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Out of Mel’s Kitchen: Spice up your 4th of July with Firecracker Chicken

Firecracker Chicken with Red Pepper Coulis and Goat Cheese | Photo by Melissa Elsmo
Firecracker Chicken with Red Pepper Coulis and Goat Cheese | Photo by Melissa Elsmo
Melissa Elsmo
For Sun-Times Media
June 26 11:15 a.m.

I spent my formative years in a teeny-tiny Midwestern town and every 4th of July my family would enjoy a good-old fashioned back yard cook-out. While the traditional hot dogs, burgers, potato salad were delicious, our festive back yard soiree had nothing on the spicy show our town had in store.

As night fell, our red, white and blue clad community would come out to witness the local fire department launch an array of a few dozen fireworks. The town was so small that we were a little pressed for space and we’d form a tight huddle around baseball diamond with the launcher situated on the pitcher’s mound. The annual display was always stunning by our small town standards. We’d ooh and aah our way through the spectacle until, inevitably, the launcher would malfunction and send a rogue firework for a long, low flight. As the giant streaking sparkler shot toward the dug-out, folks would duck and cover like they were being attacked by a patriotic missile and at least one picnic blanket would burst into flames every year.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of elaborate and tantalizing 4th of July displays, but none of them could hold a Roman candle to those edgy, slightly dangerous firework shows of my childhood. These days my family watches the 4th of July fireworks from a logical distance with little to no threat of fire-related hullabaloo, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bring the heat to my 4th of July cook-out.

Serving up a spicy grilled chicken entrée with a bevy of red white and blue garnishes is an ideal way to add color and spice to Independence Day. My recipe puts chicken thighs to good use, but wings, breasts and drumsticks could be used in this dish with ease. No matter what cut of chicken you choose, the balance of sweet and spicy in the simple marinade give the finished chicken a peppery personality without overwhelming the palate.

Frank’s Red Hot, long prized for its sophisticated Cayenne heat, was used in the original Buffalo wings recipe, making it my first choice for my Firecracker Chicken. Although the hot sauce is used in the both the marinade and the red pepper coulis, true hot heads would do well to brush the finished chicken with some extra sauce or even use some as dipping sauce.

Blue corn chips and white goat cheese marry with the red sauce and spicy chicken to add patriotic flair to your 2014 Fourth of July cook-out. Grill up a batch of Firecracker chicken and wait to hear nothing but oohs and aahs.

Firecracker Chicken with Red Pepper Coulis and Goat Cheese

To round out the red, white and blue theme serve this adaptable chicken with a side of blue corn chips. The red pepper coulis and goat cheese tastes divine as a dip for the chips!

For the chicken:

6-8 Chicken thighs (bone-in/skin-on)

Salt and pepper

1/3 Cup of Frank’s Red Hot

3 Tablespoons of honey

2 Tablespoons canola oil

2 Tablespoons minced red onion

1 Teaspoon chili powder

½ Teaspoon coarse black pepper

For the Red Pepper Coulis:

3 Red bell peppers, washed

2 Tablespoon Frank’s Red Hot (more to taste)

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper

For the Garnish:

4-Ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled

½ Cup diced red pepper

Blue corn chips

Additional Frank’s Red Hot, if desired.

Season the chicken thighs liberally with salt and pepper and place in a resealable plastic bag.

Combine the Red Hot, honey, canola oil, red onion, chili powder and black pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to combine and pour over the chicken thighs. Turn the chicken in the bag to coat well, seal and refrigerate overnight turning the bag occasionally.

Prepare a charcoal grill for indirect grilling, allowing it to cool down for at least 40 minutes or until the coals are ash covered, but still glowing in spots. Place the red peppers directly over the coals and allow to cook, turning frequently until blistered and evenly charred. Transfer the peppers to a paper bag, seal and allow them to rest for 20 minutes.

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