Smoked wings are one of the easiest and quickest things one can cook “low and slow.” Typically, at 225° wings can be done in as little as 2.5 hours, far faster than pork shoulder or ribs. Smoking wings make them tender, juicy and finger licking good. Prepare to be amazed!
I was browsing online for ideas for this year’s super bowl party and I came across these amazing looking wings on the Washington Post. I’m still relatively new to the Green Egg, but since I got, I adapt every recipe for grilling on the Green Egg. If you don’t have one, this recipe should do well on any type of smoker.
These wings are easy, tasty, and will be gone quickly! Their salty sweetness balances well with a mild wood (I used Cherry). The original recipe called for baking at 400 degrees, which the Green Egg can do, but I wanted a low, slow smoked flavor. The higher heat causes the sauce to become sticky as the sugar caramelizes. To replicate that stickiness, I boiled down the leftover sauce to get it nice and thick and then gave the wings a second coat about an hour in to the cook.
How to Make Smoked Tar Pit Chicken Wings
Prep the ingredients and combine the sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and dry red wine in a small sauce pan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved
Coat the wings in the sauce and set in the fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes. Take a sip of that leftover wine, you deserve it.
While the wings are marinating, prepare your smoker for 225.
When the grill is prepped and the wings have marinated, place the wings on the smoker but save the sauce, you’ll need it later!
Put the leftover sauce in a small pan and reduce until it’s nice, and thick – about half
About an hour into the cook – take the now reduced sauce and give the wings another coat on both sides
You have a thermometer right? The wings will be done when they hit an internal temperature of 165. This should be about 2~2.5 hours.
Try these out and let me know your results. I’m always learning!
Recipe and Instructions for Smoked Tar Pit Chicken Wings
A creamy chocolate pie with a hint of whiskey? What more could you want!?
What is Tennessee Silk Pie you may ask? Well, being from Tennessee I decided to improve on my mother’s classic recipe for French Silk Pie and add a bit of Jack Daniels – because everything is better with a little bit of Jack, right? The addition of the charcoal filtered whiskey gives the pie a hint of smokiness and caramel, a perfect compliment to the chocolate. Unveiling the pie at a recent party, I had multiple requests for the recipe – so I knew a hit had been born!
This is a really easy to make recipe but it does take time. The key to making good french silk pie is spending the time to beat the mixture after the addition of each egg. Whisking the eggs for the length of time called for in this recipe is what gives French Silk Pie it’s delicate fluffiness, don’t cut corners! I love this recipe and make it for just about any function where I have to bring a desert. It’s usually gone in minutes!
How to Make Tennessee Silk Pie
First, start by gathering your ingredients. I’d say high quality eggs and chocolate will go a long way in the quality of the pie you make.
Pre-heat the oven and bake your pie crust according to the instructions given. When the crust has baked, let it cool
Note: It is important to poke holes in the crust before baking!
Meanwhile, take the softened butter and cream it with the sugar in a mixer
Add the melted chocolate , vanilla, and whiskey (0ptional). I melt the chocolate using a sauce pan floating in a pan of hot water to avoid burning it, let it cool for a bit before adding to the mixture
Begin adding the eggs, I start with the yolks first. Remember it’s extremely important to beat the mixture for 20 minutes after adding each egg & egg yolk. Remind me to add a stand mixer to my wedding registry….
Finally, add the mixture to the cooled pie crust
Put the pie in the fridge overnight to set and you will be rewarded with a delicious, easy to make Tennessee Silk Pie!!
French Silk pie emboldened by the addition of Jack Daniels. The combination of the eggs, sugar, chocolate, and a hint of whiskey really make this dessert a treat!
Recipe type: Dessert
1 Pre-made Pie crust. I use Trader Joe's when they have it
1 stick of butter (unsalted)
2 egg yolk
¾ cup of sugar
2 oz of high end, unsweetened chocolate
1.5 tsp of vanilla
2 tbs of Jack Daniels (optional)
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
2 tbs of powdered sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
Tennessee Silk Pie
Bake the pie crust according to directions on the box. Remember to poke holes in the crust before baking it to prevent the crust from bubbling.
Soften the butter (Let it sit out for a few hours or with a microwave - careful we want it softened but not liquid!)
