But what to cook? Pasta primavera? Nah, don't feel like walking to the liquor store for a box of wine. Steak carbonara? Hmm...no. All that left-over prime rib I snagged before leaving my last job is frozen solid and would take days to thaw. Ah yes, those habaneros left over from that banging batch of chili a few weeks ago. Perhaps I'll try my unskilled hand at making hot sauce.
Thus, innocently enough, began my fiery foray into hot sauce Hades.
I Googled a few recipes to establish my bearings and to flesh out some grounds rules. Here are the ingredients I decided to go with:
- About 15 habaneros
- 1 red pepper
- 5 sweet peppers (whole jarred)
- Several baby carrots (for color)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1.5 lemons, juiced
- Red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Oh yea, and a jar of mayo (I'll explain later)
It became quickly apparent that I would need a food processor to puree all this peppery goodness to the appropriate consistency. But lacking this one essential tool, I decided to mince the garlic, peppers and carrots by hand. After all, I have knife skills that need sharpening and an entire day with nothing better to do.
45 minutes later I had a mound of tiny liquefied vegetable chunks and a blistered callous on my knife-hand. I was careful to wash my hands, knife and cutting board thoroughly after mincing the habaneros; I've worked with these little bastards before and am well aware of their molten potency...or so I thought.
I fired up the stove and melted some butter in a large saucepan. Tossing in the finely minced fruits of the morning's labor, I eagerly awaited that satisfying sizzle, the one that lets you know sugars are carmelizing, cell walls are breaking down and magic is happening. After a few minutes I quartered a lemon and squeezed it into the proto hot sauce to prevent the garlic from burning.
Next, I added a 1.5-count of vinegar, some sugar and S&P. All the ingredients mingling happily in the pan, I put my nose in close and invited my sauce's steamy essence into my unsuspecting olfactory receptors.
Big mistake. I've never been pepper-sprayed, but I imagine it's not unlike the scorching blast that singed my nostrils, eyes and face like a white-hot nuclear explosion.
I staggered backwards, eyes tearing, face burning, clawing my way out of the kitchen. Holy shit, I thought, I've created a monster. Even as I type this, some 4 hours later, my hands and face still tingle and burn from the fall-out. It feels as though I doused myself in Goldbold or Icy Hot.
Note: do not attempt to saute habaneros without at least a level-B hazmat suit.
This beast needed to be tamed. That much was (very) painfully clear. So after composing myself, I added another half a lemon's worth of juice, a splash of vinegar, and a coating of sugar. Now it was time to give my experiment a taste. A small forkful yielded notes of lemony sweetness, shortly followed by an inferno of habanero heat. Not bad. I tinkered a little more, adding salt and sugar in an effort to balance out some of the tartness.
Satisfied that I had created a complex and interesting specimen, I stood back and pondered my work. It looked like a dry salsa, something that would be hard to spread on say, a hoagie or a slice of pizza. It needed to have a saucier, more spreadable consistency. I decided mayonnaise would be ideal both to transform it into a sauce and mellow its heat.
A jar of mayo and some snappy spatula work later, I had a hot sauce that I consider successful. It doesn't fit the image I had in mind before I started, but it works nonetheless. It is tangy and sweet with plenty of heat. I left my camera back in rural PA, so just imagine a mason jar of what looks like orangish tartar sauce: that's today culinary experiment.
Like this idea? Think it's moronic? Let me know.