Category Archives: Recommendations

Foolproof (Even in Jeff's Kitchen) Artisan Bread

So someone on Facebook posed a request for a foolproof bread recipe.

Photo by Ellen Wylie

Now, I can’t take credit for this; Ellen found and made this recipe (three times so far, and another batch is in the fridge even as we speak) while I was in California a few weeks ago, and I got none of the first batch, but I did get some of the second, which included fresh rosemary and was fabulous.

I watched her make the last batch, and I can attest to A) the fact that it is delicious; and B) it’s foolproof.

The recipe comes from https://sallysbakingadiction.com. I suggest you check this site out. I should also point out, as I have recently discovered, that this recipe is fundamentally the legendary New York Times No-Knead bread, with a couple of small tweaks.

Immediately!

I won’t bore you with a long and dragged out essay for this recipe; it’s long all by itself, and I know you simply can’t wait. So here it is:

Homemade Artisan Bread in a Dutch Oven

Ingredients:
3 1/4 cups bread flour (spoon and level), plus more for hands and pan
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 cups cool water
Optional: cornmeal for dusting the pan

Preparation:
1. In a large ungreased bowl, whisk the flour, yeast, and salt together. pour in the cool water and gently mix together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. The dough may seem dry. Stick with it. Keep mixing (use your hands if you must) until all the flour is moist. The dough will be sticky. Do the best you can, and shape it into a ball. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or foil and set aside at room temperature; allow to rise 2-3 hours. It should about double in size, stick to the bowl, and be full of bubbles.

You can proceed immediately, but it is better if the dough rests in the fridge for at least 12 hours, and up to three days. We usually rest the dough overnight. After a couple of days it might begin to deflate. That’s okay.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and using floured hands shale into a ball as best you can; doesn’t have to be perfect. Transfer the dough onto a large piece of parchment paper, large enough to fit into a Dutch oven using a sharp knife, score an “X” into the top of the dough, about a half inch deep. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and leave it alone for about a half hour.

During the resting period, preheat your oven to 475 degrees F., with the Dutch oven and the lid inside the oven. After the 30-minute rest, takethe Dutch oven out of the oven (BE CAREFUL; IT’S VERY HOT!!). Carefully lift the paper and place it into the pot—paper and all—and cover it. Bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. Then remove the lid and continue baking 8-10 minutes longer, or until the bread is golden brown. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully remove the bread from the pot. Allow to cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes.

In reality, you shouldn’t cut into the bread until it is completely cool, but no one I know can wait that long, and besides, what’s better than warm bread slathered with butter or some fresh jam?Store loosely covered at room temperature for 4-5 days (like it might actually last that long??? or in the fridge for 10 days (Yeah, Right!!!).

If you don’t have a Dutch oven, or would rather bake the bread in loaves on a baking sheet, go to Sally’s website (link above) and follow the instructions for that variation.

The bread also freezes nicely; allow to cool completely and wrap air tight and place in a freezer container before freezing.

Sourdough. Day 2

Here’s the starter 4 hours after feeding

Yesterday we discussed the approach we are taking with our attempt at making a sourdough starter. As we discussed, we started with three tablespoons of a 50-50 mixture of organic bread and whole-wheat flours, two tablespoons of pineapple juice, and a pinch of active dry yeasts.

Today–and every day hereafter–we will feed the starter with three more tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of dechlorinated water. As I mentioned yesterday, dechlorinated water is merely water that is sitting in an open container on the kitchen counter–in this case a pint-size ale glass.

I wanted to show you the video of E. doing the feeding, but because I am a technological dolt, the video won’t transfer from my phone to this computer. In the meantime, she simply added the two ingredients to the jar on the counter and mixed them well to incorporate all the flour to the mix we made yesterday.

After sitting on the counter overnight, the mixture had begun to bubble, and when opened, the jar emitted the most wonderful “yeasty” fragrance of rising bread. The brew was bubbling nicely; it was clearly working.

So today we fed the beast. After four hours, here’s what it now looks like: Look there: there’s bubbles and the volume has increased more than the earlier photo (by a little bit, but still…)

Tomorrow (Sunday) we’ll feed it again, and once a day the rest of the week. Hopefully by next week some time we’ll make our first sourdough bread. Can’t wait. Stay tuned.

