Mike’s Atomic Chicken Buffalo Tenders

This is a tried-and-true recipe that never fails to please. The secret is the second-run through the egg wash. It allows the breading to set up better. The result is a fantastically light, crunchy coating enhanced by the addition of corn starch which helps keep it from getting too dense, while locking in the juices.  You can use a digital meat probe to test for doneness. The chicken should be golden-brown and read 165° F in the thickest part. If you trim the pieces as indicated, you will not have any issues.  You’ll also get great results using wings — keep in mind they cook faster, so watch them carefully.

A note on the wing sauce — this is a favorite of mine from Buffalo, New York; the undisputed wing capitol of the United States. It is, however, by no means “suicidal.” It has plenty of heat and a lot of tang; the balance being just right for my taste. Try it. I think you’ll agree.



2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1.5 quarts peanut oil
Original Anchor Bar Suicidal Buffalo Wing Sauce

~For the Egg Wash:
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 – 3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tbs. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

~For the Seasoned Flour Dredge:
3/4 cup white flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp. garlic granules
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp. ground ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

~For the Breading:
equal parts plain, unseasoned bread crumbs and Japanese Panko bread crumbs

~For the Sides:
Buffalo Bleu Cheese Dressing
Thinly sliced scallion as a garnish
4-inch celery stalk planks



Using a large cutting board, lay out the chicken breasts and cover with a double-folded piece of plastic wrap. Pound flat with a meat mallet. This ensures even cooking with no underdone spots in the middle.

Cut the chicken into 1″ strips against the grain to ensure they are tender. Then trim the strips so they are about 3 to 4″ in length.

Prepare the egg wash mixture by whisking the eggs in a wide, shallow bowl. Add the buttermilk and lemon juice. Whisk again. Add the chicken pieces. Coat well and set aside for at least 20 minutes.

Prepare the flour dredge ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well. Prepare the breading mixture in another bowl.

Preheat 1.5 quarts of peanut oil in a heavy cast-iron 4-quart chicken fryer until the temperature reaches 375° F.

Using a tongs, remove the chicken pieces from the egg wash and dredge in the flour mixture until evenly coated. Shake off the excess flour and set them aside on another plate while you work. Then quickly dip the tenders back in the egg wash and roll in the breading.

Working in batches of 3 or 4 tenders, carefully dip them into the hot peanut oil. A Chinese spider-strainer works great for this. Cook for no more than two minutes per batch, turning once at one minute until golden-brown. Remove and set aside on paper towel.

Place the tenders in a large mixing bowl and add the wing sauce to taste. Carefully toss until evenly coated.

Serve with the Buffalo Bleu Cheese Dressing and celery planks.
Garnish with the green scallion, sprinkled over the top.


Serves 4 comfortably.
Each breast will yield about eight tenders.

Note: Culinary Compost never endorses products for profit, and has received no monetary compensation for the content of this post.

Mike’s Firecracker Beef Stir-Fry with Broccoli, Scallion

Firecracker Beef with Broccoli and Scallion


This Asian recipe can be quite hot – adjust the chilies according to your preference. Your wok must reach a temperature hot enough to quickly sear the steak and flash-fry the vegetables. I’ve found that cooking indoors on a stove just doesn’t accomplish this task. A charcoal grill and a cast-iron wok are perfect.
I use prime cuts of New York strip steak to ensure optimum flavor and tenderness.

Enjoy – this recipe is killer.


1 10-oz. New York strip steak
10 small dry Thai chilies
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbs. brown sugar

1 head broccoli, trimmed
10 fresh market green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
4 scallions, trimmed and quartered, then split lengthwise
1 green or red bell pepper, sliced into 1/2″ strips
1 large carrot, peeled and quartered, then cut into thin planks

2 cups beef broth
2 tbs. corn starch

2 cups 5-minute rice, cooked according to package directions
Peanut oil


Using a very sharp knife, trim the steak of excess fat. Cut into 1/4″ strips against the grain. Cut in half if the length of each strip is too long. Whisk the brown sugar and soy sauce in a small mixing bowl. Place steak in a 1-qt. ziplock bag with the soy sauce mixture, garlic and hot Thai chilies. Seal and let stand for 3 hours in your refrigerator. Rotate occasionally.

