Spouse vs Spouse: a chicken kerfuffle
August 19th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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This is the debut of Spouse vs Spouse, a series in which a couple of married food freaks, CNN’s Brandon and Kristy Griggs, square off in their Atlanta kitchen for culinary bragging rights - and invite you to weigh in too. Spouse vs Spouse is a combination of three things: cooking, competitiveness and long-term cohabitation (we’d say life-term, but that sounds more like a prison sentence, discuss).

Here’s how it works: In each installment, Kristy and Brandon will each cook a creative variation on the same ingredient or dish – everything from pasta to seafood to cocktails to desserts. We’ll serve both versions anonymously to our friends, who will then judge which one they like better and why. We’ll walk you through our kitchen process, bring the husband-and-wife smack talk and, of course, keep score. We’ll also share our recipes here so that you can try them for yourself.

Most of all, we hope to have fun improving our culinary skills, serving fine meals to (or at least not poisoning) our rotating panel of Padmas, Gails and Toms, and bringing the results to you.

OK, enough polite chit-chat. Let’s do this.

Our theme: Chicken-based finger food.

KristyKristy: My husband and I have always been competitive with each other. Others may say that’s “bad,” but I think it’s usually a healthy way to give each other a hard time. So when I got more into cooking over the last couple of years I suppose it was only natural that Brandon began feeling the itch to cook more, too.

Let me be clear up front: I am the superior cook. Brandon likely wouldn’t know saffron from boron. But he’s persistent - and sneaky - which is why I will be pulling out all the stops.

For our first Spouse vs Spouse challenge, we were planning on having a few friends over to our place, but our guinea pigs had a conflict that night: They were throwing a housewarming party. Not to be derailed, we decided to take to the food to them.

I took the roast chicken and veggie dish I’d been planning for weeks and turned it into roasted-chicken pizza bites, using a wheat dough recipe I found (and do not recommend).

roast chicken pizza

brandon griggsBrandon: First of all, when it comes to our “competitions,” let’s just say Kristy’s got some catching up to do. Usually, they’re not even close. Who wins all the time at tennis? At Trivial Pursuit? March Madness brackets? Predicting the Oscar winners?

I know what saffron is, Miss Superiority - I’ve enjoyed a paella or two in my day. But I’ll be honest: When it comes to bold, innovative cooking, I’m the underdog here. I was a bachelor for a long time, and I fell into some ruts in the kitchen. Mostly, I made what was fast and what I could eat in front of the TV: grilled cheese sandwiches, stir fries, salads and a whole lot of pasta.

But I’ve eaten at enough good restaurants to pick up some ideas. I need to step it up, and I will. "Farm to Table" is my new middle name! I’m channeling my inner Bourdain! (Hey, I’m a poet.) Bring it!

For this first challenge, I figured people at a party would appreciate food they could eat with one hand without spilling their drinks. So I chose fried chicken bites with a sesame-peanut dipping sauce that I made from scratch using toasted sesame seeds, a blender and a bunch of other stuff. The sauce turned out great. The chicken bites, which were too small - bad meat-to-breading ratio - and overcooked, not so much.

chicken bites

KristyThe winner: Kristy’s roasted-chicken pizza bites

Final Thoughts

Kristy: Despite how hideous my dish looked, I easily beat my play-it-safe husband. Chicken nuggets, really?

Brandon: If we were serving this food to a bunch of 8-year-olds, I totally would have won.

Kristy: You shouldn’t use the word “totally.”

On to the recipes!

Kristy’s Roasted Chicken Pizza


1 whole chicken (5-7 pounds)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 garlic cloves (peeled and cut in half)
1/2 head of cauliflower (cut into small pieces)
1 butternut squash (diced)
1/2 onion (diced)
Fennel bulb (fronds removed and sliced thinly and chopped, reserve fronds for garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes
1 cup walnuts (chopped)
Pizza dough - either store bought or homemade



Preheat oven to 425°F.  Rinse whole chicken and place on shallow baking pan. Combine olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Lift chicken skin (beginning at breast and working around both thighs so that the skin is loose enough for you to run your hand under it). Rub olive oil mixture under the skin, covering breast and thighs.

Tie chicken’s legs together with cooking string (recommended but not necessary).

Cook chicken on middle rack until it registers 165°F at the thickest part without the thermometer touching any bones. Remove and let cool for 20 minutes.

Remove chicken (using a knife) from bones and dice.


While the chicken is cooking, chop garlic, cauliflower, butternut squash, onion and fennel bulbs. Place chopped vegetables on a cooking sheet, lightly salt and pepper entire sheet, then sprinkle with red pepper flakes

Drizzle olive oil over vegetables and cook vegetables on separate oven rack at 425 (same temperature as the chicken) for 35-40 minutes. Cooking times will vary, make sure squash is cooked all the way through and that the flavors have melded.

