March Madness

I’m not talking about NCAA basketball, believe it or not. Being a child of the South, specifically a child of North Carolina, it’s blasphemous to mutter those two alliterative words and not reference basketball. Plug: that fervent fandom is still in my blood, blood which bleeds Duke Blue (GO DUKE!!).

What I’m talking about now is the fervent fandom of spring and summer. Spring in Alaska is also called “break up” because all the snow and ice melts and everything is a soupy, muddy, littered mess until late April, early May. The landscape might not be pretty, but the air is slightly warmer and the days are longer. It’s agonizing, really, because it’s warm(er) outside and we can’t really get out and enjoy it because everything is covered with slush and mud.

Today, the sun rose at 8:09 and will set tonight at 7:52; our days are nearly 7 hours longer than they were 90 days ago. Since we’ve lived like moles for several months, the sun’s arrival comes with a litany of side effects like anxiety, irritability, and insomnia. Around Fairbanks, we call it March Madness because our offices and classrooms buzz with an uneasy energy because WE JUST WANT SUMMER TO GET HERE!! I’d imagine it’s the same effect when you reach mile 23 of a marathon and you’re tired, out of steam and just ready to be finished. I’ll know better in September because Chris and I are running our first. Damn it. I just committed to running it, didn’t I?!

Anyway. Yesterday, it was 30 degrees outside when I got home from work, which meant it was warm enough to grill. Crazy, huh?! What many in the lower-48 consider winter weather, we consider the perfect opportunity to grill out.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I crave chicken wings 24-7. If I ate them as often as I craved them, I’m sure I would have a heart blockage as impenetrable as the Grand Coulee Dam. Since I’m not training for that marathon yet, I wanted to cook something on the lighter side. Thanks to Google, I see I’m not the first to try similar recipes, but here’s my take on it. Cheers, in celebration of spring, basketball, and everything else that makes us happy (and a little crazy) about this time of year.

The Hot Gobbler


This is a two part recipe, only if you want to season the meat with ranch dressing.


1 lb. ground turkey or ground chicken
1/2 small onion, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. ranch dressing mix (recipe below)
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
Extra sharp cheddar cheese, cut in 4 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup hot sauce (recommended: Crystal)
2 Tbsp Butter
Prepared ranch dressing (recipe below)

How to:

Go ahead and light up the grill.

In a bowl, combine turkey, onion, garlic, ranch dressing mix (only the powdery mix, not prepared), celery salt, cayenne, black pepper,  and parsley. Mix to combine.

Divide meat into thirds (size does matter!) and roll into balls. Grab a hunk of cheese and press in the center of the meat ball. Form the ball into a burger patty so the cheese is not exposed. This is important because you don’t want all that gooey goodness to leak out  while it’s on the grill. Once patties are formed, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Meanwhile in a saucepan, melt the butter and add the hot sauce. Stir to combine. Divide in two. Half will be used to glaze the meat while it’s grilling, the other half will be used when it’s ready to eat.

Once the charcoal is ready or the gas grill is hot, place the burgers on the grate. Cook about 7 minutes per side. After you flip the first time, brush some of the hot sauce-butter mixture onto the burger and continue to grill. A couple minutes before the burger is done, flip again and brush on more sauce. Cook long enough or until the burger is a nice cayenne color.

Once they have rested,  pour the remainder of the hot sauce-butter mixture on top of the burger. Top with a big dollop of ranch dressing and enjoy.

Ranch Dressing Mix (Mad props to Gimme Some Oven)

1/3 cup dry buttermilk
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried chives
1 tsp. salt

Whisk all ingredients together until blended. If you want a more finely-ground seasoning mix, you can pulse the mixture in a food processor until it reaches your desired consistency.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

**To Make Ranch Dressing: Combine 1 Tbsp. seasoning mix with 1/3 cup mayo and 1/3 cup milk, and whisk to combine. You can also substitute Greek yogurt or sour cream for the mayo.

While I was cooking, I was listening to:
patty-1384551991Patty Griffin has been my favorite artist for the past 8 years. Her album releases are those anticipated pleasures I’ve found in my adult life to resemble the excitement of a childhood Christmas Eve.  This album, in particularly, got me really excited because it was ready to go in 2000 but wasn’t released until last year. The thought of Patty’s music in corporate limbo makes me sick to my stomach, but in any case, it was well worth the wait.

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