Wash, prep and cut all of your veggies so you have them ready. Allow all ingredients to stand at room temperature before cooking.

Prepare an outdoor charcoal gril with enough coal for a medium-hot fire. When the coals are white hot, place the wok on the grill grate. Do not spread out the coals – you will need the heat concentrated directly under the wok so the steak sears properly. Allow the wok to heat until a drop of water vaporizes immediately on contact.

Add 2 tbs. peanut oil to the wok and swirl to coat. When the oil starts to ripple, add the green beans, carrot and pepper and stir for about 5 minutes until just crisp-tender. Remove from heat and place in a covered serving bowl.

Remove the steak and chilies from the ziplock bag and add to the wok. Discard the soy sauce. Spread out and let sear for three minutes. Turn with a non-stick spatula and let sit another three minutes. Remove from heat and place in the covered serving dish.

Add the beef broth and corn starch mixture to the wok. Stir constantly until thickened -about two minutes. Add the scallion. Stir. Add back the steak and other vegetables and stir until just heated through. Remove from the wok and serve immediately over rice.

Serves 2-4


Firecracker Steak Stir-Fry - prepping the ingredients

Prepping the ingredients.

Firecracker Steak with Stir-Fry Veggies

Flash-frying the veggies.

Firecracker Beef with Stir-Fried Hot Asian Chilies

Adding the steak and chili peppers.

Garlic Dill Pickles

Classic garlic dill pickles in vintage canning jars that are over 70 years old.

Classic garlic dill pickles in vintage canning jars that are over 70 years old.

This is a classic recipe from my aunt. I haven’t canned in 15 years and decided to take it up again. It’s a fair amount of work but a lot of fun. If you, like I, don’t have room for a cucumber patch in your garden, support your local farmer’s market. The selection I purchased this year was quite good despite very cold and wet growing conditions in June.

My aunt’s recipe was labeled as “kosher pickles” but this is a misnomer. True Jewish kosher-style deli pickles are not brined in vinegar and are always fermented and then chilled for several weeks. They are never hot-canned.

After sealing, be sure to leave them untouched in a cool, dark storage area for at least two months before opening so the flavors have time to set.  They will keep for at least one to two years if the seal is undamaged. Once opened, store in your fridge for up to six months.

These make fantastic gifts and my hot pepper pints are a welcome treat in the middle of winter.  Enjoy!



1 quart 5% vinegar
3 quarts filtered water
1/2 cup canning salt
1 tsp. Alum (Pickle Crisp may be substituted; measure and use according to directions)

30-40 small pickling cucumbers, about 3-5″ in length, dark green, firm and bumpy
1-2 heads fresh dill per jar
2 whole large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed, per jar
1/4 cup sliced white onion, per jar
1/2 tsp. whole peppercorns, per jar
1/2 tsp. dry coriander or celery seed, per jar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard seed, per jar
1 large dry bay leaf, crumbled, per jar
1 fresh wild grape leaf, per jar (the tannins in the leaf act as a natural crisping agent)
1 trimmed garden habañero pepper, per jar (optional)


1 large canning kettle, with wire rack insert
Glass canning pint or quart jars with new lids and rings
Magnetic lid/ring lifter (used to remove from boiling water bath)
Canning tongs (used to remove hot pint or quart jars from canning kettle)
Small vegetable scrubber brush
Sharp paring knife



The brine measurements indicated above will made about 5 quarts of pickles, depending on volume packed in each jar.

Prepare your ingredients and brine solution prior to final assembly so you have everything ready and at hand.

Wash the glass jars, rings and new lids in hot soapy water. Rinse thoroughly.

