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The sun is shining and the mosquitoes are out. That can only mean one thing: It’s grilling season.

Summer is the time when many local residents break out their grilling and BBQ gear and get to work on recipes. A few locals shared the secrets that make flavors pop at their homes.

Wings

From hot to sweet, exotic to fried, boneless to breaded, chicken wings have seen it all. Whether slathered in sauce or dry-rubbed, this staple of celebrations and events is well loved by grillers and easy to make for a Fourth of July or Labor Day weekend cookout.

Barb Krause, co-owner of Nature’s Heat in Necedah, has created some award-winning grilled chicken wings over the years.

“These chicken wings are the best recipe we’ve ever had,” Krause said. “They’re tangy, and delicious.”

Nature’s Heat sells pellet stoves, and Krause got her start grilling as a means to test out the barbecue pellet grills her company offered.

“We’d experiment with everything,” Krause said. “Turns out you can bake anything, from cookies and pies, to grilling any type of meat with pellets.”

Her experimentation led to some great meals, with none standing out to Krause more than the chicken wings. The wings are a little bit sweet, which comes from the addition of honey and molasses, have a slight kick of heat from hot pepper sauce and chili powder, and have an acidic tangy bite that comes in part from the addition of vinegar. Her recipe takes about 5 minutes of prepping, and an additional 45 minutes of grilling time.

After gaining some experience with grilling over pellets, Krause was invited to participate in the Necedah Lions’ “Chicken in the Park Amateur Backyard Barbecue Contest.” She decided to enter her grilled chicken wings in the contest because of their “amazing flavor.”

Her wings have won two third place prizes and a second place prize in three years of entries into the Necedah Lions’ grilling contest, with hopes of winning additional awards in upcoming entries to the contest.

Lettuce

Four years ago, Kari Walker saw an online recipe for grilled romaine lettuce.

The oddness of the recipe struck her so much she decided to give it a try. It’s now a favorite side dish she makes for her husband, Mike, and three children during grilling season. She said it’s a great, fast side dish for any type of meat from steak to chicken to pork.

“I think anything works with this,” Walker, who also owns the Touchdown Tavern and Restaurant in Reedsburg, said.

She starts by cutting and rinsing the lettuce, using a salad spinner to wring out excess water. For her family of five, she cuts three heads of lettuce. In a bowl, she mixes two to three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and about a tablespoon of seasoning.

“You don’t want it swimming in oil but you want a little bit of oil to have that cooking medium,” Walker said. “You want to see the seasoning but you don’t want it to be crazy.”

Her favorite types of seasoning are Montreal Chicken and Tastefully Simple seasoning salt, but any type of seasoning can work, she said. Walker said people can also make their own seasoning; salt and pepper work great too.

She puts the lettuce in a grill basket, setting it on the grill for three minutes at 375 degrees. She stirs the dish for another three minutes on the grill. Walker said the key to the recipe is keeping an eye on it so the lettuce doesn’t burn.

Walker said guests are surprised when she serves the dish and are taken aback by its unexpected taste.

“I think one of the things that’s fun about cooking is the opportunity to sort of surprise and delight people,” she said. “I think when you can do something for people that they haven’t had before I think it’s more fun.”

Potato salad

Sauk City's Press Box Chef Guthrie Larson has a recipe to share that will spice up a side dish often treated like an afterthought: potato salad.

“The first job I was head chef on was actually a co-op in Viroqua, and we had a summer staff party,” Larson. “I wanted to kind of show off what I was doing so I brought this potato salad.”

Larson’s version of the classic summer side dish offers a few refreshing twists.

“Chipotle is one,” Larson said. “It’s got some seasoning on it, coriander, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, cilantro and instead of just throwing in boiled potatoes and raw onions (I) roast off the potatoes and onions and roast the bell peppers which gives it a little more flavor.”

At the co-op party Larson debuted his recipe, he was happy to report there was none to take home. “It can go with pulled pork, ribs, anything you can slap on the grill,” Larson said. “It’s got that fun little sweet and savory spice thing going on that works with pretty much anything.”

For those who aren’t fans of typical potato salads, Larson recommends giving this one a try because the texture and flavor offer a different experience.

The recipe can be adjusted to be less spicy as well. Smoked paprika can be substituted for regular paprika if the former is not available.

Larson said potato salad has typically been treated as a filler food at cookouts, but it doesn’t have to be that way. “It’s just something that’s there because you don’t want everybody to eat all your burgers and brats because they’re a little more expensive,” Larson said. “This potato salad has a lot going for it… you see it and you get excited for it… you could eat it by itself.”

Once a fresh batch of the potato salad is made, it keeps for about a week. Larson said a good leftover dish with the potato salad would be a burrito with chopped chicken or beef.

BBQ

Located in the same building as Knuckleheads trampoline park, Lake Delton's Buffalo Phil’s brings a unique concept to area restaurants that you won’t really be able to find anywhere else. Food comes up to customers on the back of a LEGO train set, serving everything from pizza to seafood, but with a heavy focus on barbecue.

Buffalo Phil’s prepares three different varieties of barbecue: pulled pork, beef brisket and St. Louis-style ribs. All of their meat is smoked in-house, in kitchen equipment the staff has a loving attachment to.

“At Buffalo Phil’s Pizza & Grille we smoke our own pulled pork, beef brisket & St. Louis ribs,” marketing director Jillian Murphy said. “We use Southern Pride Smoke Chef smokers, we have two of them and our prep staff lovingly named them ‘The Twins.’”

The three different varieties of barbecue all produce different results from a similar process. All three preparations are dry-rubbed with what Murphy calls a “proprietary blend” of spices and smoked over the course of 14 hours at only 190 degrees.

According to Murphy, this process makes the meat fall-off-the-bone tender and imparts a signature smoky flavor.

“We pull our pork at Buffalo Phil’s, so it’s served as tender, juicy shreds of deliciousness,” Murphy said.

The brisket is smoked and sliced in-house alongside the pulled pork, before being coated in Buffalo Phil’s Smooth & Spicy barbecue sauce. This leaves the St. Louis ribs.

St. Louis-style ribs are one of the major rib cuts, alongside baby back. A St. Louis rack is defined by the removal of the rib tips, sternum and cartilage to create a distinctly rectangular shape. Buffalo Phil’s adds the Smooth & Spicy to the ribs before serving, but Murphy encourages customers to add any of the five other sauces they offer.

“All of our barbecue is served with Handi-Wipes,” Murphy added with a laugh.

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