Next up, the Carolina Reaper

Continuing with the “crazy, incredibly hot” theme, let’s talk about the Carolina Reaper.

Now, this is a stupidly hot chili, I know. But, I picked up a little plant at the nursery several months ago because I just couldn’t resist. I doubt that these chilis will find a way in many of my recipes but, I plan on dehydrating some and grinding them into a powder.

I imagine that just a pinch of the powder would turn a moderately spicy dish into a tongue-wagging adventure.

They are ripening on little bushes as I type.

Stay tuned.

Habanero-Peach Sauce

Habaneros can be combined with sweet flavors, like mango, to produce a spicy, fruity sauce or glaze.  I’m using peaches today.  I couldn’t find ripe peaches at the store, so I picked up some peach preserves.  The preserves contain pieces of fruit in addition to jam.  If I used fresh peaches, I would need to add a little sugar to the mix but, the preserves already have everything I need.

You could use two or three habaneros for this recipe or, maybe 5 or 6, if you want to kick up the heat.  A mild version could make a nice glaze or drizzle for baked fish or roasted pork. 

I’m using 30 habaneros today.  This is a very spicy sauce, but that’s what I wanted.  I’m going to use this on grilled chicken wings. 

Ingredients:

30 whole habaneros, stems removed, steamed over a hot grill

1 cup water

¼ cup white vinegar

1 Tbs soy sauce

18 ounces peach preserves

Directions:

I steamed and charred the chilies, as I did with the 5 Alarm Hot Sauce.

Lay the habanero chilies on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Fold the corners of the aluminum foil over the habaneros, keeping them close together.

Add a few more layers of aluminum foil wrap and seal the edges securely.

Roast the packet of chilies on a hot charcoal grill.  Leave an open area in the center of the grill to avoid burning the chilies.

Steam for 40 minutes, turning the packet over every 10 minutes, or so.

Set the chilis aside and allow to cool.

Add water, vinegar, soy sauce to a blender.  Add the habaneros.  Pulse and then puree. 

Add the peach preserves and blend until smooth.  The finished sauce will be sticky and thick, which will be perfect for the wings.

Five Alarm Habanero Sauce

“36”

DISCLAIMER: The recipe that follows is purely for entertainment purposes.  In no way does the author of said recipe expect or intend that the reader should replicate said recipe.  The author of said recipe is absolved from any culpability as a result of  personal injuries that might occur in the event that a person is harmed by attempting to make said recipe or that a person consumes the product of the recipe.

ADDENDUM: In the event that  a person would attempt to follow the prescribed methods of said recipe, it is advised by the author to take the following precautions:

* wear protective gloves:  latex or silicone gloves

* wear a gas mask

* wear a full-body hazmat suit

“Here be dragons”

This is one of the hottest sauces that I have ever made.  It’s not for the meek.  It’s not for the novice fire-eating braggarts. 

I have to admit that I am addicted to habaneros.  The flavor of a fresh, ripe habanero is irresistibly tantalizing and it pulls me into its depth, like Charybdis pulling Odysseus and his crew into its deadly whirlpool.

This sauce transcends the realms of delicious flavor and extreme heat.  Anyone that dallies in ultra-hot sauces should understand what I mean.  The ability to distinguish flavor in very hot sauces is important.  A hot sauce that is meant to cause pain is useless, unless a devilish prank is the intention.

Ingredients:

36 fresh habanero chilis, steamed and charred over a hot grill

6 cloves roasted garlic

1 cup distilled white vinegar

Directions:

Lay the habanero chilis on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Fold the corners of the aluminum foil over the habaneros, keeping them close together.

Add a few more layers of aluminum foil wrap and seal the edges securely.

Roast the packet of chilis on a hot charcoal grill for 40 minutes, flipping the packet over every 10 minutes.  Leave an open area in the center of the grill to avoid burning the chilis.

Carefully open the aluminum foil packet to expose the steamed chilis.  Take a breath before opening the packet and hold your breath as you open the packet.  You’ve been warned!  Walk away from the opened packet and take a few deep breaths.  Return to the chilis, slowly.  Take shallow breaths through your nose and empty the chilis into a blender.  If the foil packet has bits of dark residue, form the foil into a bowl shape and add a little water.  Swish the water around to loosen the gooey residue.  You might want to hold your breath while you swish the water around.  The vapors can send you into a coughing fit, if you’re not careful.  Pour the residue into the blender. 

Add the roasted garlic to the blender.  Add the vinegar to the blender.  Pulse the mixture a few times and then blend the mixture until it becomes a smooth liquid.  If the sauce is too thick, add a little water and continue to blend.  Do not lean over and smell the blended liquid.  You know the vapors will knock you down.  Trust that the sauce is plenty hot.  All you should do at this point is add liquid to the mixture until you achieve the desired consistency.

