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In the Kitchen: Recipes for a Labor Day weekend cookout

Can you believe it’s Labor Day weekend already? Do you have your weekend meal plan yet? Well, if not, I hope you will consider trying some of these recipes.

Paul doesn’t do much cooking around here, but there are some dishes he is pretty famous for. Paul’s grilled, bone-in chicken breasts is one of his most famous dishes. 

Before you think how boring chicken is, you must try this recipe. Granted, there are a few steps to the dish, but it is definitely worth it. Brining the chicken might seem like an unnecessary step, but if you are familiar with brining, you already know why it is so worth it.

When you soak chicken in a salty brine bath, you can be sure the chicken will be moist and seasoned — it also helps you to not overcook the chicken  — a common misstep made by many.


Paul’s famous chicken

4 bone-in chicken breasts

1/2 cup sea salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

Handful of peppercorns

2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons olive oil

Rub (recipe follows)


In a large bowl or pot, combine salt and brown sugar with lots of cold water. Stir until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Add peppercorns, bay leaves and chicken breasts. Cover and refrigerate for four to eight hours. 

When ready to cook, remove chicken breasts from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Rub chicken on all sides with olive oil and then sprinkle liberally with rub, rubbing to cover all. 

Preheat grill to medium-high heat and grill chicken until done, turning several times, approximately 30-45 minutes. Use a thermometer to make sure chicken is cooked through. 

Remove from grill and cover loosely with aluminum foil and rest for five minutes before serving.


Classic rub

1 ½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons onion 


1 teaspoon garlic 


1/2 teaspoon chili 


1 teaspoon brown sugar

 Combine all ingredients.

 •     •    •

Mexican street corn

4 ears corn on the cob, husks and silks removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 cup Cotija cheese

1/3 cup cilantro, finely minced (optional)


Rub corn with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill corn, turning frequently, until you have nice grill marks on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove to a platter. Spread each ear with some mayonnaise and then roll corn in Cotija and cilantro.

 •    •    •

Cider baked beans

3 cups apple cider

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

4 slices bacon, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper


In a saucepan, bring apple cider to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until reduced. 

Remove from heat and stir in ketchup, brown mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside. 

In a Dutch oven, cook bacon and onion until bacon is crisp and onions are cooked. 

Add cider mixture, beans, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 45 minutes, adding more water if mixture is too dry.

 •    •    •

Roasted pepper macaroni and cheese

4 poblano peppers

2 red bell peppers

5 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup flour

3 cups whole milk, heated

4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 pound elbow 


2 eggs


Heat broiler in oven. Place peppers on aluminum foil lined baking sheet and broil until peppers are blackened on all sides, turning frequently. Remove peppers and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let them steam for 10 minutes. 

Wearing plastic gloves, peel the blackened skins off of the peppers and remove the seeds. Chop the roasted peppers and set aside. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, whisking to combine. Cook a minute or two, whisking constantly. Slowly add hot milk, whisking to combine. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and the chopped, roasted peppers. 

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the elbow macaroni for 6 minutes. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and then slowly add ½ cup of the hot cheese sauce, whisking constantly. Add cheese sauce and the sauce with eggs to the elbow macaroni, stirring to combine. 

Cook over low heat until macaroni is soft, about 20 minutes. Add reserved pasta water if mixture seems too dry.