Sourdough!

From left: dry flour, starter, dechlorinated water

Today I’ve turned the reins of Jeff’s Quarantine Kitchen over to the boss (I surely have come to understand which side of the bread is buttered), because she is the baker extraordinaire in this confederacy of equals. When it comes to baking I am truly only the woke little sous-y (see what I did there?).

For several years we’ve entertained the notion of doing a sourdough, but because none of us REALLY need all the bread we’d have to bake to keep a sourdough starter alive and productive, and the thought of discarding food is inherently foreign to my training and my sensibility, we’ve never really considered it seriously.

Until now.

In my constant quest for the next new and different cooking challenge—the latest, greatest take on mac and cheese holds absolutely no interest for me—I stumbled across a take on a small-batch sourdough starter that seems to be both workable from a task standpoint (we surely didn’t wish to become slaves to the idea of keeping yet another creature alive) and manageable in terms of quantity (and really, could this sentence be any more complex and befuddling? I’d like to see Miss Appleby try to diagram this baby).

But I digress (I hate when I do that). Sourdough!

The guy calls himself “The Pressured Prepper,” and he has a whole YouTube channel chock full of ideas for when the SHTF (google it). I haven’t located a web site for the guy, but his videos are, to say the least, entertaining. He posits that a credible sourdough starter can be made and maintained with just a tiny bit of flour and water and no added yeast. I showed the video to E., and she was intrigued. So we’ve tried it. I did find that (and he did reference) a similar idea on the King Arthur Flour (heretofore referred to as KAF) web site, so it really must be a thing.

So here’s the scoop: The Pressured Prepper says to combine three tablespoons of flour—he suggests a mix of bread and whole wheat flours, and a bit of rye flour if you have it on hand— with two tablespoons of dechlorinated water, and mix well in a pint-size canning jar, cover and set it on the counter at room temperature (dechlorinated water is just really tap water that has sat overnight in an open container, so that the chlorine gas evaporates). The mix of flour—it doesn’t want any all-purpose flour—provides the starter additional capabilities for capturing wild yeasts that are in the air. The Prepper goes on to say that you can speed up the process by using pineapple juice instead of water, and adding just a pinch of active dry yeast.

This morning E opted for the quick-start method, and made her original starter (pictured above) using three tablespoons of a 50-50 blend of bread and whole-wheat flours, two tablespoons of pineapple juice, and that pinch of yeast (she said that it felt a bit like cheating, but wanted to give it every chance of succeeding). Now we’ll let it sit on the counter in the jar. The directions say to feed the starter three tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of water once a day.

So that’s what we’ll do.

My plan is to try to blog something every day here in the JQK, so the likelihood is that you will get daily updates on the progress of this small-batch sourdough starter.

Here’s hoping, and we’ll see you soon. Stay well, be careful, and WASH YOUR HANDS!!!

Shallot Marmalade


Today in Jeff’s Quarantine Kitchen, shallot jamwe’re cooking up an experiment…shallot marmalade. I’ve been working on different takes on marmalade for about three years now, starting when Ellen showed me a Pinterest post about Meyer Lemon marmalade; now I’m growing my own Meyer lemons. I’ve made marmalade from these lemons, Key limes, Valencia and navel oranges, blood oranges, clementines, red grapefruits, both red and Vidalia onions—have I missed anything?

I found this recipe in search of a better recipe for orange marmalade. My search took me to the web site of the Paris- and New York-based chef David Leibovitz. He has a whole section of his blog (www.davidliebovitz.com) dedicated to jams and jellies, and a lot of the recipes are just rockin’. If you’re in the hunt for good alternative takes on homemade condiments I recommend this site highly.

So…shallot marmalade: what is it good for? Try it as a condiment on burgers, grilled chicken or salmon, spread a dollop over a wedge of Brie or Camembert (wrap the whole cheese in foil and bake in a 325-degree oven for 15 minutes, unwrap and add the marmalade), or simply spooned onto a toasted baguette slice. The fact is, shallots have a wonderful flavor, and with quality ingredients, the result ought to be spectacular. We’ll see.

