Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eating Out The Devil’s Dangly Parts

Yup, that’s right! Hot peppers. Unfortunately the backyard crop is struggling with blossom loss at the moment, so we headed out to the Vallarta Supermarket over on Cedar and Dakota. Talk about reasonable prices! I’ve ogled their ads over the last couple years, wondering at how in the world they were able to sell tomatoes and other nummies at prices that should be making Vons nervous. And since it was my intention to get in some hot saucery practice in before attempting it on TV, I would need some extra for practice-type material.

The first one out was a jalapeno hot sauce just based off of the peppers, a few seasonings and some vinegar. It seemed fairly simple overall, but my first attempt with serranos ended in overly vinegared tears. So this time out I was a bit more conservative with “winging it”. At first, my impression was that it was way too sweet. But allowing it to rest in the fridge overnight really mellowed the flavors together and made a much better sauce. Heat level-wise it wasn’t anything to be afraid of, if you like hot sauce. A few folks who tasted it decried it as nearly nuclear, but I think they were just trying to inflate my chilihead ego.

Jalapeno Hot Sauce

- 12 jalapeno peppers
- 6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 whole lime
-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
-1 tablespoon salt
-1 minced shallot
-2 cloves minced garlic

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Sautee the shallot in olive oil until translucent, then add the peppers and garlic. Squeeze juice from the lime and combine hot peppers with all other ingredients in the pot and simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Place in food processor or blender and beat down until sauce reaches the desired consistency. I prefer a fairly smooth sauce.

So I had the jalapenos locked in, but I’ve REALLY wanted to play with some of the more dangerous peppers. Alas, habaneros have been hard as hell to find through spring and summer so far. But again, Vallarta came through. 12 dazzling little orange gems for me to experiment with and even better, to taunt the wicked entity known as Chuck Leonard, who has an infamous rivalry with the delicious heat demon. I’ve taken to calling them Chuckbane. So how to elevate these bad boys from just a blowtorch in your mouth, dare food? What about some fruit? Maybe some pineapple? And so in my quest to find a pineapple habanero sauce to tweak, I discover something completely unexpected. Carrots. Yes, carrots. It makes a certain amount of sense now that I think about it though. They’re sweet, not terribly flavor dominant and can give you some more bulk and body to your sauce without it having to be pure, nose-melting Satanic heat. This one burns for sure. Still, not anything that’ll make you dive weeping for the milk carton. To be honest, I damn near drooled into a bowl of chips, over my own hot sauce! Possibly a little to sour for an ice cream topping, but readily fixed by omitting the vinegar and most of the salt for the juice from the crushed pineapple.

Habanero Pineapple Hot Sauce

-2 tablespoons olive oil
-2 tablespoons minced garlic
-4 tablespoons minced shallot
-2 tablespoons kosher salt
-1 tablespoon honey
-2 medium shredded carrots
-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-Juice of 2-3 limes
-Juice of 1 grapefruit
-1 16 oz. can of pineapple with juice
-12 halved orange habaneros pith and seeds included

Very similar to the jalapeno recipe. Start off by cooking your shallots in the olive oil until they’re glassy, then add in the carrots, the vinegar and the salt. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the carrots appear to be about halfway cooked. Then add in the peppers and everything else except the pineapple. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add in the pineapple and simmer for another 5 minutes. Once the carrots appear to be cooked and the peppers are pliable, CAREFULLY transfer this to your blender or food processor. If you decide to use an immersion blender, make sure that you use eye protection! Heck, gloves aren’t a bad idea either. My fingers are still a little burny 12 hours later. Place your mixture in and pulse to break it up, then blend until smoothed to your desired texture. This is certainly one where it wouldn’t hurt to let a bit of the pineapple remain chunky if you like the idea of a little chew to your sauce.

Talk about a bite! You get the pineapple, citrus, vinegar and garlic all on the front end in a frantic rush. As if the flavors know that there is a tidal wave of heat chasing it like the bull chased that poor unicorn into Ralph Bakshi’s animation studio. Ugh, that harpy still haunts my nightmares. But this hot sauce will take a place of reverence in your heart for it’s amazing flavor and a heat that is impressive, but won’t unman you in front of your darling, gingham clad, prairie wife.

This has also cemented my intention to track down and grow the wily bhut jolokia pepper. Reputed to be up to 3 times hotter than the hottest habanero pepper and used by weapons companies to make some mean-ass pepper spray. Also, assuming (praying) that our peter pepper plants bear enough fruit this summer, there would be nothing that would tickle my perverted foodie funny bone more than to make a few bottles of REAL cock sauce to drizzle on my pizza and ramen. I already discovered tonight that the jalapeno sauce is an excellent dressing for some ramen noodles with a little soy sauce. Take that, college kid’s cookbook!