Friday, July 13, 2012

Dennis' Key Lime BBQ Sauce and the Tostada of my Dreams By: Byanne Salazar

Dennis' Key Lime BBQ Sauce courtesy of Hot Licks®
Pucker up buttercups, the sauce you see before you is going to turn on your tongue sprinklers! At first glance this looks like your typical Kansas-city style BBQ sauce with a pretty tropical label. I wasn't sure how key limes and tomato paste would turn out, but our friend Dennis was on to something groovy with this mix.

Let's start with the smell. It is tangy! You're going to pick up the vibrant acids of vinegar and key lime, but surprise surprise - there's another tart note swirled throughout the luscious sauce, tamarind! 

If you've never heard of this sweet and sour fruit let me be the first to introduce you. Native to Africa and most widely used in South Asian and Mexican cooking, this brown, very sticky substance can waken any sleeping palate. In its unprocessed form, tamarind can be eaten straight out of the pod it grows in, and has a melted and mashed fruit leather texture. 

Processed, tamarind usually comes in frozen, seeded packages or in jars. A spoonful of tamarind stirred into a soup or a sauce will make a dramatic difference in the flavor profile, turning something bland to something quite vibrant. 

I was thrilled to see such an unusual BBQ ingredient mixed in this Key Lime Sauce. Surrounded by typical smoky notes often found in BBQ sauces, the acids were doing something funny in my nasal cavity. I had a whole lot of tingle action happening just from sniffing the stuff - I couldn't wait to slide it across my tongue to have a taste.

This sauce is like a fine wine. You need to really swirl it around your mouth to pick up all the different notes. There's tangy, sour, sweet, smoky all happening at once. If you're not used to big flavor, you may feel a little overwhelmed at first. But don't quit, keep going. There it is - that little hint of spice and warmth that creeps across your mouth and ties the whole thing together. 

It's good. It's different-good. And since I'm tired of same-good, this was a welcomed change.

But something was missing. Heat. Hot Licks® had sent me down a road of sizzle that turned my tongue into a pitch fork. I crave a kick and while this Key Lime BBQ Sauce had me at "Aloha," I wanted to find a way to tie-in a peppery pop that would seal the flavor deal for me.

Here's what I came up with; I hope you like it!  
Jerkish Pulled Chicken Tostada with Grapefruit-Fennel Slaw and Orange-Garlic-Poppy Seed Dressing

Jerkish Pulled Chicken:
1 cup of Dennis' Key Lime BBQ Sauce
1 cup of low sodium chicken stock
1 stick of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of thyme
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger (or 1 inch of peeled fresh ginger, finely minced)
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
*1 tablespoon of dried crushed chile peppers (This is optional. I like it spicy you can adjust this amount to suit your personal taste. If you like mild-medium heat, I recommend using 1/2 of a tablespoon instead.)
1 tablespoon of honey
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (you can substitute 8 thighs for breasts if you like)
Salt to taste (I didn't use any, you may want to add a few pinches)

Grapefruit Fennel Slaw:
1 large grapefruit zested and juiced (reserve the zest for the Orange-Garlic-Poppy Seed Dressing below!)
2 cups of shredded cabbage (You can use a prepackaged mix or shred it yourself. I used a cup of freshly shredded green and a cup of freshly shredded purple cabbages)
1 medium fennel bulb, stems and core removed, shredded
1 tablespoon of fennel fronds (the thin green leaves!) minced
1 cup of Orange-Garlic-Poppy Seed Dressing

Orange Garlic Poppy Seed Dressing:
3/4 cup Best Foods Mayo
1/4 cup pulp free freshly squeezed orange juice
Zest of 1 grapefruit
2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced (I used a garlic press so there were no chunks!)
1 teaspoon of poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

6-10 corn tostada shells
freshly sliced red onion (for garnish)
freshly chopped cilantro (for garnish)

In a large pot or your slow cooker add all of the ingredients listed for the Jerkish Pulled Chicken. If using a crock pot, set it to high for three hours of cook time, or low for six to eight hours of cook time (whichever works for your schedule). If using a pot, place a tight fitting lid on and turn your stove to medium high. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and continue to cook with the lid on for an hour. 
Jerkish Pulled Chicken made with Dennis' Key Lime BBQ Sauce
Remove the chicken from the sauce and allow to cool. Turn the heat on the sauce back up to medium high and allow it to reduce to half its volume. When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, use the tines of a fork to shred it. When your sauce has reduced, strain it to remove the bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon stick before returning it to the pot. Add the shredded chicken. If you used the slow cooker, your sauce should have reduced and you will only need to break the chicken apart with the back of a firm spoon and stir. Manually remove the cloves, bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Keep the shredded meat on low/warm until service.

