for you. But don't worry - these aren't soft mushy baked Tyson wings. I'm going to show you a method for baking them that still results in the crispy wings you love. 

Crispy Oven Baked Buffalo Wings

The Dry Out
Anyone can throw some wings in the oven, but the reason it's less than ideal is because they come out so soggy. This first step is how we keep that from happening. After rinsing and drying the wings really well, toss about a third of them with some kosher salt, baking powder, and cayenne pepper. Repeat the step two more times and makes sure they are covered. Then place them on a drying rack that's over a baking sheet covered in foil. Make sure to leave between each wing. Air is our friend!

Put them in the refrigerator and let them dry out uncovered for at least 12 hours and up to 24. 

When it's time to cook, take the wings out of the fridge and set the oven to 450. Remove the wings from the drying rack and place on another baking sheet (or the same one after it has been cleaned) lined with foil. Reynolds Non-Stick is the best for this. If you don't have Reynolds Non-Stick, make sure that you spray well, or they'll stick pretty bad. Bake for 20 minutes and then flip and cook for another 15-20 minutes or so. You can make the wing sauce while they are baking (see recipe below). They should be nice and golden and crispy when you take them out. Transfer the wings to a bowl and toss with wing sauce. Serve piping hot with ranch or...I guess blue cheese if that's your thing. Well, please don't ruin these with blue cheese!

After a good roll in the sauce!

**Wing Sauce**
This adapted wing sauce goes beyond the usual butter and wing sauce. Start out by melting butter over low heat in a saucepan. After it's melted add your favorite wing sauce (Franks, Louisiana, Sweet Baby Rays), plus cayenne pepper sauce, brown sugar, honey, cider vinegar, and a little cayenne. Whisk pretty well and continue to heat on low for about 10 minutes -stirring periodically - and set aside.

I've made these a couple times this season and they've been good each time. You can really tell a difference in the skin if you have been one of the unfortunate ones to have the usual soft and soggy baked wings. And of course you could use any number of sauces - barbecue, teriyaki, or any other sauce concoction you could come up with. This doctored up wing sauce adds a little something extra to normal wing sauce that I think you'll like. 

So I hope you enjoy your New Year's/Game Day wings. As for me, I'll be back next week to close out the season with a National Championship dish (and my pick)! So stay tuned, and have a Happy New Year!

Crispy Oven Baked Wings

4 lbs chicken wings (thaw if frozen)
1 Tbsp baking powder
2-3 tsp kosher salt (depending on taste)
1 tsp cayenne pepper

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 C Wing sauce (Franks, Louisiana, etc)
2 Tbsp cayenne pepper sauce (Louisiana, Texas Pete, or Tabasco)
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like them hotter)

1)Rinse and pat the chicken wings dry with paper towels. Using about 1/3 of the wings at a time, put wings in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1/3 of the baking powder, cayenne, and salt and toss to evenly coat. Add wings, then dry ingredients twice more to make sure all wings are covered. Arrange the wings in a single layer on wire rack placed over a baking sheet lined with foil. Refrigerate uncovered 12-24 hours.

2)Heat oven to 450. Remove wings from refrigerator and place on another baking sheet lined with non stick foil (or sprayed). Bake wings for 20 minutes, carefully turn over with tongs, and cook for another 15-20 minutes or so until golden and crispy. Make sauce while wings are cooking.

3)Place butter in a small saucepan and melt over low heat. Whisk in the sauces, brown sugar, honey, cider vinegar, and cayenne until combined. Remove from the heat and set aside.

4)When wings are done, place in a bowl and toss with half the sauce. Make sure they are well coated, then add more sauce to your liking. Serve hot.

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