Four Hot Sauces that are Better than Sriracha

I consume a lot of hot sauce. It is rare that one of my meals doesn’t have some sort of hot sauce on it.

Frank’s Red Hot and Sriracha are good. Both are widely available and pretty tasty. I actually have a bottle of Frank’s in my fridge right now. I had some yesterday!

That said, there are better hot sauces available. Here are four that I keep on hand and regularly consume:

ABC Sambal Extra Hot Pedas

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This stuff is what Sriracha could be. It is pretty spicy and delightfully garlicy. It keeps you coming back for more, despite how much it makes you sweat from the heat.

My friend Dusty Gulleson. He grew up eating this stuff in Indonesia and now buys it a case at a time and gets it shipped here to the US. I won’t eat any sort of asian food without it. I also eat it with eggs, hotdogs, potatoes, and the cauliflower rice we like to make.

The cheapest place I can find to buy it in the US is IndoFoodStore.com. You can also buy it in 3, 6, and 12 packs on Amazon. I’ve seen three different labels, which is kind of strange. But I’ll overlook it because this stuff is SO GOOD.

 

Chiligods Green Pepper Sauce

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When Amanda and I were out in Sonoma last year, we stopped at a little spot for breakfast. On each table they had a bottle of this stuff. I put some on my omelet and I was a changed man. I’d never had a green sauce that had a flavor like this: Savory, tangy, slightly acidic, citrus overtones, and some light heat. I asked the waitress where I could buy some of this around town and we drove straight over to a store she mentioned. I bought the last bottle on the shelf.

You can buy some from Sunsweet. The shipping is a little pricey, but this stuff is worth having around. Everyone needs a good green sauce in their rotation. I use it on eggs, tamales, and carnitas.

 

El Yucateco XXXtra Hot Kutbil-ik Mayan Style Habanero

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You’ve probably seen little bottles of red or green El Yucateco at your favorite Mexican restaurant. Those are good, but they also make an even hotter and tastier version called XXXtra Hot Kutbil-ik. They say it is a Mayan-style recipe.

I always underestimate how how this stuff is and inevitably overdo it. It walks the line between flavor and overwhelming heat, but I think it ultimately lands on the flavor side. The fruity aspect of Habaneros come out in this. When I need to add a lot of heat to something, I reach for this. Spreading a little dab across a burrito is enough. I eat it most with Mexican food. It is particularly good with huevos rancheros.

This stuff is available at most grocery stores. Look for the little Mayan guy on the bottle so that you don’t accidentally pick up the wrong El Yucateco. You can also get it on Amazon.

 

Spicy Chili Crisp

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This is the least spicy condiment on the list, but it is an indispensible part of any good hot sauce collection. It is a lot more savory than spicy due to the shallots and soy beans, but it does have a little heat. It also has a delightfully crunchy texture.

My friend Janet Bufton posted about it on Facebook back in the winter and I’ve gone through a couple jars already. I love it in vegetable soup (Sickie soup), with steamed or stirfried vegetables, and with dumplings. I have two heaping spoonfuls minimum every time I open the jar.

You can buy this on Amazon, too. Better get at least two jars because you’re gonna love it.

 


 

What is your favorite hot sauce? I love suggestions, so drop them in the comments.

 

Pesto Revisited

I posted last year about making pesto in the food processor. I’m writing now to say that I’ve changed my ways.

I use a large mortar and pestle instead and make it by hand. I really enjoy slowing down for a few minutes and methodically grinding the ingredients together while I take in their fragrance. I feel like I appreciate the final product more.

My preference for ritual aside, pesto made by hand covers pasta much better and has a better blending of flavors. See Dan Gritzer’s post on Serious Eats for a side-by-side comparison. His was the first article I found when looking for a mortar and pestle pesto recipe after I bought a huge granite one to make guacamole in. Dan’s recipe is a great place to start experimenting from.

The exact recipe changes every time, but the method stays the same:

  1. Work the garlic and salt into a paste.
  2. Crush the nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios, or whatever you want to experiment with) and work them into the paste.
  3. Grind the basil against the edge of the mortar a handful at a time.
  4. Add the cheese and olive oil.

