Life

‘Chopped’ Champion Charleen Caabay Shares How To Make THC Infused Chicken Wings

Cooking with cannabis has never been easier. Weed’s slow but steady march toward federal legalization has put us in a place where things like cannabis-infused butter, oils, and extracts are readily available in every state with a legal recreational market. The days of stinking up your entire apartment complex or house block for hours by slow extracting THC out of cannabis on your stovetop are over, cooking with cannabis is as easy as cooking with any other herb!

That said, we’re still going to need good recipes. Especially if you’re someone who doesn’t really know their way around the kitchen. Or weed.

To help you get high off your own supply, we linked up with culinary genius Charleen Caabay to hit us with some mouth-watering dishes sure to leave us satiated and high as kites. In addition to being a Chopped champion, Chef Caabay has owned two award-winning Oakland restaurants and serves as the co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer at the People’s Ecosystem, an organization that focuses on providing cannabis education services and products for minority-owned cannabis businesses.

Currently, Chef Caabay is working on a cannabis edible and beverage line which she hopes to launch in the first quarter of 2022 (and that we hope to sample). For now, we linked up with her to talk weed as a culinary ingredient and she provided us with a full dinner’s worth of stony recipes. Ready to make THC-infused chicken wings, stuffed macaroni and cheese, and lumpia?

Let’s go!

You come from a long lineage of cooks, but I know you’re also from the Bay Area, so I was wondering how deep your history with cannabis goes as the area is a hot spot for that. When did you become interested in cannabis as a culinary ingredient?

Prior to opening the restaurant I’ve always been an advocate of cannabis recreationally. It just tied in together naturally because I was so fascinated with extracting the cannabis plant, in the legacy market we’d make the infused butter and then you’d go into making brownies and cookies. From that, I just wanted to make it more efficient because there was such a big stigma when it came to edibles.

I started playing with ideas in my restaurant after hours and I was able to extract it in a high dose and I tested it and when I got it tested I was able to dose it at a perfect amount suitable for anybody that was just starting to eat edibles. Food has always been my passion so the two combined. I was able to create recipes that work, as far as the food itself, with a good dose of cannabis.

What are the best extraction practices, is it dependent on the recipe?

It varies. At first, I started with doing the butter. That was just more difficult when it came to dosing, then I got into extracting it as a concentrate. I learned how to extract it in the traditional way, the Rick Simpson oil, so I could get a higher yield.

Once I learned, that it became my preference. Get a high concentrated extract, create a cannabis oil, and from that oil, add it to another oil, butter, coconut oil, or canola oil. It’s more consistent in terms of dosing.

People know how to extract but a lot of times they don’t know what they’re extracting and there are so many strains out there that results vary. It can be trial and error and for somebody just starting, that’s my concern, for the person new to the edible scene they may not have the best experience the first go around.

How do you get a handle on proper dosing == is that challenging or is that something we can we do ourselves?

With dispensaries out now there are so many options. There are clean extracts available, you can get extracts that are solvent-free that weren’t extracted with chemicals or an alcohol base. People can still do it at home but I highly recommend getting something that has been tested and gives you solid numbers whether it’s 500 mg THC per gram or 100 mg THC per gram, it can vary. Take that concentrate and that oil and mix it in with your own home products, like butter, coconut oil, or canola oil. It’ll make the math easier.

How do you work with cannabis flavors? Are you incorporating the terpenes into your dishes or are you looking for a more neutral extract so it’s more about the medicinal quality?

I go both ways, I love variety. There are times when I want to taste the cannabis, so I’ll go with the traditional method and extract it from the butter. But on the occasions, I don’t want to taste it at all and I just want, like, a bowl of soup that’s medicated, I’ll go the concentrate route with fewer terpenes.

I’m for terpenes because it’s a healing component when it comes to creating edibles, but it’s a preference. Some people don’t want to taste cannabis at all. As far as me, I like variety — I like the options.

What’s the mission behind the People’s Ecosystem?

Before our rebrand, The People’s Ecosystem was known as the People’s Dispensary. Myself, my co-founder and our colleagues wanted to build generational wealth, and through The People’s Dispensary, we hoped to support the community with the impact fund we were granted. However, as time progressed, we learned impact funds are extremely challenging in terms of licensing in different cities and more. We decided to pivot during the pandemic and created The People’s Ecosystem. Like cannabis oils, we are a full spectrum company that dabbles in a bit of everything. Our mission is to support BIPOC and women-led companies by helping them transition into the legal market and providing funds to aid sustainability.

The industry can be very challenging — they don’t make it as easy as it seems.

What’s the easiest cannabis recipe to start with?

