Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Keys To Having A Bad-Assed Pantry: Part 3 - Sauces & Condiments




Okay, by now your pantry should be spicy via The Keys To Having A Bad-Assed Pantry: Part 1 - Spices and lubed up via The Keys To Having A Bad-Assed Pantry: Part 2 - Oils & Vinegars.

Now we're going to move on to the sticky, saucy, and chunky stuff. It's no secret that I am a hot sauce junkie. I pretty much add it to most of the things I cook. I love the little hint of sour from the vinegar and the the pop of heat, just spicy enough to clear my sinuses. I don't care for food so hot that it flays my tongue off and all you taste is burning. Just a nice kick of heat to feel alive, that's all I need. Here's my top five must have hot sauces that I can't live without. If you eat my food, chances are that one of these sauces are in it. I swiped an earlier hot sauce post, polished it and inserted it straight up into this post. The very beginning content may be slightly similar but all the names and dates have been changed. Read on.

1.  Tapatío Hot Sauce.  Pronounced ta-pa-tio, not as my lovely friend Jade says Ta-pash-eyo.  This is my all time favorite hot sauce.  I love the sour kick to it and it has the perfect amount of heat.  I drink this stuff like it's my job. Not just for Mexican food my friends.  No ma'am.  I'll add a little to spaghetti and marinara, cassoulet, scrambled eggs, a turkey sandwich, whatever.  I trust the little mustached man in the sombrero.  I find his smile comforting.  If I travel, I'll carry this in my purse like the crazy hot sauce toting Southern belle that I am.




2.  Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce.  Mixed with a little soy sauce and rice wine vinegar or sesame oil this is probably my favorite for dipping sauces.  I also make Asian style BBQ using chili garlic, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), rice wine vinegar, and honey.  The garlic really pops out when you add it to some stir fried broccoli or asparagus.  I add it to soups, congee (Chinese rice porridge), or my favorite breakfast of steamed rice, fried eggs, and kimchi.  The rooster on the logo also happens to be on the next sauce as well.





3. Sriracha Hot Sauce (aka Cock Sauce).  Get your mind out of the gutter. Cock as in rooster. Another home run from the Huy Fong family.  Sriracha goes great with anything.  A little bit tangier and peppery that a lot of other hot sauces.  It punches you in the gut with garlicky deliciousness. Here in Seattle you'll pretty find sriracha on the tables of most restaurants.  It's bright reddish orange color scares that hell out of people that have never tried it before.  It looks like it will rip your face off it's so hot but it's actually got a mild complexity to it.  Add enough to your big bowl of beef Phó though and you be filling your soup bowl with sweat. 




4. Crystal Louisiana Hot Sauce.  Being somewhat raised in the South, Crystal was the hot sauce of choice at a lot of my favorite restaurants growing up.  I cannot eat fried chicken, fried catfish, hush puppies, gumbo, or collard greens without a few dashes of Crystal.  I sure as hell won't eat an almighty Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich with out some Crystal.  If you were to rummage through any food loving woman's purse in the south chances are you'll find a bottle of Crystal.  God I want some fried chicken right now.




5. Cap Jempol.  This Indonesian hot sauce can kick your ass if you don't respect it.  It has the kind of heat that slaps you in the face and then settles in for a slow lip numbing burn.  However, use a little of it to add a spicy sweetness that can't be beat.  Even the label is giving you the thumbs up so you know it's good.  I love to use cap jempol when making Indonesian spicy chicken and rice and mixed with a little kecap manis and Maggi sauce (see below) it makes a purfect dipping sauce for lumpia (Filipino egg rolls).  Yum yum yum.


The not quite top five list of hot sauces that rock:
* Harissa - Algerian chili paste. Super spicy with a deep chili flavor.
* Chili Black Bean Sauce - fermented black beans, chilies and garlic.  Yum
* Piri Piri - lemon infused African cayenne chili sauce.  Very hot and very delicious.
* Sambal Olek - Malay condiment of crushed lime leaves, chilies, shallots, peanuts, and herbs.
Gochujang - Korean Chili Paste. Pungent fermented chili, glutinous rice, and soybeans. Sour spicy.
* Cholula, Louisiana, Tabasco, Franks Red Hot, El Yucateco.  They're all good, just not the best.

Okay, the spicy is out of the way. Now let's talk about the unspicy sauces. The liquids that bring saltiness or flavor. I'll break it down by region.