Here are some ideas for experimentation:

  • Try different varieties of garlic. I like Rocambole and Spanish Roja.
  • Try garlic scapes in late spring
  • Things you can substitute for the pine nuts: Walnuts, pistachios, or pumpkin seeds
  • Try other herbs with (or in place of) basil: Parsley, cilantro, arugula
  • Test out different hard cheeses in place of the Pecorino and Parmesan
  • Use different olive oils and note the flavors they add: Peppery, buttery, green

If you are in the market for a usable mortar and pestle (not one of those tchotchkes you see at Target), this is the 12lb behemoth I use.

Salsa Verde Revisited

I looked back at my salsa verde post from last year and decided I could improve it. I tend to only make it once a year because that is when I get a big bunch of tomatillos in my CSA share. That doesn’t leave much room for rapid feedback loops, but let’s see what we can do.

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Last year’s version was all done on the stovetop. That is a fine method and gets the job done, but it relies heavily on the taste of the raw ingredients and doesn’t develop them very much. Surely we can do better.

If you don’t care about how something looks at the end, one of the best ways to develop a greater depth of flavor in veggies is to roast them. Salsa verde ends up getting pureed anyway, so the appearance of the tomatillos and peppers doesn’t matter.

I roasted this batch for an hour at 350F. Some of the juice from the tomatillos carmelized on the pan (which I scraped up, of course!) and both the tomatillos, onions, and peppers took on a sweeter, richer flavor. The garlic had the best transformation, though. Instead of the sharp, pungent flavor of raw garlic, roasted garlic has a gentle nutty caramel characteristic to it. There is nothing like it.

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I scraped all of this off the pan and then pureed it in the food processor with some fresh oregano out of one of the window pots.

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Last year’s recipe used fresh cilantro, but I didn’t have any on-hand and I didn’t want to go to the store on Labor Day. Oregano definitely doesn’t have the same flavor as cilantro, but it is delicious of its own accord. Cilantro isn’t essential to salsa verde and I think organo works well with onions, peppers, and lime juice, so I used it instead. I think it turned out wonderfully.

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Faster, Easier, Tastier Homemade Mayo

I used to make mayo at home with the food processor method. I only made mayo for special occasions because this method has a high probability of failure (emulsions are tough!), has more prep and clean-up than I like, and makes fairly large batches for two people.

That all changed after I read this post from The Food Lab. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt figured out that a hand blender does a much better job at emulsifying the ingredients and it is much faster and easier to clean up than the food processor. Check out how easy it is with this video from Serious Eats:

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See how easy that is? I was amazed when I tried it. This method makes it easy to produce small batches, too. I’m not buying mayo from the store any more.

If you don’t have a hand blender, you should pick one up. I use ours twice as much as the regular blender.

An added benefit of making mayo at home: You will have regular access to delicious aioli. We always keep a squeeze bottle of this stuff in the fridge to dip, spread, and devour.

Try adding these things to your mayo to make it even better:

  • Garlic
  • Vinegar
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • Bacon fat
  • Dill
  • Herbs like basil, parsley, or oregano
  • Cilantro and lime juice
  • Indonesian ABC Extra Hot Chili Sauce (aka everything I wanted Sriracha to be)

Mix Up Your Hotdog Toppings

We like to mix up our hotdog toppings in the Grimmett house so that we feel a little less guilty about eating hotdogs. Sometimes it is cucumber kimchi. Sometimes chili, cheese, and fritos. Sometimes sauerkraut. Sometimes coleslaw. Sometimes ginger scallion sauce.

Last night it was quick-pickled cucumbers, radishes, and green onions with a spicy mayo.

 

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Ingredients for the quick pickles

  • 1 Kirby Cucumber
  • 4 medium radishes
  • 2 small green onions, greens and whites
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • Juice from 1 small lime

 

Instructions for the quick pickles

  1. Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise, then slice each half into 1/8 inch thick half disks.
  2. Slice the radishes in half, then slice each half into 1/8 inch thick half disks.
  3. Slice the green onions into 1/2 to 1 inch long segments at a 45 degree angle. (Or you can slice them however you want. It really doesn’t matter.)
  4. Toss these all in a bowl with the salt, sugar, and lime juice. Mix together thoroughly.
  5. Let sit for 15-20 minutes before you top your hotdogs with them.