To make the slaw, combine the shredded fennel, shredded cabbage and fennel fronds in a large ziplock bag and add the grapefruit juice. Let the cabbage and fennel "marinade" in the juice in the bag on the counter while you whisk your dressing together.

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients listed and whisk in a large bowl until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Place in a sealed container in the fridge until you are ready to use.

After the cabbage and fennel have marinated in the grapefruit juice for at least thirty minutes, stir in one cup of the Orange-Garlic-Poppy Seed dressing. Make sure it completely coats the cabbage and fennel. Seal up your ziplock and allow the slaw to sit in the fridge for at least an hour so the flavors can meld together. If you have time, make this the night before.

To serve:
Place a tostada shell on the plate and spoon two-three tablespoons of slaw on top. Add the same amount of shredded chicken as slaw on top. Garnish with sliced red onions and cilantro. This is a delicious dish, but also quite messy, so have lots of napkins handy. You can substitute the tostadas for soft mini-buns to make delicious Jerkish Chicken and Slaw Sliders.

Well - that's my recipe folks. I hope you enjoy it - I know we did! The word just came in from Hot Licks®; there is a special during the month of August on Dennis' Key Lime BBQ Sauce! Hurry and place your order while it lasts!

I am no ordinary foodie. I am borderline obsessive-compulsive when it comes to good food. I crave new flavor experiences, dream of ingredient combinations, get a thrill finding a great restaurant, and love to write about the whole experience.

Artichoke Salsa with Chardonnay - Hooray! By Bryanne Salazar

I love artichokes; and I love salsa, but never could I have imagined the two blended together with Chardonnay; and tasting amazing! But I've come to expect nothing but the best from Hot Licks® and they haven't disappointed me yet.

My first experience with their Artichoke Salsa was a few weeks back. I spun the lid off the jar as if I were a cowboy twirling my pistol. I got so deep into character I started talking to the jar, "Well hey there pretty little thing. You're new to this town, aren't you?"

Standing behind me the entire time was my husband, who couldn't supress his laughter any longer.

"Wow, really babe?" he asked.

"Oh shut up!" I said. We both started laughing, but I'm pretty sure he's keeping an extra eye on me, watching for signs I might be cracking.

As soon as the coast was clear, I stuck my nose right in the salsa, wanting to get a full-bodied experience. Instead, I got a full-chunk of carrot up my nose. Oops. The second round of sniffing went much smoother, and I kept my nose at a respectable distance.

The first thing I noticed with my second sniff was that it smelled surprisingly like a rich marinara sauce. "Wait, isn't this salsa?" I said. I was speaking out loud again, and threw a guilty look over my shoulder.

I gained my composure and returned to the jar, studying the label once more for certainty. Yes, it was salsa; but there was something else I hadn't noticed under the name. In pretty cursive I had managed to overlook the first time, were three magic words, "
made with Chardonnay."

Now I am no drunk but I want to convey to you just how excited I was to dive in to Chardonnay-laced salsa at three in the afternoon. Unfortunately, there isn't enough alcohol in the salsa to have even remotely given me a buzz, but those warm oaky notes and bright, crisp tropical flavors lend themselves beautifully to a salsa of this pedigree.

I went in for the taste. The first mouthful reminded me of a juicy bruschetta I'd had at this lovely Italian restaurant in Hawaii overlooking the Pacific. There was just a tad of pepper, making this quite mild, but the restraint with the pepper allowed the other ingredients to really shine. Ripe plum tomatoes, aromatic garlic and onions, grassy parsley and sweet bits of tender carrots followed by the tangy gems of artichoke hearts folded throughout the salsa come together in a luscious recipe that knocks grocery-store varieties on their derrieres.

So what did I do with it after eating nearly half the jar with my spoon? I found a small loaf of ciabatta hiding in my refrigerator and cut four semi-thick slices. I got out my favorite stainless steel skillet and added a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil, and added the bread to the oil as soon as it whispered with smoke. I fry-toasted the slices for about three minutes per side on medium high heat, giving them a golden crispiness that made my tongue unfold like a red carpet.

Next, I took a fat clove of raw garlic and cut it in half, and rubbed the cut side across one side of my oil-toasted bread giving it a touch of spicy-garlic goodness before sprinkling the bread lightly with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Then, I spooned the Hot Licks® Artichoke Salsa on to each slice of bread. Finally – and it was hard to wait this long, I added a little dab of chèvre on the top and inhaled those suckers like a woman who’d been starving on a deserted island and just saw food for the first time in weeks. I’m not even going to tell you how good it was because you need to try this yourself. And I fully expect a thank-you afterwards.