Carefully pour the sauce into small jars.  I filled 3 recycled hot sauce jars and poured the rest of the sauce in a canning jar.  I placed my smallest funnel into a jar and slowly filled each jar.  I strongly recommend wearing protective gloves because one hand will hold the jar as the other hand pours the liquid into the funnel.  If any sauce leaks during the process, it will get on the hand that is holding the bottle and, if that hand is not protected you will definitely regret it.  If the funnel clogs during the process, you may want to insert a toothpick to clear the clog.  Again, that hand should be protected!

This recipe made about 36 ounces of sauce. 

Habaneros!

Oh, my favorite chile, the mighty habanero!  I have four habanero plants in my garden and they have been pumping out delicious chile peppers for several weeks.  But, all good things must come to an end, and it is no different for the beautiful and spicy habanero. 

I might get another month or two of limited production but, I know there will soon come a time when I won’t be able to go out to the yard and pick some fresh peppers. 

So, now it’s time to make salsa but, even the best salsa doesn’t compare to the fresh flavor of the chile, as it is plucked from the bush.

I’ve dehydrated habaneros, in the past, but grinding them into a powder only results in a powder that is nearly unusable.  The heat is too intense and the bright, sweet, fruity flavor of the habanero disappears, after it has had the moisture sucked out of it.

Freezing them hasn’t produced much better results.  The fruit loses its lovely orange color and the flesh of the pepper is mushy. 

This year, I decided to freeze them in water, to help preserve their natural flavor and color.

Directions:

Rinse the habaneros in cool water.  All them to air-dry on a towel. 

Trim the stems off, exposing the inner cavity of the pepper.

Put them in ice trays and fill with water.  Stack another ice tray on top, to keep them from floating.  Freeze for a few hours and remove from the ice trays.

Store them in a plastic bag and keep in the freezer.  These should keep in the freezer for several months.

Just thaw them out when ready to use! 

I just hope that 48 habaneros will last me through winter!

Savory Orange Glazed Pork Chops

I like versatile recipes, such as this one.  Many of the components in this recipe can be substituted with other items.  Apricot jam can be replaced by orange marmalade or apple jelly.  I guess you could even use grape jelly or plum jelly.  Pork chops can be replaced by chicken breasts, thighs or legs, with or without bones.  Mustard can be any type you like, or you could use horseradish.  Use any combination of herbs that you happen to have, dry or fresh.  Grapefruit could replace oranges, etcetera. 

Substitutions allow this recipe to become whatever you want it to be, within reason.  Just don’t lose sight of the concept of sweet and savory. 

A sweet and savory dish should contain certain flavor elements.  Choose a fruit that is sweet but also a little tart.  Include herbs that are fragrant and rustic.  Add something with a sharp, pungent flavor, like mustard, and you are on the right path. 

Any time I use substitutions in a recipe I take a moment to consider if the various elements will be harmonious and, most importantly, I taste as I go.  I will taste a sauce before adding it to the rest of the dish, even if that means cutting off a small piece of the cooked meat and dipping it in the sauce, to sample the flavor. 

Ingredients:

Juice from 2 oranges

2 Tbs apricot jam

1 Tbs Dijon mustard (or whole grain mustard)

1 Tbs soy sauce

1/2 tsp hot sauce

2 Tbs cooking oil

1 Tbs butter

4 pork chops (boneless or with bones)

A pinch of salt and black pepper

2 or 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sage

1 onion, julienne cut

1 bell pepper, sliced thin

¼ cup orange zest

Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

Add orange juice, apricot jam, soy sauce, hot sauce and mustard to a saucepan and cook over medium heat.  Stir to combine and keep stirring until it begins to bubble and boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Set sauce aside.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over high heat.  Add two tablespoons of cooking oil to coat the pan.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over the pork chops.  Add the pork chops to  the hot pan. Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan. Sear the chops on both sides until they are browned. 

Add onion and bell pepper to the pan. 

Squeeze the juice from one half orange over the pork chops.

Add the prepared sauce.

Add the herbs and spices.

Add the orange zest.

Mix to combine and simmer at medium heat for 15 minutes.

Bake in the oven at 425° for 10 minutes.  (20 minutes if using bone-in chops)

Remove from the oven and add lemon juice.

Spoon cooked rice on a serving platter, leaving a well for the pork chops.

Arrange the pork chops on top of the rice and garnish with fresh rosemary.

Chicken Schnitzel with Roasted Mushrooms and Broccoli

A Quick Dinner for Two

Preparing a dinner has nearly become automatic for me.  I say, nearly, because there are still times that I am stumped about how to approach a particular meal, which usually causes me to bounce around the kitchen like a ping-pong ball, while trying to accomplish the simplest tasks.  But, over the years, I’ve learned how to manage my time and I’ve learned how to stay calm in the kitchen, even while improvising. 

