Bold 'n Sassy Chicken Wings

RNS Chicken Wings

With this main ingredient, there's no need to go hunting or fishing.  Well, unless you happen to have a few chickens to round up.

We guarantee you won't be disappointed with this simple and easy chicken wing recipe.  It's perfect for a cookout, family meal, main course, or an appetizer.  Just be sure to have enough for all of your guests!

INGREDIENTS

Frozen Chicken Wings

Reel 'n Smoke All-Purpose Seasoning

Reel 'n Smoke Bold 'n Sassy BBQ Sauce

Step One

These can be cooked either frozen or thawed. If you have the foresight to take them out of the freezer and let them thaw that is the way to go, if not we can make it work. Set the grill on medium high (or medium if you like a nice char) and add the wings. If using frozen wings start at a medium temp and work your way up as they thaw and hit them with a dose of Reel 'n Smoke All-Purpose Seasoning. This not only adds to the flavor of the BBQ wings but gives you a nice flavor if you want a few plain ones.

Step Two

Wait until the outside of each chicken has been thoroughly cooked and has been seasoned before applying any Bold'n Sassy BBQ sauce. One of my favorite things about this sauce is how thick it is. It really sticks to food while it is cooking.  Now is the time to brush each wing with a healthy coating of sauce. Cook for 6-8 minutes, flip the wings and repeat the brushing. I brush each side twice throughout this process. You are looking at a total cooking time of around 30 minutes for frozen wings, less for unfrozen wings. Feel free to flip and move them around as you see fit based on the hot spots within your grill.

Step Three

Serve the chicken wings with a side of Reel 'n Smoke Bold 'n Sassy sauce, ranch, and blue cheese dressing for dipping. The Bold 'n Sassy sauce does have a nice kick to it (it seems wrong to have wings without some spice). It's not too hot, but you know it's there! Celery and carrots are a must anytime wings are on the table.

BEER PAIRING

Have you ever heard of chicken wings without beer? I didn't think so. To compliment this meal, I looked to one of my favorites, the red ale.  The Big Red Coq from Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids is what I propose drinking with these chicken wings. It's hoppy for a red ale, but still has that malty smoothness associated with red ale's.  This beer selection is great for just about any meal, but especially Reel 'n Smoke's chicken wings!

GRANDMA ELLIOTT'S CAST IRON VENISON

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Simple. Tasty. Traditional.

There's a lot of things I won't ever forget about my grandmas cooking, and each of them have one thing in common, a cast iron skillet. While no two cast iron skillets in this world are the same, there is no doubt that the years of cooking imparted something special to this one. Not only is this cast iron skillet associated with home cooked meals, but it brings back special memories of pre and post hunt breakfasts that will never be topped!

While I won't be using that same cast iron skillet, it's legacy does live on as my brother still uses it. The principles, though, stay the same; meat/eggs, grease/butter, and a healthy dose of seasoning produce amazing results. In this recipe we are going to use venison steaks and not super thick ones either (1/4 to 3/8 of an inch), there is no need to use the loins for this recipe. Please save those for the grill! We will end up with steaks cooked most of the way through, however they will be tender and taste great. You can also use just about any other cut of red meat out there and have excellent results. The bonus is you'll have a half hour at most into the prep and cooking of this recipe!

One last thing before we really dive into it, huge thanks to Andrew and Chad of Sedulous Media Group for these awesome whitetail hunting pictures. These guys have some amazing skills when it comes to outdoor photography and capturing the moments of why we hunt.

INGREDIENTS

1 white onion (sliced or diced)

Venison Steaks

Flour

Reel n Smoke Seasoning

Butter

Mushrooms (sliced)

Step 1

It's time to break out the butter! Heat your cast iron skillet with 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter. As the butter is melting add your onions and mushrooms. It really doesn't matter how the onions are cut, but I prefer sliced as it is less prep work. You'll want to see these starting to cook and turn brown, about 5-8 minutes or so.

Step 2

While the mushrooms and onions are browning it's time to prep our steak. Grandma would always just use salt and pepper, but we've made some advancements since then. I'm going to apply a healthy dose of Reel n Smoke Seasoning to achieve the right amount of flavor. Next I'm going to put a thin coat of flour on them. Add flour to a plate and just flip both sides of the steak in it so it has a light coating.

