Grilled Chicken Wings – Why Didn’t I Think of That?

My boyfriend calls me every night when he’s leaving work to discuss dinner plans and whether he should pick up anything from the store. This may be mundane and commonplace, but I find it delightful. It’s the same as having that special person call to say I love you. This time, he suggested we go out to a local wings place. While I appreciated he wanted to go on a date, the most appealing thing to me was staying home together and I told him so. He opted to pick up wings from the store and surprised me with the notion of grilling the wings.

Grilled chicken wings and veggie sides.
Grilled chicken wings and veggie sides.

He walked in with chicken wings, a couple of ears of corn, potatoes and celery. He also suggested we make baked “fries” and I noted we had sweet potatoes on hand too. While he prepped the chicken, I cut up the potatoes and preheated the oven to 450. Actually, we have a convection option on the oven which dropped it to 425 degrees and cooked the potatoes in about 30 rather than 45 minutes. I tossed them potato wedges in a bowl with olive oil, pink salt, Maple sugar garlic pepper (yes, you read that right) and a little Cajun seasoning.

Baked sweet potato and Yukon potato
Baked sweet potato and Yukon potato

Then I washed and cut up the celery into spears. Meanwhile, Byron did the chicken grilling magic. I poured the Greek yogurt blue cheese dressing into a bowl and he presented two different Buffalo sauces at the table. Here is the revelation: grilled chicken wings are so much better than fried or baked wings. The skin gets crispy without added fat. The grill adds a light char. And they are fully cooked while still juicy. Rock on! Why haven’t we always done it this way. Why didn’t I think of that? Best of all, it wasn’t guilt inducing! The moral of the story is: be open minded about dinner and do something different at home.

The Sage Leopard

Grilled shrimp for us, yogurt for the dog

The Sage Leopard ate pumpkin puree and plain yogurt tonight because I forgot to go to the vet today to buy his kibble. He prefers the pumpkin and yogurt anyway so I don’t feel guilty.IMG_5164

Meanwhile, my raclette grill cooking experiment is getting fishy… with Atlantic salmon and Gulf shrimp. Living in Houston means you must have real Gulf shrimp or hold your head in shame for serving anything else. I bought a handful today at Kroger to go with a nice hunk of salmon we are grilling.

Rather than hand off the protein to my man to cook while I handle the veggies and sides, we cooperated in this. He instructed me on how to clean the shrimp and I handed off my camera for him to capture how simply elegant this kind of easy grilling is.

salmon, shrimp and pineapple on raclette grill
salmon, shrimp and pineapple on raclette grill

It’s not just the novelty of this Velata raclette grill. It’s the antithesis of hassle. It’s downright liberating. I’ve typically been a failed perfectionist. Now that I’m middle aged, I just don’t have time for that. I want to enjoy every moment I can make. Make good food without making an ordeal of it.

simplicity and delight, grilled and boiled (and a 'lil butter)
simplicity and delight, grilled and boiled (and a ‘lil butter)

Reclaiming Quality Time at the Table

cooking Velata style at the table
cooking Velata style at the table

We tend to settle into routines that become our life, routines we might not even like so much anymore. I love cooking and typically start dinner by putting garlic and olive oil in a pan. Soon enough a voice calls out from the livingroom to commend the scent. The aroma misleads one into thinking dinner is almost on the table.

But, it is just the start of the cooking process. Historically, I find myself alone at the stove, smiling at the veggies in the sauté pan, mushrooms in another pot, meat in the oven, veggies on the chopping board. I hold my wine glass aloft and breath in the bouquet and aforementioned garlic aroma. Looking down at the array of food cooking on different burners, I ask myself, “Why?” This is a lot of work with a lot of pans. Wait a minute, this is fine some of the time, but all the time? Plus, I don’t get to see my boyfriend until I bring the completed meal to the table.

I reflect back to amazing meals we have shared on the patio with a Lodge hibachi. We sat there taking in the sunset, wrapping Korean BBQ in sesame leaves and dipping the wraps in sauces. What if we could capture that sensory and visual interaction of all that, but indoors, without charcoal?!

picking peppers to grill
picking peppers to grill

Recently, a friend told me she was buying a Velata raclette grill from another friend and began to describe how you can cook at the kitchen table with this electric grill. I remarked this reminded me of Korean BBQ and she said the raclette grill has its origins in Europe and yes, melting cheese. My mind raced from one potential recipe to the next.

crafting breakfast together with Velata on a weekend morning
crafting breakfast together with Velata on a weekend morning

Grilled Halloumi cheese over grilled romaine and veggies? What about a grilled cheese sandwich with rosemary ham lunchmeat served with cornichons? Don’t just serve food – make each meal an event, an experience. I already embrace that philosophy and practice, and visualized how this grill could realize the vision even further.

I decided to put a Velata raclette grill on my kitchen table and proceeded to start making meals right there. I started on a Friday night by placing sausage on one side of the grill and veggies on the other: asparagus, red onion, peppers, etc. I put an aged Gouda and some feta cheese in the little raclette pans.

eggs in the Velata raclette pans are so easy
eggs in the Velata raclette pans are so easy

We sat at the table watching everything cook while sipping on craft beer. We pulled off what was ready to eat and enjoyed. We were hooked.

The next morning I made eggs in the raclette pans and cooked pancakes on the grill. Then I found out about the Velata crepe maker. Oh, what a wonderful journey we have begun!

The Sage Leopard