Hot Licks® Artichoke Salsa is great as a dip for chips, veggies, pita bread, fingers, spoons, right out of the jar slurped like a beverage; you name it. On the label it suggests tossing the salsa with your favorite pasta or even topping your morning omelette with a spoonful. I think it would make awesome Spanish-rice or even a fun bloody-mary mix.

What can you make with Hot Licks® Artichoke Salsa? I’d love to hear it!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Strawberry Habanero Jam - Jelly Take Two

After my last review of the Blackberry Habanero Jam, I was worried I'd write a blog about the Strawberry Habanero Jam that would sound like a song from the same soundtrack. I didn't have to worry, this smoky-sweet summery jam with peppery undertones is definitely no twin. If I have to pick a favorite, hands down, I'd pick the Strawberry Habanero. Why? The Strawberry Habanero Jam is both completely familiar and totally unexpected at the same time. I grew up thinking strawberry jelly was a food group, and loved mixing it in my ice cream, vanilla yogurt, on toast, slathered on a bagel or even just in a spoon. Let me tell you folks, this jam kicks every one of those aforementioned foods up to another level. If you like sweet and enjoy a little kick of spicy, you will adore this jam. 

But if you like to live a little - keep reading.

The first time I tasted this jam I knew it had to be turned into a salad dressing. It had the sweet notes I enjoy in a good balsamic or thousand island, and the warm tingle of fruity habanero that makes my tongue do the flamenco. I wasted no time. Because this is a jam, and has pectin to gelatinize it, I knew it would need to be heated up to temporarily break-down its firmness. I took 1/4 of a cup of the Strawberry Habanero Jam and placed it in a large microwave safe glass bowl for 45 seconds on high. It got all bubbly and gooey and I kind of wanted to drink it, but I didn't.

To the melted jam I added 1/2 a cup of extra virgin olive oil. This is important because the extra virgin oil has a complimentary fruitiness and even a slight heat from the acid of the olives to make it a perfect match for this dressing. However, if you want, you could also use grapeseed oil, but it won't have as much flavor. I then added the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon. This provided enough acidity to cut the sweetness and thin out the jam enough to constitute a lusciusly thick dressing.

Not trying to toot my own horn or anything, but this stuff was so good! I used my dressing on a salad of baby arugula and crumbled feta. The bitterness of the arugula and the creamy saltiness of the feta were magical with the sweet, tangy, lightly spicy Strawberry Habanero salad dressing. Look how it clung to those leaves - it's almost inappropriate. 

But don't stop there - keep going. This dressing is fabulous on juicy watermelon cubes tossed with fresh mint and feta. It even works as a glaze for meats like fish, chicken, pork chops and ham! And because it is so versatile, you could even use this dressing as a dessert sauce with fresh fruit and chocolate.

Or, just eat it by the spoonful. Who cares? No one's looking.

You can find this jam and others at: 

Hot Licks Review: This Sauce is Suicide!

Hot Licks Review: This Sauce is Suicide!: Do not - I repeat: Do not underestimate this hot sauce. You will be sorry.     Let me explain something to you; I love hot. I'm no...

Blackberry Habanero Jam - My PB&J Just Got Dangerous

Blackberry Habanero Jam - My PB&J Just Got Dangerous

Warning: Tasting this jam will upend everything you thought you knew about preserved fruit spreads. This product is meant for people who color outside the lines.

We've all heard of pepper-jellies. Growing up in the eighties, I can remember the two varieties of sweet and spicy jelly found at the local supermarket; one was neon red and the other was neon pine-green. They were nice spread over a grilled pork-chop, but really, not good for anything else. Who would put pepper-jelly on a peanut butter sandwich or on top of pancakes? Okay, I admit it, I did too. But it wasn't that tasty.

Hot Licks is flexing their genius with this jam. Incorporating the sweet, bright notes of blackberry with the hot, fruity taste of habanero meant this jam wasn't just for an occasional chop, but a unique ingredient capable of igniting pizazz in sweet and savory recipes.

And what a PB&J this bad-boy makes. I used crunchy peanut-butter on butter-toasted brioche with a slathering of Blackberry Habanero Jam. The merging of creamy and tangy, salty and sweet-heat on a crispy buttery bun sorta' changed my life forever. How can I go back to just sweet, boring sandwiches when my tongue has been revved up by the subtle notes of hot pepper that linger on my palate after the last bite is gone?