Step 3

Move the mushrooms and onions to the side of the skillet and add another chunk of butter. When that has melted it's time to add the steaks! I keep the heat at medium high to high throughout the whole process. Browned/burned bits and pieces are a good thing with this recipe.  Typically after 5-6 minutes you'll see blood pooling on the top side of the steaks. That means they are ready to flip.

Step 4

The thickness of your steak will determine how long this step takes. At a minimum we are talking another 5 minutes. Also don't hesitate to flip it a couple more times to soak up some more of that cast iron flavor. We aren't trying to make it a one flip operation with some fancy grill lines in this recipe.

Step 5

Remove the steaks from the heat and top with the onions and mushrooms. Allow to rest and cool down for a couple minutes and serve.  

 

BEER PAIRING

This time we are sticking pretty close to home and along the lakeshore for our beer pairing. We are going with the Ryecoe IPA from Big Lake Brewing in Holland, Michigan. The Taproom is currently located a bit north of Lake Macatawa, but they are on the move to downtown Holland soon. I highly recommend their taproom, not only for the great beers, but the reasonably priced growlers if you want to take some home (it's hard to find good deals on those most places). Rye P.A.'s just might be my favorite style of IPA, I can't exactly put my finger on why however. There is a combination of the hops, malt, and rye spicyness. They are just right in this one and it is very well done for the style. It's an easy drinker, comes in 16 ounce cans (always a bonus), and is easily found in stores throughout west Michigan. I wouldn't hesitate to drink this beer with any meal as it is simply just one of my favorites.

Great Lakes State Beer Battered Fish

Wintertime in Michigan means one thing to me, ice fishing! It's a great time to get out on the ice, have some fun, and catch the best eating fish of the year. Although we have had an early spring this year and can no longer get out on the ice. We still have the cold water that produces the firmest and best tasting fillets you can get. I'm not saying you won't get great tasting fish the rest of the year, but they are prime under the ice. Also there's no extra worry about keeping them cold after the catch, since they are already on ice.

We are lucky here in Michigan to have a ton of options for harvesting great tasting fish. Bluegills, perch, crappies, walleyes, pike, whitefish, and burbot all work great for this recipe. Burbot are definitely the best tasting on that list, but the hardest to find. My most used in this recipe are perch and bluegills. That being said you can also use store bought fish with this recipe, just be sure to use a white fleshed fish. Cod is easily found and is excellent fried.

Correctly cleaning, storing, and prepping your fish is extremely important to have great tasting fish. Once I've filleted my fish, I always give them at least 3 good rinses in cold water. This helps to rinse away blood, scales, and oils from the fillets. From there I put them in freezer bags and freeze in water, you won't get any freezer burn this way. After you have thawed them make sure to give them another good rinse or two. Again make sure it is cold water, one common theme with fish is keep them as cold as you possibly can. It will keep them from ever getting mushy.

INGREDIENTS

Fish Fillets

2 tablespoons Reel 'n Smoke Seasoning

1 12 ounce Lake Brothers Lager

1 cup flour

1 Egg

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon salt

Oil (peanut preferred)

Step 1

First thing is first get that oil hot! I load my deep fryer with peanut oil and crank it up to its max setting at the 375. One tip I learned the hard way is never use an extension cord with a deep fryer, you won't get the heat up all the way and your fish will turn out mushy. My deep fryer beeps when it's ready, but if you happen to be pan frying or using a simple deep fryer you'll need to test the oil. Wet your hand and shake a couple of drops of water into the oil, if it really pops and crackles after hitting the oil you are ready to fry!

Step 2

While the oil is heating mix the flour, Reel n Smoke, salt, paprika, egg, and Lake Brothers.

Step 3

Remove the fish from the refrigerator, where they've been kept cold. Give them a rinse if you haven't already and drain the water off. If I am using large fillets like walleyes or whitefish I might pat them dry with a paper towel (and also cut them into smaller chunks). Smaller fillets go right into the batter as long as they aren't too wet. Remove from the batter and dunk them in the hot oil. When they float the fish is done inside, but you want to keep them going awhile so the batter gets crispy. Cooking time is typically 3-5 minutes depending on how much was added to the fryer.

Step 4

This is where it starts to get fun! Take the fish out of the basket or pan and place on a cookie sheet or bowl covered in paper towel. This will help to soak up some of the excess grease. A good cook wouldn't serve their guests without sampling some at this point. Typically if I am doing the frying, I've eaten my fill before I actually serve the fish. I always encourage everyone to get some samples too, it is best immediately after being taken out of the oil.