Meanwhile soften the chocolate using a double boiler (or in the microwave) and let cool
When the butter has softened cream it with the sugar using a beater
Mix in the cooled chocolate, whiskey (optional) and vanilla
Mix in the egg yolks one at a time, beating for 5 minutes each. Repeat for each of the two eggs for a total whisking time of 20 minutes. Don't skimp! The long whisking time gives the silk in French Silk Pie 🙂
Pour the mixture into the cooled, baked crust and let it sit the fridge, covered, overnight
The next day serve with the whipped cream and enjoy!
In a metal bowl pour in the heavy whipping cream and add the vanilla
Using a whisk, begin whipping using wide strokes. The key is to try and introduce air into the milk.
When the cream starts to thicken add the sugar.
Continue whipping the cream until soft peaks begin to form, typically about 5 minutes
Be sure to keep the pie refrigerated between servings!
For best results, the whipped cream should be made right before serving.
The song Whip It, by Devo played twice is the perfect length of time for making the whipped cream, no joke! Careful though, go any longer and you risk turning the whipped cream into butter!
While the whiskey is what transforms the pie from French Silk into Tennessee Silk, you can easily leave it out and still have an extremely delicious pie!
You should note that the eggs in this recipe are uncooked. While I'm personal ok with eating raw eggs (I mean how many of us snack on cookie dough?) I'd say that this recipe should be avoided by those that are pregnant, very young, very old, or with a compromised immune system. Also I'd try and use the best quality of eggs you can get your hands on.
While we recommend your own quest, we felt El Chanchullero had the best mojito in Havana
Havana, Cuba is the birthplace of the mojito thus the drink can be found on any menu of any bar in town. While on a recent trip to Cuba I made it my mission to find the best mojito in Havana. I was surprised how varied the mojito recipes were from bar-to-bar. With bartenders influencing the creation of each drink, no two mojitos were alike, which kept us in pursuit!
Here is an ordered list of my impressions, but please try your own quest and let me know what you think.
6. La Esquina De Dragones Bar
Most people in La Esquina De Dragones were drinking mini beer towers, perhaps we should have?
La Esquina De Dragones is a little outdoor garden bar around the corner from the Fábrica de Tabacos Partagás. It’s on the corner of Dragones Filled with mostly locals, I imagine back when cigars were being actively made at the factory (they are now made at a temporary location across town), this would have been a lively place come quitting time.
The mojitos were decent, however, the sugar was overly grainy giving it a strange mouth feel. Also, the mojitos took a while to make (I think they went out to go buy the mint!) The owner stopped by and asked us how he could attract more tourist to the bar, a sign of the times in Havana (hint: boot the multiple people telling us they can get us cheap cigars). For the price I’d look elsewhere, but who knows what this place will be like in a few years? It is, after all, a great space with lovely trees shading the brick patio and they were setting up for a singer. I’ll probably just stick to the beer next time.
5. Sloppy Joe’s Bar
Watching Alec Guinness enter Sloppy Joe’s in the movie Our Man in Havana while sitting at the bar at Sloppy Joe’s. Very meta….
Sloppy Joe’s has welcomed tourists for over four decades—during the 1940s and 1950s it was a magnet for American celebrities and tourists wanting to mingle with them.
It has been described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most famous bars in the world” with “almost the status of a shrine.” In 2013, the bar underwent a complete renovation after a fire left it abandoned for 48 years.
We found the mojito at Sloppy Joe’s to be overly sugary and did not enjoy it as much as others we had on our trip. However, later on we found out it’s possible to tell your bartender how you like it “strong, little sugar etc.” so keep this in mind when ordering. Finally, you can get a shot of Havana Club 7 Años for about 2.5 CUC. Put it on ice and enjoy instead!
Price: 4 CUC
4. Hotel Nacional de Cuba
While the mojito here was so-so, the history and ambiance of this place make it a must-visit!
How can I refuse a chance to visit a place that was the haunt of Lansky, Luciano, and once even held a mob conference? Hotel Nacional is filled with old photos of all the movie and music stars that once graced the halls.
Watching the bartender make the mojito, I was surprised to find it tasting watered down (Hinting that the rum itself was watered down). Maybe the mob still has an influence over the hotel after all? While I liked the mojitos better at Sloppy Joe’s, the history of this place kick it up a notch!
*Extra half goes for the location!