This jam isn't just a spread though. It works amazing as a glaze for meats like ham and chicken. Try using it in place of BBQ sauce during your next cook out. The sugars in the jam will carmelize on the meat and the heat will provide just enough sizzle to wake up a tired mouth and make it feel alive.

Or try adding a layer to cakes, cupcakes, croissants and pies. The fruitiness of both the blackberry and the pepper will shine when matched with rich flavors of butter and chocolate.

For those of you who want to entertain, spread a quarter cup of the Blackberry Habanero Jam over a round of Brie cheese, then sprinkle it with toasted sliced almonds. Wrap in puff pastry and bake until golden, and serve warm. The gooeyness of the cheese, the butteriness of the puff pastry and the delicate sweet heat from the jam will leave your friends in awe.

This Sauce is Suicide!

This Sauce is Suicide!

Do not - I repeat: Do not underestimate this hot sauce. You will be sorry.
Let me explain something to you; I love hot. I'm not one of those fakers who claim they like it spicy and then punk out the minute a jalapeno is added to the plate. I eat foods most people consider inedible due to the extreme heat level. So when I saw the label, I didn't wince. In fact, I scoffed. That was one of the stupidest things I've ever done, unless you count that time I forgot to turn my car off and went to watch a feature-length film.
This sauce is hot. It's not even kind of hot. It's ridiculous. Craig Learner, owner of Hot Licks® warned me that in-store they sample this product on the tip of a toothpick. I didn't think toothpick applications applied to me, so I jammed a celery stick into a pool of the magma-liquid and stuffed it into my mouth. Ouch. Owie. Crap! Oh no - CALL 9-1-1!
I entered the sacred order of fire-swallowing. The capsaicin triggered a numbing burn that evolved into a swelling, sweltering sting no milk could soothe. After about five minutes of blowing my nose and wiping my brow while sucking on ice cubes, I had learned my lesson.
 That's when I called my twelve year old spice-loving son Jorge over for a taste. Sure it's mean, but it's also a great bonding experience. My son did two things: he broke out in a red flush and then he went in for another taste. Another! He loved it. Since Thursday my son has sampled the sauce at least eight more times. I'm afraid of the kind of woman he'll marry if he likes that much pain.
 So there's the truth, the real deal, this sauce is not lying. If you are looking for extreme heat, look no further. If you are like my son, you'll go straight up and douse your eggs, cheese, meats and whatever else you can think of with this stuff. If you're like me, you'll stir a few drops into your bowl of soup, chili, favorite dip, or salsa. It adds the perfect mouth-punch peppery people look for, without losing any teeth.
However - I wouldn't end this blog without an unexpectedly wild way to use this sauce. So here it is:
Chile-Cocoa, that's right, hot and spicy hot cocoa. Don't be scared. The Mayans were mixing chiles and chocolate thousands of years ago, and we all know they were pretty smart.
You can whip up your favorite hot cocoa or you can borrow my recipe. There are lots of great cocoa powders out there, but I am partial to Hershey's. I do a mix of Natural Unsweetened and Special Dark. Here's how I do it:
1/3 cup of hot water
2 tablespoons of regular Hershey's Cocoa Powder and
2 tablespoons of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder (Or you can substitute 4 tablespoons of your favorite cocoa powder)
1/2 cup of sugar
4 cups of milk (I like whole milk for a richer cup of cocoa, you can use whatever milk you prefer)
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
a pinch of salt (literally, a tiny pinch - the salt brings out the depth of the cocoa and the sweetness too!)
2-4 drops of Hot Licks® Suicide Hot Sauce
Bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Turn off the heat and stir in all of the cocoa powder and the sugar, whisking until it forms a smooth paste. Next, add the milk, vanilla and salt, and then turn the heat on to medium, Whisk until the mixture comes together and looks like chocolate milk. You'll need to stir it often so the heat doesn't scorch the milk. As soon as it starts to whisp steam from the surface, add two drops of the Hot Licks® Suicide Hot Sauce and stir. Get a spoon and taste it. You should first taste the rich warm and sweet chocolate, followed by the soft heat in the back of your throat from the pepper sauce. If you want it spicier, add two drops more. The goal is to have just a tiny hint of heat to surprise your mouth. The flavors go together in such a subtle but complimentary way you will wonder why you never tried this before. This recipe serves about four large mugs or six smaller ones.
Chile-spiced chocolate is popular with chefs worldwide. Chocolate bars can be melted down and spiced with pepper-sauce and remolded for a delicious spicy-sweet dessert. How do you like to use Hot Licks® Suicide Hot Sauce? The wilder the better!
So are you brave enough to try some Suicide? Why not? You only live once.