Asia.
* Soy Sauce - Everyone should have soy in their pantry. If you make Asian food, you need this. Most Asian cultures use soy sauce in place of salt. Salty and sour and rich. I use soy in a lot of dishes (not just Asian either). There are a few types of soy such as light soy sauce, dark soy, sweetened soy, low sodium, etc. To start off just get yourself a jug of regular soy and call it a day. Here's my favorite soy commercial from Kikkoman. See, even the cat would rather hang itself than run out of soy sauce.


* Kecap Manis - Indonesian sauce similar to a sweet soy sauce flavored with garlic and star anise and sweetened with palm sugar. Has a sweet caramel flavor and is perfect for glazes (I make a BBQ sauce out it) and sauces that need a little rich sweetness. Can you tell? It's sweet.
* Ponzu - A Japanese citrus sauce (kind of like limes) that can be made simmering with mirin, rice wine vinegar, katsuobushi flakes, and seaweed. I buy it from the Asian grocery already made and mixed with a little soy. Yummy in dipping sauces or in sour soups.
* Miso - A fermented soybean (or rice) paste. It's full of cultures so technically it's alive. Salty and acidic it's great in salad dressings, miso soup (duh), sauces.
* Maggi Seasoning Sauce - Okay, Maggi is actually a brand but they make a sauce that is very popular in Filipino and other South East Asian cookery called Maggi Seasoning Sauce. It's like a cross between soy sauce, Worcestershire, and chicken bouillon. It's salty and magically delicious.
* Oyster Sauce - A thick oystery sauce that adds a savory element to whatever you're cooking. Especially awesome in stir fries, vegetables, chow mein, etc.  Many many Chinese dishes use oyster sauce.
* Mirin - Sweet Japanese Cooking Wine. Made with rice, mirin is one of the components in teriyaki sauce. It's sometimes added to dishes in place of sugar or soy. Adds a bright flavor.
* Teriyaki Sauce - You can buy it in a jar but it's beyond super easy to make yourself.
* Jufran Banana Sauce - Filipino banana ketchup. A little sweeter and spicier than tomato ketchup. Once you try it you'll probably give up the tomato version. Masarap!
* Garlic Chutney/Pickle - A spicy sweet Indian garlic spread that is so addictive you will put it on everything. Trust me, you need this. Just don't eat it before a hot date, stinky mouth.
* Fish Sauce - Sounds strange but this salty treat goes great in sauces, dips, and stir fried dishes. Fermented fishies! Yum!
* Wasabi - Spicy Japanese root similar to horseradish. If you can't find it grate your own but prepared wasabi works in a pinch. It'll clear your sinuses too. Exchange it with your partners toothpaste and watch as hilarity ensues.

Okay now we move on to lands of tatertot casserole, spotted dick, and poutine. That's right, I'm lumping North Americans and Europeans together into one big happy family. Deal with it. I'll assume you've heard of the likes of Ketchup, Mustard (including stone ground, yellow, Dijon, etc...), and Mayonnaise. All of the above items should always be at arms reach. You just never know, they may just save your life.
Onward...

North America and Europe
* Worcestershire Sauce - A spiced malt vinegar anchovy sauce used to flavor Welsh rarebit and bloody Marys. Goes great with meat and is a must in your pantry.
* HP Sauce - Similar to Worcestershire but with the addition of tomato and more spices. Very British. I myself prefer the spicier Canadian version of HP Bold Sauce. It's like Hp but with a hip check in every bite. (Any hockey fans in the house? Yeah!)
* Curry Ketchup - Bavarian style ketchup with curry spices in it. Heil hot dog! Too soon? Yum!
* Prepared Horseradish - The stuff actually comes from a plant root and you can grate it yourself. Sometimes I don't feel like manual labor and I just stick a spoon into a jar of horseradish and stir it into my Bloody Mary. Simple and works just fine in a pinch. Mix with sour cream or mayo for a zesty spread. Zesty!
* Barbecue Sauce, Cocktail Sauce, Salad Dressing, Pickle Relish, Fry Sauce, Pesto - Make your own. It will be better and often be cheaper as well. If you are lazy you can buy it in a jar.
* Steak Sauce - This one also falls into the make it yourself category but there is a special place in my heart for a tasty bottle of A1 Steak Sauce. Put it on a burger. Tasty!

Okay, we had Africa in the hot sauces, Asia with fishy spicy things, North America and Europe with their many brown sauces. Last, let's move onto the tropical lands of bananas and revolutionaries.