In a medium sauce pan, bring a quart of water to a rolling boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the jar rings and lids. Sterilize for two minutes. Turn off heat.

In a large, non-reactive 6-quart soup pot, add 1 quart of 5% distilled vinegar and 3 quarts of filtered water. Bring to a rolling boil and add the canning salt and alum. Stir well and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

Wash and scrub the cucumbers in cold water. Trim 1/8″ off of each end. Slice, chunk, or leave whole based on your preference.

Add the grape leaf, onion, crushed garlic, and dill to each jar. Add the dry spices. Pack the cukes tightly in the jar until filled up to the neck of the opening, leaving about 1″ headroom. Stuff any voids with more onion. Top off with dill. Wipe the jar rim with a clean damp cloth.  Fill carefully with brine 1/2″ to the rim. Gently tap jar to ensure any air pockets are removed. Center jar lid and screw down ring until only finger-tight, taking care to ensure that nothing blocks the contact point of the jar rim and lid.

Process in hot water bath according to directions (10 minutes rolling boil for pints; 15 minutes for quarts.) Water bath should reach the very top of the jar neck. Remove immediately with jar tongs and set aside on a towel until cool; about 8-12 hours. After ten minutes or so, the lid should pop down, forming a vacuum seal. When fully cool, inspect lids and ensure there is no play in the center of the lid.  If the lid pops or moves when pushed it is NOT sealed. Refrigerate any unsealed jars for future use. They will keep for up to six months chilled.


Helpful Tips:

15 minute boil for quart jars; 10 minutes for pints, per directions.

Cut the tips off of each cucumber to avoid softening. There is an enzyme in the blossom end of the cucumber that must be removed by trimming. You only need to trim 1/8″.

Use small, bumpy cukes for best flavor. Avoid larger ones with yellowing – they are overripe.

Ensure air pockets are removed from jars before sealing with lids by tapping the jar lightly on the counter.

Lids must be sterilized in boiling water for at least two minutes. Do not touch the contact seal on lids after sterilization. Use a magnetic lifter wand to handle lids and jar rings when removing from hot water.

Coriander seed, bay leaves (crumbled), mustard seed, dill seed and peppercorns may be added as a home prepared pickling spice.  DO NOT USE commercially prepared pickling spice as it may contain cinnamon or cloves. True “Kosher-style” pickles do not have these two spices.

Use only pickling salt! Do not use regular table salt or kosher salt. Measure carefully according to directions based on volume.

Kirby cukes are traditionally used for pickling.

If you notice a dark, cloudy discoloration in the brine, or your pickles have an odd smell on opening, DO NOT USE.  Dispose of the contents without tasting. Food poisoning isn’t worth the risk.

Lids may only be used ONCE. Rings may be used every season, provided they are not rusty. Inspect glass jars for chips or cracks and discard if necessary. Glass jars may also be reused indefinitely.

NEVER set a hot glass jar that was just processed in boiling water on a cold counter. It will crack or explode. Always place on a thick dish towel or oven hot pad and allow to fully cool before handling.

Have fun and don’t burn yourself!

Wild grape leaves growing on a fence line. The natural tannins in the leaves assure crisp pickles.

A wild grape vine growing on a fence line.
The natural tannins in the leaves assure crisp pickles.

Mike’s Mayan Hot Sauce

Mike's Mayan Hot Sauce | Culinary Compost

This is a hot sauce based on Melinda’s® White Label, which is one of my favorites. Its ingredients and preparation are authentic to the Yucatán province of Mexico. Use caution when blackening the habañeros – your kitchen must be properly ventilated or you will be knocked flat by choking, searing fumes – I would advise preparing them on an outdoor grill in a heavy cast-iron pan instead. You’ve been warned!

Will easily keep for several months in your fridge. May also be used as a dipping sauce in moderation.



10 home-grown habañero peppers, stemmed
1 medium onion, cut into eighths
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbs. XV olive oil
Crushed black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. salt, to taste
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground turmeric (optional)
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar



Stem the habañero peppers. Peel and cut the onion into eighths. Peel the raw garlic. Wash, peel and chunk the carrot and set aside.