Daikon radishes work great too, but I didn’t have any when I made this, so I used regular radishes.

 


 

Ingredients and Instructions for the spicy mayo

  1. Mix together 3 tablespoons of mayo with 1.5 tablespoons of whatever spicy asian-style sauce you have on hand.

Sriracha works fine. I prefer ABC Sambal sauce from Indonesia. You can get it on Amazon. This stuff is everything I wanted sriracha to be. It has more garlic, more spice, and is all-around tastier.

This is easy to scale up, too. Keep the ratio 2:1 mayo to hot sauce and you’ll be good to go.

You could make your own mayo, too. But let’s be honest: The reason you are making hotdogs tonight is because you probably didn’t want to cook a full meal. That jar in your fridge will do for now, but plan ahead next time. The homemade stuff is easy to make, keeps for at least a week, and is far superior to the Hellmann’s you are used to.

 


 

Since summer is almost here, you know you’ll make hotdogs soon. Do yourself a favor and make some interesting toppings. Write your favorites in the comments.

Apple Butter

Amanda and I love apple picking. We go out in our flannel shirts, pick apples, eat cider donuts, sip hot apple cider, then come home and make apple butter and bake apple pies. It makes for a wonderful weekend.

This year we picked Macoun (cross between the McIntosh and Jersey Black) and Empire (cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious) apples.

Macoun apple at Wilkins FarmApple Picking

A half-bushel of apples (pictured above) is enough for two pies, two batches of apple butter, and a few apples left over to eat.

We start making the apple butter around 7pm and let it cook in a crock pot overnight. The house smells amazing when you wake up in the morning. After just a few more minutes of work, you are ready to slather it on toast.

Here is our recipe:

Handwritten apple butter recipe

Apple Butter

  • 5-6 lbs of peeled, cored, and finely chopped apples
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/16 teaspoon cloves (4 whole cloves ground in a spice grinder)
  • 1 pack of gelatin powder

Instructions

  • Peel, core, and finely chop the apples. After rough chopping them, then pulse them in a food processor. You should end up with around 5.5 lbs. Use a kitchen scale.
  • Grind up any whole spices you are using.
  • Combine all ingredients in a crock pot, mix well, cover, and cook on high for an hour.
  • Turn the crock pot down to low after the hour is over, stir the mixture, put the cover back on, and go to bed.
  • If you get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, stumble over to the kitchen and stir the simmering apples.
  • When you wake up 8-9 hours later, the house should smell amazing. Don’t sleep in too much; the apple butter only takes 11-12 hours of cooking time. Uncover the apple butter (which should look dark brown now), stir, and let cook uncovered for another hour to thicken up.
  • After you’ve cooked off the excess liquid, sprinkle the gelatin packet, and blend until smooth with a hand blender (they are cheaper than you think.) If you don’t have one, whisking will work fine, too. Don’t try pouring this all into a regular blender; the heat will cause it to paint your ceiling and walls as soon as you turn it on.
  • While the apple butter is still hot, spoon it into sterilized glass jars and screw the lids on. They should seal themselves within a few hours as the contents cools down.
  • The unopened jars should keep for months, but once opened they should be refrigerated.

Salsa Verde

Note: I revisited this recipe a year later and made it even better. Check out the new version.

This is one of our favorite condiments for tacos and it makes a great snack with chips. It is very easy to make and keeps for at least a week in the fridge.

Salsa Verde

  • 1lb of tomatillos, husks and stems removed
  • 1-2 jalapeños
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tsp salt

Put the tomatillos, jalapeños, and onion in a medium saucepan, cover with water, the bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the water, combine the ingredients with cilantro, lime juice, and salt in a food processor, and process until smooth. Let cool before serving.

Remove the husk from tomatillosCover with water
Simmer the veggies for 10 minutesCombine everything in a blender

Salsa Verde