So what’s the roadmap for this new and interesting new product? Here it is, altered slightly (as I am wont to do) from David Liebovitz’s original recipe. The fragrance is amazing. The flavor is, too.

Almost David Liebovitz’s Shallot Marmalade

Ingredients:

1 lb. shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoon unflavored vegetable oil

big pinch of coarse salt

a few turns of freshly-cracked black pepper

1/2 cup Belgian White beer

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons apple cider or balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup raisins, dried currants, or cranberries

Preparation:

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the oil and saute the shallots over moderate heat with a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft and wilted, which should take about 10 minutes.

2. Add the beer, sugar, honey, vinegar, and dried cranberries (or raisins or currants), and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the shallots begin to caramelize. While cooking, continue stirring them just enough to keep them from burning. If the mixture seems to be very dry, add a small splash of water toward the end of cooking, to encourage a little juiciness.

3. The jam is done when the shallots are nicely-caramelized to a deep, dark brown. Do not overcook; there should still be a bit of juices in the pot when it’s ready. Transfer to a jar.

Storaage: You can keep the marmalade in the refrigerator for about two months.

Caramelized Sweet Onion Jam with Balsamic Vinegar

I’m bored to tears.  onionThere’s only so much house cleaning and yard work  person can do each day…okay, I can do more, but I’m trying to pace myself.

So what do do with all the time I have now that the schools are closed and I’m not working?

Why, cook. Naturally.

Today’s effort is a simple one, short and sweet (literally). I’ve been hankering to cook up a batch of orange marmalade, but it turns out I have a bunch of it on the shelf (along with myriad beans, tomatoes, and sauce), and the pantry is short on chutneys and savory jams. And so, caramelized sweet onion jam with a nice shot of really fine Balsamic vinegar from Seasons Lancaster and some herbs that are growing in pots on the kitchen counter, waiting patiently for the weather to change so they can get back outside.

So I made a small batch of this wonderful condiment–it goes marvelously on grilled chicken or fish, and it’s a winner on crusty bread like the stuff Ellen has been baking the last few weeks.

So let’s have a quick course on sweet onion jam–this is a really good one. Two pounds of onions made about three pints. Doubling the recipe would make a terrific batch, and fill that hole on the pantry shelf.  A while back I made a batch of red onion marmalade, and it was terrific. But this stuff, as easy as it is, makes an absolute killer condiment for all your dinner choices.  Try this one if you’ve got a couple of hours.

I’ll bet you do!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds yellow onions sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup granulated organic cane sugar
  • ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons each finely minced  thyme and rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Preparation:

1. Put olive oil and onions in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat stirring only occasionally; cook until golden, about 10-15 minutes.

2. Add sugar and balsamic vinegar and cook until thickened and somewhat syrup-y. Add salt, pepper, and herbs.

3. Ladle into sterilized half pint jars, leaving about ½” headspace. Wipe rims clean and place prepared lids and rings on finger tight.

4. If you cannot test for pH, it is safest to freeze the jam at this point. Be sure to leave sufficient headspace for expansion.

5. Process in a water bath canner at a rolling boil for 15 minutes. After processing, carefully remove jars and allow to cool undisturbed for 24 hours. Check for seal and store in pantry for up to a year; refrigerate after opening.

 

Improvised Veggie Lasagna

I would love to say, “…back by popular demand…” But the fact is, I’ve never done this one before.

Oh, sure, lasagna is everyone’s favorite. It surely is one of mine. On the other hand, making a truly great lasagna is a whole lot of work. But, you say, “It’s worth it in the end,” don’t you? I think it is.

On the other hand, I still can’t bring myself to put all that effort into a really great dinner dish and settle for sauce from a jar. That offends me. You certainly can if you wish, but not me. If I’m going there, I will, every time, opt to make my own sauce.

It’s not that hard, really. Some herbs, lots of garlic, good tomatoes, some wine (both for the sauce and for the chef), and away we go.

This time I found myself 3000 miles from home—visiting family in LA—and was asked to make dinner for family I hadn’t seen in a few years. A chance to show off the skills. But it was in an unfamiliar kitchen, with many unfamiliar ingredients in the cupboards, so the game was on.