For this meal, I wanted to flavor the broccoli with garlic but I didn’t want pieces of garlic in the finished dish and I wanted to add garlic paste to the schnitzel gravy so, it made perfect sense to me to quickly pan fry the broccoli with whole pieces of garlic and then use the garlic for the gravy.  That kind of efficiency pays off when you want to reduce the amount of time preparing a meal.  If I remember correctly, this meal took about 45 minutes to prepare.

Mushroom and Broccoli ingredients:

8 oz fresh broccoli florets

5 garlic cloves

8 oz fresh mushrooms (stems removed)

8 oz Mozzarella, crumbled

1 Tbs bread crumbs

Directions:

Heat a small pan and add a little olive oil, about 1 tablespoon.  Add broccoli and peeled garlic cloves over high heat, tossing in the pan, frequently.  The high heat will char the broccoli without overcooking.  Remove and set the garlic aside.

Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a ceramic baking dish.  Smear the oil around the bottom of the dish, to coat. 

Remove stems from mushrooms and arrange them in the dish.  Nestle the broccoli between the mushrooms. 

Top with crumbled Mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle bread crumbs over the cheese.

Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese melts and begins to brown.  Remove from oven and store in a warm place.

Schnitzel Gravy ingredients:

15 oz tomato sauce

4 Tbs Hungarian paprika

5 garlic cloves, sautéed and mashed

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbs softened butter

2 Tbs flour

For the schnitzel:

1 cup of cooking oil

2 large chicken breasts, flattened

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

2 Green onions, chopped

Directions:

Add tomato sauce to a large pan and set the heat to medium/low.  Add the paprika and swirl into the sauce with a whisk. 

Move the sautéed garlic, prepared earlier, to a clean cutting board.  Sprinkle a little coarse salt over the garlic cloves.   Press and smear the garlic with the broad side of a kitchen knife, to form a paste.

Add the garlic paste to the sauce and mix. 

Add flour and softened butter to a small bowl.  Mix with a fork.  Ladle some of the warm sauce into the bowl and continue to mix. 

Add the mixture back to the sauce and continue to the heat the sauce over medium/low heat.  The sauce will thicken during the next several minutes.  Reduce heat to low and simmer while preparing the chicken.

Add about 1 cup cooking oil to a pan and heat over medium/hot heat.

Add chicken breasts to a clean work surface.  Pound the chicken to about ½” thick with the broad side of a meat cleaver or mallet. 

Set up a dredging station with beaten eggs in one dish and Panko bread crumbs in the other dish.

Dredge the chicken in the egg, coating each side.  Lay the chicken in the Panko bread crumbs and turn over to coat each side.  Press on the chicken with your hands to ensure that the chicken is thoroughly coated.  Pan fry the chicken for about two minutes on each side, or until the chicken is golden brown.

Remove to a paper towel to remove excess oil. 

Add the chicken to a serving dish and cover with the schnitzel gravy.  Garnish with chopped green onions and serve warm.

Roast Pork Loin with Rosemary

A tip of the hat to legendary chef Emeril Lagasse for this one.  Emeril is a master of simplicity and he has a deep respecet for quality ingredients.  Say what you want about TV chefs but Emeril’s attention to detail and culinary skill is inspiring!  This particular recipe is about as simple as it gets and the result can make you feel like you’re eating at a four star restaurant.

As with any good cut of lean meat, high heat and short cooking time is key.  I was afraid of serving undercooked meat until I realized that it’s not the color of the finished meat that matters…it’s the temperature.  Bring the meat to a high enough temperature to kill bacteria and you’re safe to serve!

Ingredients:

4 large garlic cloves, pressed

1 Tbs Dijon mustard (I substituted with a German, stone ground mustard)

4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp coarse salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

2 lbs boneless pork loin roast, excess fat trimmed (I cut the roast into two equal pieces)

1 cup warmed chicken stock

Fresh rosemary sprigs or fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:

Mix the pressed garlic cloves, mustard, rosemary, salt and pepper together. Rub the mixture over the entire pork roast.

Place the pork, fat side down, into ceramic roasting pan. Roast the pork for 30 minutes at 400° F, then turn the roast over and roast until a meat thermometer, inserted into the center of the roast, reads 140° F, about 25 to 30 more minutes.

Remove the roast from the oven and let the roast cool for about 10 minutes.

Deglaze the roasting pan with warmed chicken stock and pour into a small saucepan. Simmer the sacue for a few minutes. 

Cut the pork into thin 1/3-inch-thick slices and arrange overlapping slices on a serving platter. Drizzle the sacue over the pork and garnish fresh rosemary sprigs or parsley.

Serve with baked or steamed vegetables.  I chose broccoli and baked potatoes.