3. La Bodeguita Del Medio
Stepping up to the bar and watching the bartender make so many mojitos at once is worth it for the experience alone!
Above the bar at La Bodeguita Del Medio is a quote from Hemingway: “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita.” Given this, it seemed like the most likely candidate for the best Mojito in Havana, right?
Like all things in Cuba, don’t take everything literally. The quote was invented as a joke by the owners in the 50s to drum up business. The bartender seemed to like a heavy rum pour giving this mojito a strong rum taste. Still, I’d rank the mojito the third best mojito in Havana.
2. Saratoga Havana
The Saratoga Havana offers sweeping views of the city from its rooftop bar & pool. A must visit!
Originally built between 1879 and 1880, the Saratoga Havana quickly became one of the best known hotels in Havana. The hotel was renovated in 2005 as a luxury hotel (it was preciously a shuttered boarding house), so the lobby bar and roof deck are in great shape. With breath-taking views of the city from its roof deck, it’s no wonder Beyoncé chose to stay here on her vacation in Havana.
The mojitos were not too sweet and served with a dash of bitters. In addition, the roof deck makes for a perfect place to light up a cigar and take in the city views making this my second favorite mojito in Havana!
Price: 5.50CUC (inclusive of a mandatory service charge)
1. El Chanchullero, the best mojito in Havana
Amazing 2 CUC cocktails and cheap, delicious food? Sold!
Aqui jamás estuvo Hemingway (Hemingway was never here) reads the sign outside El Chanchullero, setting the tone for the type of establishment this place wants to be. Across the street from Plaza del Cristo and near the Capitol, El Chanchullero is just on the edge of old-town Havana.
The mojito was excellent, made with a dash of bitters to combat the sweetness causing it to break out of the Hemingwayish mold in a refreshing manner. In addition, the menu is filled with a variety of cheap (2~5 CUC) array of tapas and main dishes. Be warned though, this place is small and fills up fast! On one evening at ~9pm there was a line 20+ people deep. Come around 6:30PM to beat the rush!
Mojitos are not the only drink you should have while in Havana, Cuba. Below is a list of some other great finds:
Despite the price, the daiquiris and rum old fashioned at Floridita are not to be missed (they were out of mint when we arrived, bast!). Additionally, Floridita claims to have invented the daiquiri. (6CUC)
Close by, Monserrate Bar offers excellent rum manhattans and decent daiquiris for 4CUC
ChaChaCha (near Museo de la Revolucion) offers a great spin on the mojito – their house drink is made with fresh pineapple juice (in loo of club soda) and is served in a copper mug. In addition, the Cubata (a Cuba Libre made with dark rum) makes for a refreshing mid-afternoon pickup. Serving great ceviche, this place should not be missed!
The pineapple man at the flea market is awesome (back left corner)! He takes a whole pineapple, cores it and blends some of the slices with ice and adds rum upon request. Finally, he even gives you the leftovers in a bag! Perfect for walking around and looking at art (3CUC)
Rasika’s Palak Chaat is amazing and one of my favorite dishes at the restaurant. This is a pretty close recipe and just as addicting!
Rasika’s Palak Chaat is quite simply amazing. Palak, meaning Spinach, and Chaat, roughly translated to a savory snack, is an easy to make fried spinach dish that’s garnished with a sweet yogurt sauce. The crispness of the spinach coupled with the sweetness of the sauce really makes for an interesting dish.
Sautéed spinach used to be my go-to side dish for most of my meals but after discovering how easy this recipe is to make at home I now do this more regularly. After first trying this at Rasika I googled around trying to figure out exactly what Palak Chaat was and why it was so delicious! The recipe by Vivi on PoPville seemed to have nailed it as close as possible. I’ve modified the original recipe slightly to fit my own taste (mainly using honey flavored yogurt and using Trader Joe’s amazing curry powder).
Palak Chaat is not a complex dish to make given how wonderful it is. Just fry spinach leaves, chop some tomato, dates, onion and combine with a yogurt sauce. I can typically have this dish put together in less then 15 minutes. So it’s a quick, tasty side dish that can be added to any meal. I guarantee anyone skeptical of Indian food will become a raving fan after serving them this dish!
5.0 from 1 reviews
Rasika’s Palak Chaat - Fried Spinach with a Yogurt Sauce
The yogurt sauce combined with the crispness of the fried spinach give this dish a unique, delicious flavor.