Toast walnuts in toaster oven for five minutes, or until browned. Sprinkle nuts over vegetables; when cool, transfer mixture to a bowl. Add chicken and stir mixture well.

After cooking either packaged or homemade dough, cool and cut it into 1 inch X 1 inch squares. Spoon vegetable mixture onto dough pieces and serve.

Brandon’s Fried Chicken Bites


2 lbs Boneless chicken breasts
6 oz Panko bread crumbs
3 cups buttermilk
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
2 Tbsp peanut oil

Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup water
4 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 Tbsp peanut butter
2 tsp peeled grated ginger root
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp garlic oil
3 Tbsp rice vinegar

Rinse chicken breasts in water and cut into marshmallow-sized pieces. Marinate in mixture of buttermilk and Worchestershire sauce, with a dash of salt and pepper, and let sit in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

Add dipping sauce ingredients to blender and mix until smooth and creamy. You may want to adjust the key ingredients to taste, depending on your sesame-peanut ratio preference and your tolerance for sweetness.

Mix bread crumbs with salt, pepper, mustard, cumin and paprika on a plate (a large zip-lock plastic bag works well, too). Coat the chicken pieces in the mixture until each is covered.

Heat the peanut oil in a large frying pan on medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and cook several minutes on each side, turning with tongs, til light golden brown. Set on paper towels to dry. Serve on plate with sauce and enjoy.

soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Thaddeus Worsfold

    Hello my friend! I wish to say that this post is awesome, nice written and include almost all vital infos. I would like to see more posts like this .

    September 15, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  2. Martini

    The premise for this story is awesome! My fiance and I are contantly having kitchen duels in the name of fun and bragging rights, and I constantly tell him we chould have a Chopped party and have all our guests bring ingredients we can compete in cooking. I thought this would be something similar, and how wrong I was... These first two dishes were not impressive but if I see another story along these lines I will give you two another chance because who hasn't created a bum dish or two in their day... I know I have just don't tell my fiance ;)

    August 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  3. Matt

    Kristy: You shouldn’t use the word “totally.”

    I'd slap her piehole if she said that to me.

    August 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • kgriggs

      Oh, he did! But, I'm used to the whippings; it's part of the reason I tend to stay in the kitchen. At least my cooking is improving!

      August 22, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  4. R

    Thanks for the great recipes. I just made the peanut sauce and can't wait to try it on the chicken pieces from your recipe and grilled chicken. As a mom of 3 I'm always looking for ways to feed everyone and make them all happy. Both recipes look great. Thanks for sharing :)

    August 22, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  5. The Mom/Mom in law

    Just another proud mom & in-law that my daughter & her husband have evolved so well that they are comfortable putting themselves out there for worldwide critiques. I have enjoyed many of their food creations over the years & look forward to many more. Keep having fun you two!!

    August 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  6. JakeF

    Can I vote "None of the above"?

    Sorry, but if this is the best chicken recipes you can come up with, you may want to start eating out more.

    Kristy, a simple introduction of smokiness to the chicken would have made this a runaway winner. Instead of simply toasting the nuts, give them a bit of flavor before roasting. (like a hot & spicy roasted nut, or even sweet & spicy) It's an easy thing to do.

    Brandon, an addition of citrus (orange/lemon or lime) in your dip would have created a new depth to it. Also, substitute a natural sweetener for your dipping sauce instead of half a cup of sugar. (sage or even a lime tree honey) Change the rice vinegar to seasoned rice vinegar and that will help you eliminate the sugar also.

    August 21, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • shawn l

      lol ya because the average person has "sage or lime tree honey." in their pantries.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:42 am |
  7. Paul

    Errrr....Look at the Recipe as shown:

    "Brandon’s Fried Chicken Bites" ?

    Wasn't that KRISTY'S RECIPE ?

    August 21, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  8. Dawn

    Well hate to tell you too, Kristy your dish looks nasty wouldn't feed it to my dog, and Brandon your dip looks like what the dog pooped out.

    August 21, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  9. Bill

    The saddest thing about this story is that these 2 people think they actually know how to cook! Both recipes look, and sound totally gross!

    August 21, 2011 at 7:08 am |
  10. anonymous

    Wow. The state of American cuisine is so sad. I cannot believe these people would actually post pictures of that terrible food and call it their own. That is not pizza. It looks like terrible pie crust. And those have to be the worst looking pieces of deep fried chicken I have ever seen in my life. Cooking is not that hard, it's incredible how clueless some people are. I feel terrible for the "friends" who had to try that garbage.

    August 21, 2011 at 3:52 am |
  11. Henry

    My wife would lose this...she even is a bit proud of it (so am I).

