Sunday night we had our first Down South dinner at The Pantry. Boiled peanuts, homemade saltine crackers with pimento cheese and smoked ham, succotash, fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits. I have to admit, it was kind of amazing. Maybe I’m biased to Southern food in general, but there was something beautiful about watching complete strangers sit around the table and get in there with their fingers. The thing that threw it over the edge for me?
Homemade hot sauce.
You know the stuff. It’s pretty. It’s hot. It’s usually that awesome shade of orange that I can never find a paint chip to perfectly match. It makes me drool a little just to think about it. I’ve been buying this one brand, Youk’s, for years. The problem is that they only sell it online or in San Francisco, at this restaurant called Maverick. Needless to say, carting it back to Seattle after every trip got a little tedious. And once you’ve had the good stuff, it’s just hard to go back to Tabasco or Tapatío. If you’re as much a fan of the stuff as I am, then this is a very good day. I made it with my friend Brandon one day, a couple of weeks ago. It was kind of a shot in the dark, involving us poking around on the web for Southern-style recipes, then just winging it. It actually surprised me with how good it is. Who knew I had such little faith in myself? Anyhoo, get yourself to the farmer’s market before the peppers are gone, you’ll thank me.
We started by tossing some fresno chiles in olive oil and then roasting them in the wood-fired oven at Delancey for a bit. After they got nice and browned, we pureed them in a food processor with just enough vinegar to make them move around in there comfortably.
Then we placed the whole blob of pepper paste in a strainer and smashed it through. We took the liquid that came through and adjusted it with more vinegar, some water and lots of salt. And that’s it. So darn simple.
And crazy good. We made about 6 cups of it and have already gone through a quart. In two weeks. There’s been a lot of heartburn at The Pantry this month, but no one’s complaining.
Hot Sauce Recipe:
1 lb Fresno chiles
15 TBSP distilled vinegar
1 TBSP water
1 3/4 tsp kosher salt
– Trim the stems off of the chiles, leaving the base that the stem attaches to. Rumor has it that that part gives great flavor. Who am I to challenge a good culinary rumor?
– Toss the chiles in enough olive oil to coat them. Then roast them in a broiler, or grill them if you can. The goal is to get a nice char on them.
– Puree them in a food processor or blender with enough vinegar to keep them moving.
– Strain them through a fine sieve, smashing the whole time to get as much of the pulp as possible.
– Add the water, salt and the rest of the vinegar and pop in the fridge to chill for a few days. You can certainly eat it immediately, but it only gets better with time.