Cooking With Maddie Newsletter #43

Cait's Watermelon Salad and Anna's BBQ Chicken

Hi friends! 

You may not know this, but I am not the only person who loves to cook in my house. Both of my roommates, Anna and Caitlin, love to cook, and they’re honestly very, very good at it. Not an evening goes by without one of us in the kitchen whipping something up, and so for this week’s newsletter, I thought it was about damn time they got the spotlight. 

The first recipe we’re sharing with you today is Caitlin’s Watermelon Salad. We started making this dish after realizing how much we loved the watermelon salad from Katie’s Pizza and Pasta— and with us not living in the Lou, we knew if we wanted it, we’d have to make it ourselves. 

This salad is definitely a “knife and fork” sort of salad— something I’ve grown to really love. There’s something about needing a knife and fork to eat a salad that makes it feel less like a salad, right? We slice the watermelon into large slabs and top it with a heavy helping of arugula, mint and feta cheese. The whole thing then gets smothered in olive oil and balsamic. What more could you want? 

When it comes to picking out a watermelon, we stick to this rule of thumb — the uglier, the better. We like our watermelons to be sweet and juicy, so we go for ones that feel heavy for their size, have a big yellow spot and sound hollow when you give it a knock. I don’t know who created those rules, but they’ve never let us down. 

For Cait’s Watermelon Salad, here’s what you’ll need—

  • 1 seedless watermelon, cut into slabs — see directions and photos below 

  • 5 oz arugula 

  • 6 oz crumbled feta 

  • A few sprigs of mint 

  • Olive oil 

  • Balsamic glaze 

  • Salt and pepper 

Let’s start by chopping the watermelon. We cut as many slabs as we have people, and the rest gets cubed and put in the fridge for future snacking. Or throw it in the freezer for homemade frose.

To cut the watermelon into slabs, start by cutting off the top and bottom. Now that you have a flat edge, set the watermelon upright on one of the flat sides. Starting at the top, cut down, following the shape of the watermelon to remove the rind. Continue to peel the watermelon, turning as you go to make sure you remove all the rind. We usually will have to go back through and cut off excess rind before cutting into slabs. 

Once the watermelon is completely “peeled,” lay it on its side and cut into large slices. Set on individual plates. 

When your watermelon is cut, toss the arugula with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper. Coat everything with your hands — if you haven’t realized it yet, this is how I dress every single salad I make. 

Top each watermelon slab with a handful of arugula. Top with crumbled feta, mint leaves and douse everything with a glug of olive oil, balsamic glaze, salt and pepper. 

And if you’re wondering what goes perfect with the watermelon salad, well, that’d be Anna’s BBQ Chicken. Anna is the ultimate grill master in our house, and after she made this recipe the other week, I was begging her to make it again. 

Here’s what you’ll need— 

  • 3 pounds chicken, bone-in and skin-on — we used a combination of wings and thighs, but you can also use leg quarters, breasts, etc.

  • 1 cup ketchup 

  • ½ cup brown sugar 

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons honey 

  • 1 teaspoon salt 

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper 

Start by patting your chicken dry with a paper towel. Coat each piece with salt and pepper, and bring to room temp. 

Heat your grill to ~400 degrees. Make sure your grates are cleaned and oiled. To oil grill grates, dip a paper towel into neutral oil. Using grill tongs, wipe the grates with the oiled paper towel. This prevents sticking. 

Set chicken pieces on the grill. Depending on what pieces you use, timing on direct heat will change. For thighs, we grilled them for about 10 minutes per side. For the wings, we did about 7 minutes per side. To be sure your chicken is cooked, use a meat thermometer to make sure each piece has an internal temp of 165. 

While your chicken is grilling, you can make your sauce. In a medium pot, add your ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper. Stir until well-combined. Cook over medium heat until the sauce reaches a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool. 

In the last minute or so of grill time, cover each piece of chicken with your sauce using a basting brush. Cook for a few more minutes, and then remove from heat. 

These two recipes are just the start. Both Caitlin and Anna make some of my most favorite dishes, and I can’t wait to keep sharing them with you all. I’m sure at some point in time, your inbox will be blessed with Cait’s taco bowl recipe or Anna’s italian beef sammies, but until then, give the watermelon salad and BBQ chick a whirl— I promise, they won’t disappoint.

And just to be sappy for one second, besides literally feeding me, these two girls have gotten me through it all. On nights when my anxiety is sky high, they let me take full control over the kitchen, giving me the space to chop, whisk, roast— you name it— until I feel better. They make me laugh when I feel like crying. They’re always, always there. They don’t get enough credit for supporting me, especially when it comes to writing this newsletter, so I thought I’d take a brief second here to let you all know that for every recipe you find in this newsletter, you should actually be thanking them — not me. Get yourself some friends who do this for you— it makes all the difference.

For what’s been giving me life this week, it’s been all the action that the All Star Game has brought to my favorite city. It was exploring the new McGregor Square, followed by sipping a brown butter old fashioned. Yes, you read that right. Brown butter + Old Fashioned. It was staying up way, way too late with friends, who just so happened to get into our wig collection. I don’t know if we should be proud or embarrassed by having a wig collection. 

It was spending many hours at The Golden Mill, and even more at Highland Tavern. It was making BA’s best risotto, a quiche and several tomato toasts — my favorite summer snack. It was stocking the kitchen with Montgomery Inn Barbeque Sauce — thank you Paul! 

And lastly, it was my very best friend, Marin, so bravely donating stem cells after finding out she was a match through Be The Match. I am so proud of her, and she’s inspired me to sign-up myself. Join the registry with me.

Wish I was with you,