SERVING TIPS

These are going to taste amazing on their own. But it never hurts to mix it up with some sauce, you really can use anything your taste buds prefer. However tarter sauce is the go to for fish, although a mixture of sriracha sauce and ketchup is my favorite. Keep some lemon wedges handy for anyone who wants a splash of lemon on their fish. As for sides I like to keep it pretty simple with salads, French fries, or potato salad.

BEER PAIRING

When choosing a beer to go with this recipe I wanted something that would encompass the whole process. I wanted a good, refreshing,  and easy drinking Michigan beer. Something that everyone would enjoy and appreciate, a well done and full flavored lager was the natural choice. I found what I was looking for in Lake Brothers Lager and I think not only does the beer itself fit this recipe, but their slogan "HonestBeer, Honest Folk". There is just something pure about a fish fry that just matches up perfectly with this, and the Great Lakes theme is an added bonus. It also fits in well in the ice shanty!

Reel 'n Smoked Salmon

Salmon is one of the most popular fish to eat in the United States. While there are many different ways to prepare them, smoking them is at the top of my list.

Here in Michigan we are fortunate to have salmon in the Great Lakes. However, this recipe is not limited to just salmon. Any fish that is oily enough to smoke well, will work with this recipe. Other Great Lakes fish that I would recommend are lake trout, steelhead, brown trout, cisco, and whiteifish. One thing I will stress is that if you aren't able to catch your own fish for the smoker avoid buying farm raised salmon at the grocery store. Instead, look for a leaner cut of wild salmon. If you have big sections of fat between each muscle segment the smoked fish will turn out very greasy. Another option is to hire a charter captain who knows Great Lakes trout and salmon well. For Lake Michigan check out Captain Kyle Buck and Great Lakes Guide Service in Muskegon.

Most of my salmon fishing occurs when the fish are staging in Muskegon Lake in late August and early September. Fishing can be really awesome if you happen to hit it right. It is the only time of year where anglers with any size boat, or even pier anglers, can target them as they enter the lake. One of the biggest keys to having the best tasting salmon fillets is to simply snip one of the gill arches with a pair of side cutters as soon as you catch them.  This causes the fish to bleed out, leaving the mess in your cooler and not your prized salmon fillet. Before freezing them I chunk the fillets up in 3 to 4 inch sections with the skin on. Also make sure you keep them cold; either vacuum seal or freeze them in water.

 

INGREDIENTS

1 Gallon Water

Salmon Fillets Chunked (Skin-On)

Reel 'n Smoke All-Purpose Seasoning

3 Cloves Garlic (Crushed)

Red Pepper Flakes

1-1/4 Cup Kosher Salt

1-1/4 Brown Sugar

Step 1

The first thing we have to do is create a brine for the fish. I encourage you to get creative with this as there are a ton of flavors that can be added. You must use a non metallic container for brining the fish, I use a 12 quart pail I picked up from a home improvement store. It works great to hold a large amount of salmon and the brine. Add the water to the pail and mix in the salt, brown sugar and crushed garlic. Also add red pepper flakes and Reel n Smoke seasoning to taste. Next, rinse the salmon fillets in cold water and then add to the brine and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Step 2

Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as grabbing these bad boys out and throwing them in the smoker. Unless you want some really salty tasting smoked fish, first give each fillet a rinse in cold water. Next, pat dry with a paper towel and place on a drying rack. This is an important part of the process as the fish needs to form a pellicle. Before we form that pellicle though, liberally season the fillets with some Reel n Smoke seasoning. This will give it a little extra flavor and enhance the appearance of your fish. I promise you, people will comment on how much that adds to the fish! From there you want to have a fan blowing over them for 1.5 to 2 hours. You want them to be tacky to the touch and shiny looking. The pellicle will help to absorb the smoke flavor into the fish and gives an appetizing texture to the end result.

Step 3

Now we are ready to throw it in the smoke! I prefer to use apple chips when smoking fish and like to get a decent smoke going in my electric smoker before I put the fillets in.  Smoking is an art, not a science. Things are going to vary based on wind, temperature, and environment.  The end goal is to get the fillets temperature above 150 degrees for at least half an hour to ensure it is safe to eat. I start out slow with the smoker set at 140 for a couple hours and gradually bump it up from there to achieve my desired doneness and temperature. This process usually takes anywhere from 6 to 8 hours as I prefer dryer smoke fish vs fish that is still dripping some grease when being served. Gradually bump up the smoke temperature throughout the process and finish for the last couple hours with your temp settings anywhere from 185 to 200 degrees based on the environment.

