Paula: Black beans, gooey cheese, barbecue sauce...this spicy, satisfying one-skillet meal pushes all the right buttons. Lightly adapted from my friend Ali Slagle’s Cheesy, Spicy Black Bean Bake this recipe is easy to assemble (from pantry ingredients), and a crowd pleaser for game day or binge watching your favorite Netflix series (“Parks and Rec,” anyone?).

For the best flavor, be sure to fry the garlic until it's deeply golden and saute the tomato paste and spices until they’re very fragrant. A splash of Tupelo Two-Step, our hot honey barbecue sauce, pulls all the flavors together. Sure, you could bake the skillet in the oven, but the final results will be tastier if you allow the mixture to meld on the grill, over indirect heat, absorbing the flavor of a charcoal fire.

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Paula: In most recipes, grilled meats are brushed with sauce towards the end of the cooking process so the sweetners (sugar, honey, molasses, etc.) don’t scorch and blacken over the fire. This time-honored method is solid, but what if you want your chicken to sing with more sauce? Marinating chicken thighs (or drumsticks) in sauce infuses the meat with a deeper hot-sweet flavor and results in a richer, more tender texture. To avoid the scorched skin scenario, cook the chicken over indirect heat.

Bonus: the meat needs less babysitting (“can I get anyone another beer?”), because it’s cooking at more moderate heat. If the skin needs additional crisping, give the thighs a quick spin over direct heat the last few minutes of cooking, flipping as needed to prevent the skin from becoming overly black.

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Scott: Tacos Al Pastor are the charismatic spiritual leader that all other tacos long to follow. They nourish the soul with their sweet, sweet pineapple and succulent strands of smoked pork and they remind us all that we are one people. Good timing on this one, Paula. Al Pastor is the taco we need right now. 

Paula: Indeed, a taco that’s both panacea to the masses, and star of any given weekend. Although, initially I was daunted to attempt these beauties at home. Authentic tacos al pastor are made by cooking a vertical, rotating stack of ultra thin pork slices in front of a rotisserie. Nothing rotates in my kitchen, and my knife skills don’t lend themselves to deli meat-style slicing, so I had to come up with a cheat that delivers the same results.

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Paula: I used to eye massive packages of meat (we’re talking Costco quantities here) and wonder, “who buys that much?!?” Now, low and behold, it’s me. In the interest limiting trips to the grocery store and sweating under my mask, I’ve become a big fan of grilling off a week’s worth of some kind of “workhorse” protein, knowing we’ll use it to top salads, eat cold with noodles and/or make bahn mi sandwiches.

Scott: Remember that scene from the movie Rocky where Sylveseter Stallone is training for the fight of his life using enormous slabs of meat as punching bags? I wonder if you’ve ever been inspired to do a training montage during one of your Costco trips. It would make a great companion piece to this recipe.

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