Friday, November 28, 2008

Adventures In Hot Sauce

Anyone who's spoken to me in the last year has probably had their ear jawed-off by stories of my "adventures in hot sauce." This is one of those compulsions, curried by my one-track mind, that I drive until I just can't stand to think about it anymore. I have had other such compulsions that have included hummus, martinis and dog food. Stories of those exploits will be detailed in later postings. NOW... on to more important things...

My affinity for hot sauce started in the military--having to eat shelf stable rations that tasted... well, not fresh. It carried through in subtlety, until I moved do Key West and began an interest in gardening. First, I started with herbs and then to moved to tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. Cooking with fresh ingredients opened a whole new world of culinary possibilities. So many applications! I could make fresh salsa and have fresh mint for mojitos (a tropical drink made with rum, lime, mint leaves and sugar).

I could only get one kind of pepper to really grow, though. My cayenne peppers just wouldn't flower. How frustrating! In the meantime, I was developing a penchant for routinely buying new bottles of specialty hot sauce. Every week--every few days I would buy a different bottle. They would be finished as soon as I could open them. So, I figured that if I am going to spend so much time getting into hot sauce, that I could try my hand at making my own.

I didn't have a recipe on hand. Most people don't. I looked on the Internet and found a few websites to get an idea of what I was getting myself into. I didn't use any recipes to try and copy. That just leaves open the possibility of failure... and it's difficult sometimes to find obscure ingredients and spices that some recipes call for. I had a good start growing outside on my very own porch! I was growing basil, oregano, parsley, chives, jalapenos, cayenne peppers!

I gathered that I should probably be careful in preparing peppers. They contain "capsaicin", which is the active ingredient in riot control stray. The "heat" of a pepper is measured on what is known as the "Scoville" scale (

Also, I realized there is process called "blanching." After that, I just throw all the ingredients like a stew. The base of the stew would be white distilled vinegar. So, "vinegar stew." Hmmmm. Well, if I screw this up, then I'm only out a few bucks. Why don't I add some other vegetables... like carrots, onions? So I did. It DID boil into a stew! Some final season, mashing and straining and I was done. Throw it in an airtight bottle and forget about it in the back of the fridge.

The first batch yielded about 10 ounces. Surprisingly, it was like no other hot sauce I've ever had before. All the flavor and none of the panicky "owwie owwie owwie ah cun few mih tum!" All the batches had to be named something different. I looked online and found a wholesale website that sells hot sauce bottles. I'll take 100!

Well, I'm out of bottles now. The grocery store ships in entire crates of habanero and serrano peppers. I have a label drawn up and I think I have found a name. What if this ends up being my proverbial "Velcro" or "post-it note?" The new batch was huge and is used daily by my co-workers.

I won't give away any exact recipes. It's not that I am worried about someone ripping off a recipe or that someone could make it better than I could. It's just that when you're learning to cook, like anything, restrictions draw too many expectations. You end up making a bastardized attempt of some else's idea instead of a perfectly awesome, unique and personal creation

So, if you have an idea of what a good hot sauce name would be... or have a good concept for a label--I'm all ears. If you have any questions about the process, lemme know. Until next time...


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

My first shot at this was the "Thanksgiving Dinner" we had at Katie & Kevin's house a few weeks ago. Carla and Scott and I threw together a full dinner in a couple of hours, totally on the fly.

I did a couple of things differently this time, here's the approximation of today's version... which was AWESOME.

5 baking potatoes (I used Russets)
1 stick (8 tbs) butter or whatever equivalent you want to use
1/2 of a 10.5oz brick of goat cheese
1 16oz tub of sour cream (I used light) whatever fatness you want
kosher salt
fresh chives

Take the goat cheese and butter out of the refrigerator to start to soften.

Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut them into 1-inch cubes and place in a bowl with cold water - just enough to cover the potatoes while you finish cutting them or do any other cooking you need to do.

Place potatoes in a large pot of water (new water) and bring to a boil.

While potatoes are cooking place goat cheese and half the butter in a large bowl to soften.

Once potatoes are cooked to where they are soft, drain them. Spoon about a third of the cooked potatoes into the bowl with the goat cheese and butter. Mash together until mostly combined. Sprinkle with kosher salt, add another third of cooked potatoes, the sour cream, and continue to mash. Add another sprinkle of kosher salt, the other half of the butter and the last of the potatoes, combine.

Serve hot with fresh chives snipped on top.

Welcome to our Kitchen!

(This post was written by Scott - even though it claims to be written by me...)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would love to wish you a Happy Holidays and welcome you our kitchen! We thought it would be fun to share the intricacies and eccentricities behind the dynamic of what we cook, how we cook it, and how we live with our guilty bellies. The Iron Chef it's not... but then again, Bobby Flay isn't a meat-devouring combat veteran who bleeds beer and hot sauce. And I bet his wife isn't a vegetarian.

So how does a passionate and macho carnivore chow down on soy meat and stirfry? Easy--she's such a dang good chef! We love to put new spins on old, traditional meals. We also love to learn how to cook things that most melancholy domestic-types don't even attempt trying. There is a lot of excitement around our kitchen right now. The grocery store even makes special orders for us. Not many culinary swashbucklers can boast that!

So-- stay tuned for for comedy, tragedy and most likely... "Thumb-tip Salad..."