Visiting Ross’s Ranch in Hayden, CO

This is 867-5309. Super friendly mule who was the first to greet me upon arriving.

Recently I visited Ross at his ranch.  He invited me out on a Sunday afternoon, and it was another epic Colorado blue bird day.  It was easy for me to hop in the truck and journey over to his ranch.

He said he lived by Elkhead Reservoir, but didn’t understand he lived at the far side of the lake.  Elkhead Reservoir is a little bit north of Hayden, Colorado.  Taking Walnut Street out of town takes you up a winding country road that ends up on top of a plateau.  The views of the east and south of the Yampa Valley are amazing from this viewpoint.  I’ve been there several times working on real estate projects, so it was easy for me to want to make this journey again.  

The drive into Ross’s ranch is full of views of the reservoir.  Beautiful horizon lines that move around to the east to reveal the Bear’s Ears formation in the distance.  Today, there were just a few boats on the water.  It made me long to be out there because no boat traffic would have been great for some flat water kayaking.  But that wasn’t today.  Today is about seeing mules, dogs, hogs, and cows.

Elkhead Reservior near Hayden, CO

Yes, Ross’s big, friendly personality can be found in his energetic and playful farm dogs.  When I went to visit the bottle calves, they followed me like I was an old friend.  Ross was moving water tanks around the farm when I arrived.  By the time I had visited the calves and played with the dogs, he was ready to give me a tour of the ranch.

Ross in his new Ranger.

We hopped in, with his dogs, his ‘new’ Ranger.  (He just purchased four days prior from a guy he knows nearby.)  He drove me around the bend and up to our first of three gates.  He got out and opened the first one, and after that it was me.  With the electric fence gates, I had to ask if they were live.  He replied they were – Gotcha, and I’ll be really careful.  (I personally hate being shocked by electric current.  Actually, I don’t know anyone who enjoys this.)

We drove about a mile in all and saw hundreds of acres, some with green grass rimmed ponds and streams, some on hilltops covered in sage.  There were some really big cows too!

When we got back to the barn, Ross invited me in his house for tea.  We talked for a bit and I got to meet his wonderful wife.  We shared stories of farmers markets, cows and hogs, and growing up with the rural lifestyle.  

When I was leaving, I got to watch the bottle calves be fed.  When I arrived earlier, these calves were chill-laxing on some hay.  Now they bolted up and were ready to be fed.  They each drained a full bottle (about 60 ounces) in less than a minute!  No chatting around the dinner table, I guess.

After this, I took a beautiful drive home, but not before being invited to help brand cows the next time around.

Sunset at Ross’s ranch.

Sunday Patio Chicken Wings in Spring – Steamboat BBQ

Sunday Patio Chicken Wings in Spring – Steamboat Springs BBQ and Spice

The results of not being able to go out and get a favorite food of mine.

Steamboat Springs Sundays are great days, but I miss sports on TV right now.  I also miss Sunday football games where I would get a regular diet of favorite football food.  Having not made chicken wings in awhile, I grabbed a bag from the (well-picked over) freezer section at the grocery and put them to brining.

Brining is an excellent technique that adds flavor and moisture to poultry.  It isn’t a technique I use much, but today I am really in to some tasty wings.  

Tony Catcher’s is one of my favorite go-to seasonings that I use.  It is excellent with fried potatoes and most poultry.  After pouring a gallon of water into a pot, I added two tablespoons of Tony Catcher’s Creole Spice and two tablespoons of sugar.  Stir, add the wings, and let them sit a few hours.

Brining the wings with some Tony Catcher’s Creole Seasoning

For today’s wings, I set my smoker at 190 degrees and let it warm up.  I then filled the wood tray with apple chips and waited for them to smoke.

As the smoker warmed up, the wings were placed on a a grill rack from the smoker.  They were topped with Boss Lemon Pepper and chili powder.  When the smoker was at temperature, I placed them in.

Seasoned with Boss Chili Powder and Lemon Pepper

It took me some time to figure out why my smoked chicken was bitter- they were smoked too long!  Now, I usually smoke chicken about an hour or so.  Today, I am going two and a half hours because I brined the wings.  The meat has soaked up water and spices and has left less room for smoke to penetrate.

At the end, to make sure all the chicken wings were to temperature, I put them on the grill for about 10 minutes.  It made the skin crispy and made sure the meat was cooked.

On the grill for finishing

For the sauce, Valentina’s Hot Sauce is an inexpensive favorite of mine.  Definitely a traditional Buffalo flavor guy, I tend towards Frank’s Hot Sauce.  Once I found Valentina’s, I converted.  The only other hot sauce that is consistently in the refrigerator is Cholua.

After the hot sauce base, Siracha was added for tang, onion and garlic powder for depth, and that’s it!  I mixed this with a whisk and the end result was an excellent product.  The wings were crisp on the outside and super-soft and full flavor.

To me, chicken wings are a staple on the menu.  I was in college when Buffalo wings first made their way out of New York and into the mouths of hungry Americans.  They were 35 cents a pound!  Oh, those were the good old days!