    August 21, 2011 at 3:51 am |
  12. steve


    I would rather go to macdonald's (and I haven't been to a fast food establishment in 15+ years... for a reason)

    August 20, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  13. Stranger than Kitchen

    This is a fun take on improvisational cooking. I do something similar but for strangers rather than friends.
    Strangerthankitchen.com has the tales of my cooking adventures for complete strangers using on what I find in their home.

    August 20, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  14. TI

    put down the forks AND the egos and seek a marriage counselor!

    August 20, 2011 at 6:40 am |

    anyone who really has any cooking skills and is truely versed in the "ART of COOKING" would find these two and their
    disgusting concoctions totally revolting... not to meantion their obvious utter lack of RELATIONSHIP skills....the minds and mouths of two teens home alone attempting to fix dinner for themselves on "MOM'S" bowling night out...HAHAHA

    August 20, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  16. Mjh

    I think if people dont learn to control their minds then what comes out of the mouth from the mind is a garbelled mess and not everthings a joke thats y the goverments taking over because its citizens have lost respect now get a grip and grow up the ones that just feel like giving up take a hike we wont know your gone the rest of us look up to each other for ideas and hope and wont let the morons of this country destroy that

    August 20, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • I'm gobsmacked

      Wow! – A four-line run-on sentence that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Congratulations.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  17. oldguy

    I just ate 8 cheap hot dogs, 2 on bread with ketchup and the remaining 6 dunked in a slop of hot fruits...

    August 19, 2011 at 11:58 pm |


      August 20, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  18. the2 chefs

    my spouse and I met 25 years ago in the kitchen at a hotel. 3 children, 14 years of our own business and multiple jobs later have kept us side by side in and out of the kitchen since the day we met. Sometimes competitive but mostly we feed off each other, spin ideas off each other and compliment each other so not much smack talk but we do think each other does some things better then the other. The kids each feel mom or dad has the best in something even if they both make a similair dish. It's a blast.

    August 19, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  19. shawn l

    The first recipe sounds freaking disgusting.

    The second not so bad.

    August 19, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  20. woohoo

    Doesn't look appetizing nor is this article interesting. My boys in college cook better than that! Won't be reading this series.

    August 19, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  21. woohoo

    Doesn't look appetizing nor is this article interesting. My boys in college cook better than that!

    August 19, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  22. Prometheus

    Bleh...doesn't sound too tasty.

    20-minutes ago I made oven baked cod with a lemon-pepper & butter sauce. I set aside some for dressing the fish when served. To go with it I made Orzo with onions & almonds and A really fresh blend of steamed cut green beans, sweet peas and red peppers. Took about 35 minutes to prepare with a preheated oven.

    August 19, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Not impressed


      August 20, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  23. midogs2

    "Kristy: My husband and I have always been competitive with each other". "Brandon: First of all, when it comes to our “competitions,” when has marriage become a competition between two people who are supposed to complement each other? Marriage is not a game, it's a melding of hearts. Just my pennies worth.

    August 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Dr.Phil@midogs2

      This is the "new" normal for wannabe "super bloggers" or Reality T.V. stars.

      August 19, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  24. Pal Dooghoa


    August 19, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  25. The educated bumette

    Oh, we do this all the time.

    August 19, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  26. Cathy

    Looks so good! I'm drooling

    August 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Use a kleenex

      You forgot to say that you're drooling most of the time. Wipe your chin gramps.

      August 20, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  27. El Guapo

    That food looks nasty and really boring. My wife and I have the East Asia vs the World cook offs. As my family is from Peru originally so my best cuisines are Peruvian and Spanish. But thanks to my dear friends...Indian cuisine is my ultimate secret weapon. My wife is Chinese Chinese and Szechuan cuisine is her secret weapon...There are no losers because we both get to eat great food...

    August 19, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  28. nombombs

    This is such an interesting news article. I can't wait to read more! If you guys could make a restaurant out of your recipes, I would blog about it on my blog! Take a look at my blog http://nombombs.blogspot.com. LOOK LOOK!

    August 19, 2011 at 7:53 pm |


      August 20, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  29. Nunya

    "Others may say that’s “bad,” but I think"

    Doesn't matter what you think, it's bad, save your stupid equivocations.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  30. Dave Guard

    Kristy.. Since when is chicken pot pie a finger food? Because it is put on pizza dough? Hubby wins.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Meghan

      Dude – you've got to actually read the words, not just look at the pictures. Based on recipe instructions I'm guessing these came out more like mini tostadas. If the chicken/veg topping had been piled on a cracker, bagel chip, pita chip, etc. it would greatly simplify the recipe.

      August 19, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  31. Hawkeye1010

    I hate you both. That is all.

    August 19, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
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