The challenges were interesting. One guest was vegetarian, one was Kosher, one I had never met before but who knew from the grapevine that I do have some skills. So the pressure was on.

What to make? What would satisfy all the disparate tastes. Can’t ever go wrong with lasagna. In deference to my vegetarian daughter-in-law—the one who has made an honest man of my fabulous son—veggie lasagna was on the board.

I took full advantage of the year-long bounty that is the SoCal food market. Off to Ralph’s. And then I just sort of winged it. What looked good. What didn’t.

And so, I made up a recipe, one that sounded good on paper, and gave me the opportunity to do something I hadn’t done in a while—make a good marinara. I DO make a good marinara, and it’s so easy it almost isn’t fair.

Follow along, and try this, it’s a show stopper. Oh yeah, and don’t bother boiling the noodles first. Just use them right out of the box. And you don’t need those “no-boil” noodles. They’re a scam. Regular old lasagna noodles are just fine.

The recipe looks long and involved. It’s not, if you do all the prep work at once. The only “must have” is really good tomatoes. For this recipe I used canned San Marzano tomatoes, because my home-grown, personally canned San Marzanos were 3000 miles from LA. Alas, I will be making this again soon for my family, it’s that good. Here’s the blueprint:

Improvised Veggie Lasagna

Ingredients:

For the sauce

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• 6 cloves garlic, sliced very thin

• 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped and divided

• 1 bunch basil, chopped

• 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

• 4 Tbsp. tomato paste

• 3 28-oz cans San Marzano tomatoes

• 1 cup Chianti, divided

• 1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar

• 3 teaspoons kosher salt

• 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the lasagna

• 9-12 sheets lasagna noodles, uncooked

• 1/2 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped

• 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped

• 1 large zucchini, half-moon sliced

• 8 ounces white or Cremini mushrooms, sliced

• 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced

• 1 large container whole-milk ricotta

• 1 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided

• 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

• chopped parsley (see above)—two Tablespoons for the cheese and more for garnish

Preparation:

1. Heat a large pot over low-medium heat about three minutes; Add olive oil (reserving 1 Tablespoon) and garlic slices. Cook until the slices just begin to brown.

2. Add the basil and parsley, reserving 2 tablespoons, cook until completely wilted, 3-5 minutes. Add 1/2 onion and cook, stirring constantly until transparent, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fully browned. Add 1/2 cup wine, deglaze the pan, and continue cooking until the wine is almost fully evaporated.

4. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, the remaining wine, and salt and pepper, turn up the heat and stir well, bring to a soft boil, then reduce the heat to low, and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking…

5. Heat a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat, and then the remaining olive oil. Add and sauté—one at a time, in this order—the carrots, onions, zucchini, and mushrooms, and cook until just soft. Remove from heat.

6. Slice the eggplant the long way into 1/4-inch slices, brush both sides with olive oil, and broil under low heat, until just beginning to brown; turn over and broil the second side. Remove from the heat and set aside with the sautéed vegetables.

7. In a large bowl, combine the cheeses (reserving 2 Tablespoons Parmesan), minced garlic, and reserved chopped parsley, and mix well.

Assemble the lasagna

8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

9. Spoon 2 cups sauce into a 9×13 glass baking dish.

10. Arrange one layer noodles on the sauce. Spoon half the sautéed vegetables over the noodles, add half the mixed cheeses, then layer half the eggplant over the cheese.

11. Spoon and spread 1 cup sauce over the eggplant, then repeat the noodle, veggie, cheese, and eggplant layers.

12. Add one more layer of noodles over the eggplant, then 2 more cups sauce, and spread completely over the noodles.

13. Top with mozzarella and the remaining Parmesan, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the cheese begins to brown, about 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven when it browns to your liking (I like mine very brown and a bit crispy on top). Remove from the oven, cover loosely with the foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Servings: a lot! This is a big-ass lasagna, and rich.

14. Sprinkle some chopped parsley over the top and serve.

Meyer-Lemon and Rosemary Glazed Pound Cake

Ina Garten had a good idea. I made it better (IMHO). She called it “Lemon-Yogurt Cake.”

