Kyle Hopkins is a modern-day Renaissance man. His delicious diversions include music, literature, writing, gardening and, of course, cooking. He and his wife of almost 2 years, Emily Farris, regularly embark upon epicurean endeavors. They are also raising a flock of chickens in their backyard.
Hopkins enjoys preparing and indulging in both meat and sweet treats. Raised on Kansas City barbecue, Hopkins isn’t afraid to take tradition and give it a twist: instead of cutting the cake at their wedding reception, Farris and Hopkins cut into a whole roasted hog.
Residence: Kansas City
Occupation: High school English teacher
Special cooking interest: Meats and sweets.
As an English teacher, what is a great foodie book you’d recommend? “Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing” by Michael Ruhlman is the book that comes to mind. It was a school snow day, and I made a pot of coffee and fell in love with this book, as I read it cover to cover.
There are simple drawings throughout, but this book really hit on my love of pork and the art of preparing bacon, sausage, terrines and pâtés. Traditionally, charcuterie refers to the process of preserving different meats, which includes salami, sausages and prosciutto. Charcuterie requires craftsmanship and uses processes that involve salting, cooking, smoking and drying.
But today’s definition of charcuterie isn’t just limited to meat products; it’s being expanded to include other preserved foods, from olives to almonds.
Did you grow up in a creative culinary environment? I am the oldest of three kids, and my mom, Ruth Hopkins, issued the challenge when we would fuss about what was for dinner. “If you don’t like it,” she said, “why don’t you try and make dinner yourself.” So I remember being in charge of making the menu, shopping for the ingredients and bringing my culinary creation to the table.
At the beginning, all I would make was fruit salad, but as a 10-year-old I remember becoming empowered when I made sausages on the grill by myself for the first time. That inspired me later to perfect my “beer can chicken” recipe, and friends have since built me a contraption so I can smoke 24 chickens at once. I guess you could say that sausages were my gateway meat.
You have traveled to different parts of the world. Do you always bring your Kansas City barbecue sensibilities with you? After I graduated from college, I lived in Seoul, Korea, for 18 months. Of course, Koreans have their own idea of what barbecue is, and I can still remember breathing in all the delicious, smoky smells through my open, closet-sized apartment window. Like Kansas City, Korea is very barbecue-centric, and I was gladly initiated into the cult of Korean barbecue.
My Thanksgiving in Seoul was particularly memorable in that I made my version of a Kansas City grilled turkey for about a dozen of my closest American friends living in Korea with me. I cooked a 16-pound turkey inside a homemade grill made from a store-bought hibachi, 20 yards of aluminum foil and a large birdcage I purchased from a street vendor.
I rubbed that turkey down with Jack Stack’s rub and served it with Gates Bar-B-Q sauce, both of which my mom had mailed to me. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, being 6,000 miles away, but tasting that turkey transported me back home for Thanksgiving.
Does this chicken wing recipe have the same transportive powers as those served at the Peanut bar and grill at 5000 Main St.? These wings don’t come anywhere close to what you get when you’re eating and drinking at the Peanut. Like the “Cheers” of Kansas City, the Peanut has a great atmosphere and is the quintessential joint for serving the best wings, in my opinion. When I’m not in town and can’t get to the Peanut, this is my homage to their wings. They are heavy on the pepper but are also buttery, spicy and rich with garlic and cheese.
These are a crowd-pleaser, too. Emily and I love to entertain, and it’s fun when we have foodie friends over and we try to out-wow each other. But more than that, food is meant to be a comfort and source of camaraderie between all those gathered to eat. I live for those creative moments in the kitchen and the magical moments at the table.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a syndicated home column. To nominate a cook, email her at email@example.com.
As Close As I Can Come to the Peanut’s (bar and grill) Chicken Wings
Makes 6 to 8 servings
3 pounds chicken wings
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dill pickle juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons garlic vinaigrette dressing
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, Romano and/or Asiago. Can use one or a combination of cheeses
1/4 cup Sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons hot sauce for mild wings, 1/4 cup for medium or 1/2 cup for hot
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Place wings in a large resealable plastic bag and set aside.
To make the marinade: In a large mixing bowl, whisk oil, pickle juice, Worcestershire sauce, vinaigrette, salt and pepper together. Pour over chicken wings in bag and seal. Place bag in refrigerator and allow to chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight, turning the bag multiple times to ensure even distribution of marinade over all chicken pieces.
Prepare a hot fire on one side of a charcoal grill and set grate on highest setting. Carefully place marinated wings directly over hot coals and turn them regularly for about 4 minutes, allowing them to brown.
Move wings to side of grill without coals. Place lid tightly on grill, open up vents half-way and smoke meat over indirect heat for 15 minutes. At 7 minutes, remove lid, turn wings, replace cover and continue to grill over indirect heat. Remove wings from grill into a deep serving dish and cover with lid or aluminum foil to keep warm.
To make the sauce: Melt butter over low heat in sauté pan. Add garlic and sauté until it becomes fragrant, but not browned. Transfer contents into the bowl of a food processor. Add parsley and cheese(s) and pulse until well combined. Pour in hot sauces and season with salt and pepper. Pulse until combined and desired heat is achieved.
Pour prepared sauce over wings and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately with optional bleu cheese dressing and celery stalks on the side.
Note: For the marinade and sauce, Hopkins uses Garlic Expressions vinaigrette dressing, Kraft packaged Parmesan, Romano and Asiago cheese blend and Frank’s Redhot Sauce.
Per serving, based on 6: 375 calories (83 percent from fat), 35 grams total fat (14 grams saturated), 83 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 922 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.