If you’re starting just go with the classic butter. If you have an infused butter you can use it on a lot of things. Even if you don’t use butter you can use medicated olive oil and you can use that oil to create a dressing or salad. Butter can mix in a stir fry. Use it as a cooking agent, that allows you to create so many things. A butter to a piece of toast and you’re good to go.

What would be a perfect way to experience this delicious food? Should we smoke before we eat it or rely on the high of the food itself, what’s your suggestion? Are you a post-meal smoker or a pre-meal smoker?

I’m a regular user so I can go before or after! It’s always great, I love medicating, and I love having a joint as I cook, but let’s say if I don’t, I’m not an everyday smoker. I do love the process of creating the dish and once it’s done, cool, I can have a seat in front of the tv, put a movie on, and then I know once I’m done with my meal I’m going to be nice and cozy I’m good to go. Then have a joint after or maybe I’ll just pass out.

Anybody that does eat something medicated, you have to have a plan. I know some people say “I’m going to eat this its medicated and I have all these chores to do.” Well, if you’re a functional stoner by all means, go ahead, but you have to understand the state of mind you’re going to be in.

For me, I’m highly functional… most of the time!

Roasted Tamarind Chicken Wings

Weed Infused Wings
Photo Courtesy Of Charleen Caabay

THC: 10mgs

Ingredients:

  • 2lbs – whole chicken wings
  • 2 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • ½ cup tamarind paste
  • ½ cup brown coconut sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 Tbsp Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbls Cannabis-infused Coconut Oil – 5mg/Tbls

Prep:

Clean chicken with cold water. Salt and pepper chicken wings. Coat chicken with olive oil and mix in half of the chopped garlic. Put in the refrigerator to marinate for about 30min.

Heat a small saucepan with water until boiling. Add coconut sugar, tamarind paste, ginger, and garlic to the mixture. Reduce the mixture until the sauce thickens. Add pepper for taste. Add infused coconut oil.

Turn heat off and set aside.

Cook:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the cooking sheet with foil. Put chicken wings on the cooking sheet. Brush chicken with the tamarind mixture. Cook for about 15min and glaze the chicken thoroughly. Cook for another 15 min and add more glaze. Finally, cook for about 10min and add the rest of the glaze.

Baked Stuffed Mac n Cheese

Weed Infused Wings
Photo Courtesy Of Charleen Caabay

THC: 20mgs, 2-3mgs each

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 lb block of cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 20mgs Cannabis Infused Coconut MCT tincture

Cook

Cook the elbow noodles until soft. Cut a block of cheddar cheese in big chunks, melt on the stove. Once melted add the cannabis tincture to cheese and mix. Put in a small rectangle container. Let cool in the refrigerator.

Heat a medium saucepan, with butter, and ½ cup flour to make a roux. Add the shredded cheese and milk. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat off. Add the elbow macaroni and mix well. Spread in a pan and let cool.

Prepare 3 bowls for a coating station. One with the remaining flour. The second bowl with the eggs, mix well. Third bowl with bread crumbs. Have a baking sheet ready. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Prep cooled cannabis-infused cheese and cut into eight 1-inch cubes. Make ½ cup balls with the chilled mac n cheese. Cover each cube of cheese in the middle of the mac and cheese ball. Make firm. Dip in egg mixture, then flour, back to egg mixture, then breadcrumbs. Repeat eight times, making eight balls. Flash freeze in the freezer for about 30min.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake mac and cheese for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Coconut Corn Pudding Eggroll / Maja Blanca Lumpia

Weed Infused Wings
Photo Courtesy Of Charleen Caabay

THC: 20mgs, 2-3mgs each

Ingredients

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can condensed milk – ube flavor
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 package Eggroll wrapper
  • 2 cups Cooking oil
  • ½ cup 20mgs Cannabis-Infused Butter

Cook:

Heat a medium saucepan over heat. Mix together coconut milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, and corn in a pan. Bring to a slight boil. Add cannabis butter after the heat has been turned off, and mix thoroughly Make a cornstarch slurry by adding water and cornstarch. Add slurry to the mixture slowly, and mix thoroughly till thickens. You want to be sure the thickness is very creamy-like. Place in a baking pan, let cool in the refrigerator.

Prepare eggroll wrappers, and separate. Prepare a small slurry to paste the eggrolls after rolling. When rolling you will add about 2 heaping tablespoons of the coconut pudding mixture to the wrapper. Put in the center of the wrapper, fold over, fold the sides in, and continue rolling. Seal the wrappers with the slurry.

Preheat cooking oil in a medium saucepan. Fry each lumpia until golden brown. Let cool and serve.

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