Okay, fine. But this cake is sooo much more. Silky, moist, sweet, tart, great crumb, high and mighty…

I’m not a baker, but this is gooooood!

And the lemons were grown right in my living room!

Off the success of my ML marmalade, I decided to grow my own. I got a mail-order tree two years ago, and now it’s giving me lemons. This cake was made with my first two lemons. The tree now has three more, and lots of flowers I just pollinated this morning. Success!

I had to make something special with these first lemons, and believe me, this cake is special. You simply must try it. But don’t wait two years to grow your lemons. Store bought are fine, but hurry. Meyer Lemon season is almost over. Regular lemons will work too, but the cake won’t be as good.

But with my own home-grown Meyer lemons, it’s a total home run.

Here’s the plan…

Meyer Lemon-Rosemary-Yogurt-Olive Oil Pound Cake

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-fat yogurt
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
3 room-temperature eggs
1 tablespoon grated Meyer lemon zest
   (2 lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used Meyer-       
     lemon-infused olive oil)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice,           divided
3/4 cup 10X confectioner’s sugar

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease an 8- by 4- by 4-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, rosemary, and vanilla.
  5. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the olive oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 75-90 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  7. Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set the lemon syrup aside.
  8. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar syrup over the cake and allow it to soak into the cake for a half hour.
  9. For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and drizzle over the cake.
  10. Allow to cool completely before serving.

NOTE: You can find Ina Garten’s original recipe here: https://pin.it/48%2Fv6Rq

White Bean Chili Reimagined for the 21st Century

So Ellen changed my mind on tomato-based chili. I was long an advocate of Tex-Mex style brisket-based chili, but now I’m on her veggie-style chili.

But now, white-bean turkey chili is my go-to. Because I’m no longer eating red meat–I’m actually on my way to vegetarian–I’m now leaning in the direction of white chili.

But at (soon-to-be) 73, I need to lean everything down even more. Thus, this recipe, which I simply love.

It starts off with a recipe from the fine folks at Skinny Taste, but because I just can’t leave a recipe alone I’ve given it my own spin and a few personal touches that I think make it even better, without compromising its Skinny Taste soul,

White-Bean and Turkey Skinny Chili

INGREDIENTS:
  • olive oil spray
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 pounds 93% lean ground turkey
  • 2 4.5 ounce cans diced green chilies
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder, to your taste
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, to your taste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 15.5 ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream
INSTRUCTIONS
  • Heat a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium flame. When hot, spray with oil.
  • Add onions and garlic, saute until soft, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the meat and cook, breaking it up until white and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  • Add diced green chilies, cilantro, salt, cumin, oregano, chili powder, red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Puree 1 can of beans in the blender with 1 cup of the broth. Add to the pot with the remaining beans, broth and bay leaves, and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and reduce to a simmer, about 30 to 35 minutes mixing occasionally, until thickened and the flavors meld.
  • Remove the cover and the bay leaves, and simmer another 30 minutes.
  • Stir in yogurt or sour cream and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning and salt to taste.
  • To serve, topped with your favorite toppings, such as green onion, avocado, jalapeños, sour cream, chopped red onion, and/or cheddar, Monterey Jack or jalapeño-jack cheese.

White Bean Soup with Garlic, Rosemary, and Spinach

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 15 oz. cans cannellini beans
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1tsp kosher salt
  • 8 oz fresh spinach, washed and stemmed
  • freshly cracked pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Before you begin, pour one of the cans of cannellini beans (with its liquid) into a blender and purée until smooth. Drain the other two cans of beans.
  • Mince the garlic and add it to a soup pot with the olive oil. Sauté the garlic over medium for about one minute, or just until the garlic is very fragrant.
  • Add the puréed cannellini beans, the other two cans of drained beans, broth, vinegar, rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper, salt, and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Stir to combine.
  • Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the soup to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium low, remove the lid, and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Ten minutes before serving, add the spinach, cover, and bring the soup back to a boil. Boil for five minutes, then remove the pot from the heat.
  • Smash the beans slightly to thicken the soup even more. Taste the soup and add salt if needed. Serve hot, with crusty bread for dipping!

