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Recipes: Wings, pub cheese, and other snacks perfect for watching football

In an excerpt from his new cookbook, Townsman chef/owner Matt Jennings shares foods he loves to eat while watching the Patriots.

Grilled Chicken Wings with Cider Barbecue Sauce.
Huge Galdones
Grilled chicken wings with cider barbecue sauce.
Matt Jennings’s new cookbook, “Homegrown: Cooking From My New England Roots.”

Two of the best things about living in New England are the snap of autumn air and football. My grandfather was a huge fan and took me to my first game. We sat on the hard, freezing benches of Sullivan Stadium eating pretzels. But most of the time we watched in my grandfather’s study in Dedham. He would shout at the television, and my grandmother Evie would make her famous pub cheese.

Her cheese and my grilled chicken wings are two of my favorite foods to serve during a Pats game.

The wings are grilled and served with a cider barbecue sauce, which makes them both healthier and more flavor-driven than their deep-fried counterparts. But make no mistake: you’ll still need plenty of napkins.

GRILLED CHICKEN WINGS WITH CIDER BARBECUE SAUCE

Serves 6

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I’m going to let you in on a secret: contrary to what every sports bar in America would have you believe, the best chicken wings don’t come out of the deep fryer, but off the grill. These wings are marinated overnight in spiced citrus juice, which tenderizes and flavors the meat, and the sugar in the marinade caramelizes when the chicken is cooked.

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Though the wings are flavorful enough on their own, serve them with a tangy apple cider and molasses barbecue sauce, since every wing deserves a dip. Because the marinating and sauce-making are done ahead of time (and because wings are crowd-pleasers for adults and kids alike), this is a great recipe for a party.

2½   cups fresh orange juice

1         cup pineapple juice

¾      cup fresh lime juice

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½      cup rice vinegar

½      cup plus 2 tablespoons kosher salt

8        garlic cloves, smashed

2        tablespoons brown sugar

2        tablespoons shoyu (white soy sauce)

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2        sprigs oregano

2        sprigs thyme

1         tablespoon whole black peppercorns

2        lemons, halved

1         teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground

5½ pounds chicken wings, tips removed

1         tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1         teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼      cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Cider-Molasses Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows), for serving

In a large pot, combine the orange juice, pineapple juice, lime juice, vinegar, ½ cup salt, garlic, brown sugar, shoyu, oregano, thyme, peppercorns, lemon halves, cumin, and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Pour the marinade into a gallon-size zip-top plastic bag or large bowl. Add the chicken wings to the cooled marinade, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for direct medium-high-heat grilling. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons salt, the ground black pepper, and the cayenne. Remove the chicken wings from the marinade and lay them on the baking sheet; blot them dry with more paper towels. Sprinkle the wings with the salt mixture on all sides and grill, turning often, until charred and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the chicken wings to a serving platter and sprinkle with the cilantro. Serve with the barbecue sauce.

CIDER-MOLASSES BARBECUE SAUCE

Makes about 4 cups

3        tablespoons canola oil

1         medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

2        garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2        tablespoons ancho chili powder

1½    pounds plum tomatoes, halved, seeded, and chopped

½      cup tomato paste

2        cups apple cider

1         cup chicken stock, plus more as needed

½      cup red wine vinegar

½      cup packed dark brown sugar

3        tablespoons blackstrap molasses

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When the water has cooked off, add the garlic and chili powder and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes more, then add the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, for another 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the cider, stock, vinegar, brown sugar, and molasses. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and has the texture of ketchup, about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, carefully transfer the sauce to a blender and puree until smooth (alternatively, you can blend the sauce in the pot using an immersion blender). If the sauce is too thick, thin it with an extra splash of stock; if it’s too thin, return it to the pot and cook over low heat until it reaches the desired consistency.

Season the sauce with salt and pepper and pass through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl, pushing it through with a rubber spatula.

The sauce can be used immediately or transferred to a lidded jar and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Warm the sauce over low heat before using it on the wings or brushing it onto grilled chicken or pork chops.

EVIE’S PUB CHEESE

Evie’s pub cheese. © 2016 Galdones Photography
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Evie’s pub cheese.

Makes 4 cups; serves 8 to 10 as a snack

The South can keep its pimento cheese: I have my grandmother Evie’s recipe for pub cheese, a concoction shared at every family gathering and holiday party for as long as I can remember. The cheese spread is a terrific snack, good for toting to tailgates or potlucks. Serve with your favorite cracker; in my family, it’s always Wheat Thins.

1½    pounds finely grated Colby cheese

1         cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann’s

½      cup sour cream

½      cup cream cheese, at room temperature

½      small white onion, grated on a box grater

2        tablespoons finely minced red bell pepper

2        tablespoons minced cornichons

2        tablespoons cornichon juice

1         scallion, finely chopped

2        teaspoons onion powder

1½    teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1         teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika

1         teaspoon Dijon mustard

1         teaspoon ground turmeric

1         teaspoon celery seed, crushed

1         garlic clove, minced

10     dashes of hot sauce, plus more to taste

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crackers, for serving

In a large bowl, combine the Colby cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, onion, bell pepper, cornichons, cornichon juice, scallion, onion powder, Worcestershire, paprika, mustard, turmeric, celery seed, garlic, and hot sauce.

Fold with a rubber spatula until well mixed; season to taste with salt, black pepper, and hot sauce.

Serve the spread at room temperature with crackers. The cheese spread can be made up to 4 days ahead and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before serving.

CORNBREAD

Cornbread.  2017 Galdones Photography
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Cornbread.

Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan; serves 12

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

4 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups fine yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups buttermilk

¾ cup honey

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with butter.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, both sugars, and the eggs until well combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk. The mixture should be smooth.

Transfer to the prepared pan and drizzle the honey over the top. Bake about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack, then cut into squares and serve.

Matt Jennings is the chef/owner of Townsman in Boston. Recipes excerpted from his new book, “Homegrown: Cooking From My New England Roots” (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Send comments to cooking@globe.com.