Recipe type: Side
Frying oil (see notes below on amount needed, I typically use sunflower seed oil)
½ bag of baby spinach (about 4 oz, completely dry)
¼ cup Greek yogurt (I use Honey flavored)
2 dates, pitted and chopped
Juice from ½ lemon
⅛ tsp coriander
⅛ tsp cumin
⅛ tsp curry powder (I use Trader Joes brand)
1 tbsp tomato, chopped
1 tbsp red onion, chopped (you can substitute shallots)
Kosher salt, to taste
In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, chopped dates, coriander, cumin, curry powder, lemon juice, water, and a pinch of salt.
Dry the spinach leaves on a paper towel
Either fill a heavy bottom pot with enough oil to roughly ½ inch depth and turn on medium high heat or fill and heat your deep frier as per instructions provided with the fryer
Gently place a few leaves into the hot oil taking care to stand adequate distance from the pan or fryer to avoid splash back. Spinach leaves contain a lot of water so this WILL happen. Fry for roughly 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Place fried leaves on a paper towel to drain and cool. Continue frying the remainder of leaves in small batches
Combine Sauce and Leaves
Finally plate the leaves and drizzle some sauce. Add the chopped tomatoes and onion on top and enjoy!
The original recipe calls for Turmeric. I instead use Trader Joe's Curry Powder.
Sitting with Jiho, the head monk, and other guests at the Shōganji Zen Retreat in Oita, Japan
When originally planning my trip to Japan I had wanted to stay in at least one temple while there. The thought of waking up before the crack of dawn for a Buddhist sermon seemed both peaceful and poetic in some sort of way. I had heard that you could stay at various temples across Japan for not a lot of money.
Turns out temples are no longer a popular place to stay among the Japanese themselves. Like Europeans with Catholicism, Japanese are slowly distancing themselves from Buddhism and Shintoism. When talking with other Japanese it seemed like it was something “grandfathers” did and definitely not “cool.” Fortunately for us travelers Temples have recognized this decline and now welcome foreigners as usually we are their only source of income!
Ninna-Ji in Kyoto, Japan
The food at Omuro Kaikan, the dining hall of Ninna-ji, was simply amazing
Temples in Japan are an inexpensive way to experience a entirely different culture and side of Japan. In Kyoto for instance we were able to stay at a well respected temple, Ninna-ji, for less then $100/night per person which included both breakfast and dinner.
The meals at Nina-ji, for instance, was really, really good. They offer traditional home cooking for Kyoto which incorporates both fish and vegetables (The food is not shōjin ryōri, or traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine). The menu was pre-set for both breakfast and dinner which made choosing what to eat much easier. I got to try things I would not know how to order on my own. The restaurant at Nina-ji is open for lunch so even if you are not staying at the temple you can try the delicious food for yourself!
The atmosphere at Ninna-ji was relaxing. A perfect way to unwind after a few hard days of travel.
The grounds at Nina-ji were beautiful. Because they close the gates at night staying at the temple lodge can be quite peaceful. The accommodations are traditional, meaning you sleep on mats on the floor, but don’t let that discourage you. It was a very restful night of sleep!
The next morning we awoke to attend the morning service with the monks in Kon-do, the main temple hall. Originally built in 1613, Kon-do served as a hall for state ceremonies at the imperial palace in Kyoto and was relocated to the temple grounds shortly after to help with rebuilding efforts of Ninna-ji. As the oldest building of its style still in existence today, Kon-do has been designated a national treasure of Japan. Needless to say it was inspiring to sit and listen to the ceremony and something only visitors can experience.
The next day we were given free range to explore the grounds before they were open to the public. In addition guests are given a free ticket to see Goten, the palace on the grounds. I enjoyed my stat at Ninna-ji and would recommend it for anyone traveling to Kyoto. One night was plenty for us to experience everything the temple had to offer.
I arrived at the small, rural train station in the south of Japan with no idea what to expect. I was here to stay at the Shōganji Zen Retreat and other then some email correspondence with Pierre, the coordinator, I honestly didn’t even know who was picking me up or what my plans for my stay were.