South America & The Caribbean
Salsa - Everyone has a jar of salsa in their fridge. Is scratch made salsa better? Yes, by leaps and bounds. However, once in a while you have tortilla chips that need immediate dipping or tacos that need serious topping.
* Sour Orange / Mojo - Mojo is better when scratch made as well but I have a couple of bottles of Badia Cubano Mojo in my pantry. Great for marinating hams and pork roasts. Also delicious on chicken or add a little to your frijoles negros.
* Alcaparrado - Manzanilla olives, pimientos & capers all crushed up together. Perfect for that little salty Island party in your mouth.
* Recado Rojo - Achiote paste with spices. Brings a great orange-red color to your dishes as well as delicious flavour. Rub it on your skin to replicate a horrible rash. Impress your friends while cooking.
* Pickapeppa Sauce - Known as Jamaican ketchup Pickapeppa sauce is made of tomatoes, onions, sugar, cane vinegar, mangoes, raisins, tamarind, peppers and spices. It adds a tasty sweetness to any dish.
* Jerk - No, not you. Jerk paste has like 507 ingredients in it. I keep a jar in my fridge to spice up some chicken, fish, or goat.

Well folks, thats pretty much it for sauces and condiments. This was a hard one. Let me know if I have forgotten anything. Stay tuned for The Keys To Having A Bad-Assed Pantry: Part 4 - Grains & Legumes. The excitement never ends!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I'm Strong to the Finish, Cause I Eats Me Spinach.


I remember asking my mother why Olive Oil never ate any spinach since she was the one always getting kidnapped by the big ugly guy. She had no answer for me. I myself didn't need Popeye and his spinach conspiracy to coerce me into eating spinach or anything for that matter. Hell, I'd eat dog biscuits if they were put in front of me. I was a five year old garbage disposal. The sheer volume of food that I ate as a kid was phenomenal. I was taken to the doctors several times in my childhood just to make sure I didn't have a tapeworm or a black hole in my stomach. My mother was a smart lady though. "Hello, Shoney's Big Boy Restaurant? So your buffet is all you can eat right? Kids under five eat free? Hell yes, come on kids, we're going out to eat!" You gotta do what you gotta do, know what I'm saying? Sadly, as I've gotten older my metabolism finally caught up with me and now I have to pace myself. No more gluttonous four plate buffet benders for me. I'm still able to eat what I want. I'm just saying that I think my tapeworm died and my body doesn't need ten cheeseburgers per meal to satisfy itself. That's a good thing. I can't afford that kind of behavior. Anywho, enough of that thought. Let's move on before I ramble myself into a corner.

Eating well does not mean denying yourself of food that you love. It's all about moderation. It's the key to life. I love bacon. I put it in lots of things. Do I brush my teeth with it? No I do not. You see, moderation in action right there. I did make a delicious Cream of Broccoli and Spinach Soup with Sherried Mushrooms and Bacon. Here, make it yourself:

Cream of Broccoli and Spinach Soup with Sherried Mushrooms and Bacon


1 lb broccoli, including stems
1 cup blanched and drained spinach
1 rib of celery, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp parsely, minced
1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
1/4 lb bacon, diced
4 cups vegetable stock (you can use chicken stock or water if you are so inclined)
1/2 cup cream
2 tbsp dry sherry (or 1 tbsp sherry wine vinegar)
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Slice off the bottom fibrous part of the broccoli stems and discard. Cut the florets from the stem. peel and dice the broccoli stem.

In a large pot of boiling water blanch the broccoli florets for 4 minutes until just soft. Blanch the spinach for 1 minute to set the color.

In a saute pan over medium heat render the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan but leave the bacon fat.

Add the celery, onion, and diced broccoli stem to the bacon fat. Saute until just soft.

In a blender add the broccoli stems and florets, onion, celery, spinach, and parsley. Add a little stock and puree until smooth. Strain the mixture into a soup pot. Add the rest of the stock and simmer while stirring. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes to let the flavors come together and the soup to thicken a bit.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan (you can use the bacon pan) over medium heat saute the mushrooms (add a little olive oil if you're out of bacon fat) until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the sherry and cook 1 more minute to cook off the alcohol.

Stir the cream into the soup and cook simmer for 5 more minutes.

To serve ladle some soup into a bowl and garnish with some sherried mushrooms and bacon. Eat with a spoon. Yum.