Heat a heavy cast-iron pan over medium-high heat with 2 tbs. of olive oil. Add the vegetables and habañero, a pinch of salt and black pepper. Allow to char slightly until lightly carmelized, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a food processor, add the red wine vinegar, lime juice, remaining salt and sugar. Turmeric may be added to brighten the color, but is not necessary. Add the carmelized peppers, onion, carrot and garlic and puree until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, a small amount of cold water may be added.

Extremely hot. Makes a little over 1-1/4 cup.
Bottle and store in your fridge. Allow to set up for 4 hours before serving.

Mike's Mayan Hot Sauce Recipe | Culinary Compost

The habaneros, onion and carrots blackened in cast-iron over medium-high heat.

Mike's Mayan Hot Sauce Recipe | Culinary Compost

Ready for the food processor.

Cast-iron pan blackened habaneros

Safety Outdoors: Cast-iron pan blackened habaneros on a charcoal grill

Hot Oyster Snack Crackers

This is a snack recipe that was widely circulated on a number of foodie websites. It appears to have originated from Hidden Valley’s website. After trying a revved-up sample from a friend who put her own kick on it, I’ll share my version. I cannot stop eating them.


1 packet (1 ounce) Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
1 16oz. bag premium Oyster crackers
1 cup canola or XV olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
Dash of Lawry’s seasoned salt, to taste
Dash of El Yucateca XXX Habañero hot sauce, to taste


Whisk the canola oil, dressing mix and dry spice ingredients in a bowl until blended. Add the hot sauce to taste and stir well. Preheat your oven to 250° F. Pour the canola oil seasoning over the crackers in a larger mixing bowl and fold carefully until the crackers are well coated. Place evenly on a cookie sheet and warm in the oven for 15-20 minutes until just golden. Remove and serve.

Serves 6-8

Green Dragon Hot Chili Dipping Sauce

I reverse-engineered this simple dipping sauce recipe from a local Chinese restaurant, with a little help from my waiter. I was shocked how hot it was the first time I tried it. The pungency of the green Thai chili is punctuated by a heady, acrid bite that lingers on your tongue long afterward. Try with spring rolls or as a side to your favorite Asian entree.


10 fresh small hot Thai green chilis
1 large chunk of fresh ginger, peeled – about 1″
2 large cloves raw garlic, peeled
Splash of rice wine vinegar


Wash and trim the stems off of the Thai chilis. Place the chilis and the remaining ingredients in a food processor and puree. Let stand ten minutes and serve.

Serves 2-4

Arizona Baked Corn Dip

This is a great recipe that keeps well when reheated the second day. The green chili and jalapeño add just the right amount of zip for even the pickiest guests.

And now for my helpful tip: Being the chef who actually made this stunning appetizer, you have first dibs. Strategically grab a ginormous serving spoon — or better yet, a gravy ladle. Cut to the front of the line, load up a plate and don’t worry about embarrassing yourself — you’re going to be eating that much anyway, so you might as well beat everyone else to it. Trust me — they’ll respect you for it.



1 can, 15-1/4 oz. whole kernel corn – drained
2 cans, 4 oz. each, chopped green chilis, drained
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tbs fresh chopped jalapeño pepper
1 cup mayo (please do this dish justice and don’t go with the low-fat version)
1/2 cup grated hard Parmesan cheese
1 4 oz. can sliced black olives, drained

Snack tortilla chips or crackers



Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a bowl, combine the corn, chilis, red pepper, Monterey Jack cheese and fresh jalapeño. Stir in the mayo and grated Parmesan cheese.

Transfer to an ungreased 2-qt. baking dish and level. Sprinkle the top with the black olives. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until heated through, slightly brown and bubbly, and most of the liquid has cooked off. Remove from the oven and let stand for ten minutes to set, before serving.

Serve hot with tortilla chips or party crackers.

Serves 8.