Shortly after arriving a car comes zooming around the corner. Noticing the driver was bald and wearing robes, I soon realized it was my ride. After brief, informal introductions I learn that Jiho is running behind and asks if I don’t mind helping him perform an Obon ceremony for one of his temple members. Nodding in agreement, I quickly learn that staying with Jiho was going to be a unique experience.
Shōganji Zen Retreat is led by Jiho Kongo, a graduate of the strict Rinzai Buddhist monastery Shogen-ji, who has been practicing Zen Buddhism for over 30 years. Shōgan-ji was created by Jiho to share the experience of Zen temple life to foreign visitors. As an active temple in the small village of Ojuki (which is in the Ōita Prefecture), Jiho offers a broad range of temple life – from accompanying him on house visits of temple members to morning prayer. In addition to these experience we helped with chores around the temple, practiced kanji, and had time to meditate and study among ourselves.
Practicing Kanji one afternoon at the Shōganji Zen Retreat
With barely enough time to unpack my bag and meet the other temple residents (an Aussie and a Canadian for those curious) we head off to the ceremony.
Odon is a yearly celebration of a persons ancestors and has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years. We were at this persons home to celebrate her father who was a former military officer in the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII. It’s impossible to describe the feeling I got from listening to Jiho chant and looking around the room at this families artifacts, some looking like they dated back to the days of the Samurai.
I stayed at Shōganji for several days and it gave me a chance to reflect on my Japanese experience to date. It was the perfect amount of time to befriend my other temple mates and really take in the experience of living life as a monk.
The residents of Ojuki help Jiho with his garden at the temple. Because we were staying there, that meant us too.
Staying at the temple was not easy by any means. We were woken at 5:30am each morning for prayer and meditation. This was followed by reading and … no breakfast!
Jiho is a strong believer in the Nishi-Shiki Health System, a health methodology created by Katsuzo Nishi in 1927. Katsuzo created the Nishi-Shiki system to alleviate some of his own health concerns growing up and was later adopted by followers of Akido.
Among some of the beliefs of the Nishi-Shiki system are skipping breakfast and and eating raw vegetables. Jiho’s mother was a follower of the Nishi System and well into her 90’s (and still feisty and healthy) so maybe he is on to something.
Eating izakaya with Jiho during one of our “excursions.”
After the morning rest we would typically clean around the temple or help in the garden and then help prepare (and eat!) lunch. Afternoons were spent studying or on “field trips” to a local hot springs or, in one instance, the grocery store. Staying at the temple was surreal in a way. It’s the first time in my travels where I felt I was actually living and not touring. Jiho’s calm, zen mentality added a entirely new dynamic to the stay as well.
Because of the early mornings the evenings were for relaxing. Finding out his mom was a rabid Osaka Tigers baseball fan (In fact the only two English words she knew were “Thank You” and “Baseball!”), I would sometimes spend my nights with his mom, a beer, and a Japanese-to-English baseball dictionary. She strangely reminded me of my own grandmother, who is a fanatic Tennessee Volunteers fan!
Spending time with Jiho and staying at the Shōganji Zen Retreat was rewarding. While it was not exactly what I had in mind, the experience ended up being more than worth the effort and time it took to reach his temple. I wouldn’t hesitate visiting him again!
(More information about staying at the Shōganji Zen Retreat can be found here.)
The results of our labor – this mushroom pizza was absolutely divine!
Pizza and Sriracha Sauce are two of my favorite things. Pizza night, where my girlfriend and I make the pizza and sauce from scratch, has become a favorite date night activity for us. While prepping for our next pizza night foray, it struck me that adding Sriracha to our typical tomato wine sauce would spice it up a notch. We tried it and really enjoyed the results, I hope you will too!
Kneading and rolling the dough out. Getting good at tossing pizza dough is tough!
Thanks to pre-made doughs that you can find at places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, pizza from scratch is surprisingly easy. It’s amazing how many variations of pizza you can get from trying different toppings, cheeses and dough types. The cheese section alone of a grocery store could keep you busy for years. Part of the fun of pizza night is just experimenting and trying new things!
For this creation we took marinated shiitake mushroom, shallots, cheese, my sriracha wine sauce, and Trader Joes garlic Herb pizza dough and created something absolutely wonderful – I think it has been our best pizza to date!
Roasted Shiitake Mushroom Pizza with a Home Made Sriracha Tomato Pizza Sauce