Knee-deep in football season and cool weather, and I’m ready to tackle cooking some hearty and homemade junk food. But with so many options, where’s a girl start? Chili? Nachos? Chips and dip? Potato skins? Quesadillas? And that doesn’t even begin to touch on tailgate-food like ribs and burgers and sausages and… All right. This is where I have to pause before I get too overwhelmed with deliciousness. This past Sunday, I finally decided to make the stereotypical hot wings, along with the not-so-stereotypical garlic knots and poutine.
Everyone knows the go-to hot wing recipe, right? Fried chicken wings, floating in a delicious hot sauce and melted butter heaven. After battling the crowd at the grocery store, I went home and had a huge struggle separating the wings with a dull knife, so I decided to bypass the serious business of frying and just threw them on a sheetpan and into the oven (after a quick call to Mom, to find out what temperature and how long to cook them). So simple. And in a small effort to try and be healthy, I substituted soy milk for butter and mixed that with the hot sauce instead.
Okay, truthfully, I’m ashamed to admit that we didn’t have any butter in the house. But the soy milk worked just fine, and none of the guys even noticed. Joke’s on them.
Now garlic knots is something I’m not too familiar with, that I’ve had only once before in Albany, a delicious twist of dough covered in melted butter and tangy with garlic. Staying on the safe side, I just bought already made bread dough, cut it into strips, twisted them into knots, and threw those on a sheetpan too. I’d rather not bring this up again, but because of the lack of butter, I brushed them with olive oil and then sprinkled some with garlic powder and others with fresh minced garlic. Popped those into the oven, and done.
My grandmother was raised in Montreal, and I grew up in New Hampshire only a few hours from the city, so I spent a lot of time in Canada as a kid. Poutine, if you’ve never heard of it, is a ridiculously simple and yet absolutely blissful Canadian ‘peasant’ dish that’s only French fries covered in gravy and melted cheese. That’s it. And before you scoff, let me tell you that with the right ingredients, I swear you’ll die of happiness: homemade French fries doused in thick gravy and all stringy with melted curd cheese (that’s important – it has to be cheddar cheese in curd form or it’s not as good). During road trips to Montreal, it was tradition to stop at the first St. Hubert’s restaurant across the border and eat fresh poutine in the car for the rest of the trip.
For my Sunday spread, I wanted to try and improve those three ingredients. I sliced and baked my own sweet potato fries, then used packaged chicken gravy, and because I couldn’t find the elusive curd cheese, bought mozzarella cheese instead (I’m sure though you can find it at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s if you have more time than me). Into the oven for the cheese to melt and I’m ready for some football. I didn’t use one recipe, barely dirtied any dishes, and all I had to do was throw a few pans in the oven and everyone was happy!
I have to be honest though, and say that my garlic knots burned and I ate the safe ones myself while waiting for my poutine cheese to melt. And the sweet potatoes were a little too sweet for the poutine, with the gravy and the cheese. I called my grandmother to admit the small defeats from my football feast and she reassured me that all I had to do was set out some extra beer and no one would notice my mistakes. I think I’ll take that advice with every meal I make.