Not Just Another Hot Pepper Sauce.

Hot sauce!

Two words that get MY heart all a-twitter (small “t”).

There a whole lot of us out here for whom hot sauce is a way of life; many of us are always on the scout for the next great sauce. Me too.

Quick anecdote: I was taught most of my culinary skills at the elbow of an amazing Filipino chef named Martin Betonio at my family’s gourmet market on South Beach in Florida. He had previously been the executive chef at the legendary Fontainebleau Hotel on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, and came to us after a dispute with hotel management. Marty was a lifelong aficionado of all things spicy, and rigorous in his mentorship. Marty taught me the principle of repeatable recipes–the ability to reproduce recipes exactly every time, so that flavors never vary.

Marty instilled in me the one single rule for making food spicy: “Any boob can make food spicy,” he always said. “It takes no talent to make food incomparably spicy. All you have to do is be able to pour. What takes talent is making very spicy food tase good.”

It has been one of the driving principles of my entire cooking career, and I DO like my food spicy.

And so, hot sauce.

I was asked my opinion of some of the sauces one finds in the grocery stores and specialty stores these days; it seems that there are more and more every week. I like some of them, I don’t like some, and some make no impression on me at all. But one conclusion I’ve come to is that it has become an arms race to make sauces hotter and hotter, flavor be damned.

Does the sauce make you sweat? Mission accomplished!

To that I say, FOOEY.

So I went about the challenge of making a sauce myself that was both scintillatingly hot AND memorably tasty.

I think I’ve got it.

And so can you. Make it yourself. This recipe has it all, and I promise you’ll remember it.

Jeff’s Kitchen hot sauce: Thalbasco!

Ingredients:

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup water

1 cup diced carrots

½ cup diced onion

3-4 hot red cherry peppers, stemmed, seeded, veins removed

4-8 Tabasco peppers, pickled. (See Note*)

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Preparation:

  1.  Heat a heavy-bottom fry pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot add the oil and the carrots, onions, cherry peppers, and garlic, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the carrots are soft and the onions are translucent, 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to let the onions and garlic burn. Turn the heat off and allow to cool completely.

  2. When completely cooled, place the carrot mixture in a blender along with the vinegar and Tabasco peppers, and blend on high speed until completely smooth, with no vegetable pieces. 

  3. Slowly drizzle the water into the sauce and continue blending until it is as thin and runny. The sauce should be just barely viscous or completely liquified, as you wish.

  4. Pour the blended sauce, along with the salt and honey, into a heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a slow simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  5. While the sauce is simmering, prepare sauce bottles or jars and lids by washing with hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and place in a 215-degree oven. Bring a canning pot filled with water to a slow boil. In the last five minutes the sauce is simmering, place the bottles or jars and lids in the boiling water.

  6. After 30 minutes, ladle the sauce into the bottles, ensuring that there are no bubbles, leaving ½-inch headspace. Wipe the bottle threads to remove any sauce and afix the lids, closing to finger tight. Place the bottles in the boiling water, with at least an inch of water over the lids, cover and process for 20 minutes. The sauce will keep unopened for 1 year, 6 months after opening.

  7. Remove the bottles when finished and set on a towel or cooling rack for 24 hours without moving. If any of the bottles don’t seal ( look for the lids to be indented inward), refrigerate. They will keep refrigerated for 6 months ( but the sauce won’t last that long).

  8. Alternately, if you don’t wish to can the sauce, refrigerate once they have reached room temperature. The refrigerated sauce will keep 6 months.

* I was given pickled Tabasco peppers by a neighbor who grew and pickled them himself. You can buy these peppers from online specialty sites or grow and picks them yourself. Most good garden centers sell the pepper plants in the spring, and pickling them is simple. Directions are on line. Don’t substitute other hot peppers; Tabasco peppers have a very specific flavor. If you can’t find or grow them, substitute original Tabasco sauce at the simmer stage, a teaspoonful at a time and tasting for heat. The sauce won’t be exactly the same, but close, and better than Tabasco Sauce alone. Flavor is everything.

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