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BIG Flavors For The BIG GAME!

Millions of American football fans will be tuned into their television sets this Sunday to watch the faceoff in Houston, Texas between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. Yes, I’ll be in front of my TV set too, but I’m mainly there for the ads and the FOOD!

These days, it seems the game-day buffet is every bit as popular as what's happening on the football field, and that can be a good thing, because food has always been a conduit to bring family and friends together. Chips, dips, hearty sandwiches, pizza, ribs, wings, and beer – traditional football fare is as varied as the household hosting the party. One thing these menus all have in common though, is bold flavors and food that’s easy and fun to eat.

On Sunday, my buffet's main feature will be crunchy, juicy, chicken drumsticks with two dipping sauces. I know…wings are on most cooks' radar these days, and there are many popular restaurants built around the wing theme, but I prefer something meatier on my plate. In my book, wings are just too much trouble to eat. Three bites, and they're gone.

Being a girl-from-Texas, even if I love spending as much time as I can manage in the Rocky Mountains, I adore fried chicken, but traditional preparations of this Southern favorite are higher in fat – and it's messy to boot! So, for my Oven-Fried Chicken Drumsticks with Sweet and Smoky BBQ Dipping Sauce and Teriyaki Dipping Sauce, I've taken plump, skinless chicken legs, dipped them in a crunchy coating of ancient grains cereal, bread crumbs, flaxseed meal, wheat germ, and seasonings; then baked them in the oven until the meat is done. The coating seals in the chicken's juices, while providing the crunchy texture I adore with every bite. You can even prepare the coating one day ahead; then dip and bake just before game time. That’s a real winner in my book!



Oven-Fried Chicken with Two Dipping Sauces

2 cups Heritage Flakes® or other whole grain cereal flakes
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large package chicken legs, about 14 pieces
2 -3 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons buttermilk (optional)

Early in the day or one day ahead, crush the cereal flakes in a pie plate or shallow bowl with your hand until the flakes are approximately ¼-inch size. Add breadcrumbs, flaxseed meal, wheat germ, salt, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper. Stir to mix well and set the mixture aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a large roasting pan, and set it aside. Using a paper towel for a better grip, pull the skin off the chicken legs and discard. In a medium shallow bowl, whip egg, water, and buttermilk together with a fork until it is well blended.

Dip a chicken leg into the egg mixture and turn it to coat all sides of the meat. Roll the meat in the crumb coating, sprinkling any uncoated areas with additional coating as needed. Place the meat in the roasting pan, and continue with the remaining chicken legs.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes, uncovered, or until the meat is done and the coating is brown and crisp. Serve immediately with dipping sauces.

Yield: 14 oven-friend drumsticks


Teriyaki Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 drops Worchestershire
1 large clove garlic, peeled and mashed
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons honey, reserved

Pour the soy sauce into a small saucepan. Place the cornstarch in a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the water, whisk it together to form a slurry, and stir in the remaining water. Pour the slurry into the pan, add brown sugar, vinegar, Worchestershire, garlic, and ginger, and stir well to mix.

Heat the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cooking 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce is smooth and thick. Add honey, stir, and cook 3 to 4 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Remove the sauce from the heat, cool, and serve. Sauce may be made one or two days ahead, covered, and chilled.

Yield: 1 ½ cups teriyaki sauce


Sweet and Smoky BBQ Dipping Sauce

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup sweet onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chili sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

Preheat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan, and stir in the onion. Sauté the onion 3 to 4 minutes until it is soft, stir in the garlic, and cook 1 minute more.

Stir in ketchup, chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, molasses, and Liquid Smoke. Cook the sauce until it comes to a low boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the sauce from the heat cool, and serve. Sauce may be made one or two days ahead, covered, and chilled.

Yield: 1 ½ cups BBQ sauce

Mardi Gras Magic

You don't have to be in New Orleans this year to add magic to a Mardi Gras celebration. It's easy to create a festive atmosphere at home, even at the last-minute. Mix traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, gold, and purple into your table setting, and you’re on your way to a special celebration of Fat Tuesday.

When I create a tablescape such as the one pictured, I begin by selecting a predominant color that sets the theme for the entire table. In this case, amethyst Waterford crystal champagne flutes and a matching crystal vase I recently received as a gift were my starting point because they’re a bold Mardi Gras color. On the other hand, inexpensive glassware in a similar shade would have worked just as well, or even clear glassware on a purple coaster or cocktail napkin.

Next, I searched my cupboards for accessories in other shades of purple – chargers, napkins, and candles. To expand the three-color theme, I chose gold-rimmed dinnerware, antique salad plates with an elaborate gold raised pattern, wine glasses trimmed in gold, and finished off the table decor with colorful masks and an abundance of green, gold, and purple beads. The overall effect is simple, but dramatic. Open your cupboards and see what kind of Mardi Gras magic you can create! Laissez les bons temp rouler!