Step 4

Once your fish is done, remove it from the smoker and place it on the drying rack again. Allow enough time for your fish to cool to room temperature. Once it settles down to room temp either refrigerate or vacuum seal the salmon for future use and enjoy!

 

SERVING TIPS

Smoked salmon is best served cold and an amazing treat on its own. We like to mix things up when we serve it to guests though. We usually incorporate it into an appetizer platter complete with many different flavors. Crackers and any mixture of buffalo, beef, or chicken Reel 'n Smoke jerky are the absolute essentials. Other recommendations are wild game sausage, cheese, and olives.

 

BEER PAIRING

Since when I serve smoked salmon I am also mixing other flavors on an appetizer platter. I want a beer that is crisp, refreshing, and will cleanse the pallet between different foods. Oh, The Citranity! is an American Pale Ale from Beards Brewing in Petoskey, Michigan that fits the bill perfectly.  While you can enjoy it right from the source in Petoskey, they also distribute it to various places throughout the state.  You may have to search to find it, but we found it at Horrock's Market in Grand Rapids.

Jeff Elliott's - Crisped Up Wild Duck

A quick search of wild duck recipes will reveal a lot of recipes that attempt to mask the flavor of a duck. I'll be the first to tell you that if you are trying to mask the flavor of duck you are cooking it wrong! Ducks don't need to always be wrapped in bacon, smothered in sauce, or otherwise extremely doctored up. That being said this recipe isn't for all species of birds since they all have a little different flavor. Mallards and wood ducks are my preferred species to use with this recipe. So here we go, this one is simple but is sure to impress your taste buds and your guests.

First off, you need the right ducks. Birds without pinfeathers are what you are looking for (mature birds in mid to late season typically work well). You also don't want birds that are shot up.  Ideally you want to use the whole breast without having to cut wound channels out. So finish them in the decoys and shoot them in the beak.

Once you've harvested some ducks simply pluck the whole breast area and then remove the breasts with the skin still on. I also like to take a blow torch and burn off any of the remaining fuzz at this point. From here birds can be frozen, aged for a few days, or you can start cooking them after they have been breasted.

Now when you cleaned those birds you made sure to save that little strip of meat that is the inside tenderloin right? Remove those from the breasts or, if you haven't already, put them in a plastic bag with a bit of olive oil and a liberal amount of the Reel 'n Smoke seasoning (it has just the right amount of salt and spices) . These can either be treats for the chef or can be shared if you are feeling generous, they are the best part of the whole bird!

INGREDIENTS

Skin on Mallard or Wood Duck Breasts

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Reel 'n Smoke Seasoning to taste

Pinch of Salt       

Step 1

Pat duck breasts dry and score the skin in a cross hatch pattern. Slice through the skin but not the meat, this helps the duck fat underneath the skin render. Apply a liberal amount of Reel 'n Smoke seasoning to both sides of the duck breast. Also I've always found letting meat adapt to room temperature for a half an hour makes it is easier to achieve the proper level of "doneness" throughout.

Step 2

Add olive oil and heat the pan on high for a minute or two then add the duck breasts skin side down. Reduce the heat to medium/high and let them cook for 6 to 7 minutes depending on the size of the bird. You'll also want to add those tenderloins, cook them for about a minute on each side. Add toothpicks to the tenderloins, plate, and serve as an appetizer. They won't last long!

Step 3

Flip the duck breasts and sprinkle a bit of salt on the skin, this will help it crisp up. Also since the breasts are uneven you'll need to use a pair of tongs to sear all sides of the duck breasts. Cook on this side for another 4 to 6 minutes to achieve a medium rare doneness. Time and heat may vary based up on your heat source and the size of your birds. However do everything in your power to not let them get past a medium doneness.

Step 4

Let the duck rest for a few minutes, plate, and serve! You can get fancy and pre-slice the breasts before they are plated, or serve them whole.

Step 5

Grab a glass of red wine, or a Michigan made craft beer and enjoy! You'll notice the skin is nice and crispy and the rendered duck fat/skin adds a whole new flavor to things. Perfect this recipe and you'll realize you don't have to wrap ducks in bacon for them to be delicious.