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Mary Sue Milliken’s barbecue chicken bowl with avocado corn relish

Make your favourite roasted, grilled or smoked chicken and baste it with the adobo barbecue sauce for the final 30 minutes of cooking. Serve with grains, greens and avocado corn relish

“I was a big cyclist when I was 16,” Mary Sue Milliken says. She runs the Border Grill in Los Angeles and Las Vegas with her business partner Susan Feniger and has a new restaurant opening in Santa Monica, Calif., soon. Milliken, 61, is on the board of Share Our Strength and involved with No Kid Hungry, two organizations that work to end childhood hunger in the U.S. But at 16, she was more focused on teenage matters.

“I did one of those silly things that a 16-year-old would do: I had to get as far away from my mom as possible,” she says. “We started in Vancouver and rode our bikes all the way to San Francisco, camping every night.”

As Milliken pursued her culinary career, she left the bike behind for roughly 40 years. Then, she participated in Chefs Cycle, a three-day, 300-mile fundraiser. Today, she continues to ride, roughly 80 to 100 km per week.

Adobo Barbecue Sauce


6 ancho chilies, wiped clean
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp brown sugar
orange juice, freshly squeezed from 1/2 orange
lemon juice, freshly squeezed from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


1. Toast the chilies directly over a medium gas flame or in a castiron skillet until blistered and brown, turning frequently to avoid scorching.
2. Transfer the toasted chilies to a saucepan and add the vinegar and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes to soften.
3. Transfer the chilies and liquid to a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth. Set aside.
4. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
5. Stir in the garlic, cumin and tomato paste. Cook another minute or two, stirring vigorously.
6. Add the puréed chili mixture, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
7. Season to taste with brown sugar, orange and lemon juices, salt and pepper. Adobo can be stored in the refrigerator for one week or frozen for several months.

Makes 3 cups

Avocado Corn Relish


3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 5 ears)
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 avocados, peeled and seeded
1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded
4 poblano chilies
4 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced diagonally
1/2 cup red wine vinegar


1. Roast the fresh chilies over a gas flame or on a tray under the broiler. Keep turning so the skin is charred evenly, without burning and drying out the flesh.
2. Transfer charred chilies to a plastic bag, tie the top closed and let steam about 10 to 15 minutes.
3. The best way to peel the chilies is to pull off the charred skin by hand and then dip the chilies briefly in water to remove any blackened bits. Do not peel the chilies under running water since that will wash away flavourful juices. Once peeled, cut away stems, seeds and veins.
4. In a large skillet, heat 1/2 cup of the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the corn with the salt and pepper, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool.
5. Cut the avocados, bell pepper and roasted poblanos into 1/4″ dice. Add to the sautéed corn along with the scallions, red wine vinegar and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Mix well and let sit 20 to 30 minutes to blend the flavours. Serve at room temperature.
6. Corn relish can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator up to a day. To make 2 to 3 days in advance, mix all the ingredients except for the avocado and store in the refrigerator. Add the avocado shortly before serving.

Makes 6 cups