Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Beef Short Ribs -- Foods for Hot Sauce

So we like Hot Sauce because it makes food taste good, right? Yes! In keeping with that. I'm going to post one of my favorite recipes, which is great with almost any Hot Sauce, and is particularly tolerant of REAL Heat. That is ... my Braised Short Ribs. My God, I love it. I consider this to be The Ultimate Beef Stew.

The recipe will make 16 single rib servings, which in my house translates to 8 or fewer servings. And it makes a lot of honest beef stock gravy, in this case, really, sauce, that is thickened with the natural gelatin from the collagen in the cartilage and bones of the short ribs.

Do not be tempted to marinate the short ribs before cooking -- it is not necessary -- the short ribs have tremendous flavor and texture all by themselves.

This recipe is good with lots of sides, mashed potatoes, noodles, and good with Cayenne Pepper Sauce. It's good with Habanero Pepper Sauce, too.

I cook it in the Slow Cooker after browning the ribs, and I like to let the ribs braise overnight, or about 12 hours on low, strain and de-fat the liquid in the AM, and recombine the sauce and the Short Ribs by dinner time. You do not have to use a slow cooker for this, however, and braised in the oven at 300 for 6 hours or so or on the stove for 6 to 8 hours at low, the dish will be fine. For oven or stovetop, test each hour after 3 hours or so for doneness -- when the meat starts to fall off the bone, it's done.

Braised Short Ribs with Red or White Wine:

8 lbs of beef short ribs, or flanken, preferably with the bone in
1 large sweet onion, rough chop
2 large sweet onions medium dice
3 large carrots, rough chop
3 cups medium dice carrots
4 stalks of celery, rough chop
3 cups medium dice celery
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 to 8 TBS tomato paste
4 bay leaves
Bouquet Garni (small bundle) of fresh herbs -- parsley, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, thyme ...
2 or 3 TSP freshly ground black pepper or pepper mix
3 TSP sea salt
3 to 6 TSP fresh (not old) paprika
1/2 to 1 bottle drinkable cabernet or merlot, not too dry, or (my choice) sauvignon blanc--full bottle

Optional -- pearl onions, mushrooms ...

The recipe will involve 3 cooking segments -- 1) preparing the ingredients for the slow-cooker, about 30 minutes -- 2) straining and de-fatting the stock, and removing the fat, bones, and rubbery parts from the short ribs, about 30 minutes-- 3) reducing the stock, sauteeing some new veggies and combining the ingredients, about 30 to 45 minutes. The 3 cooking segments are spread out over a 24 hour period, which for me are usually the afternoon of the day before serving, the morning of the day the dish is served, and the evening of the meal.

Part 1:

On a large sheet pan place the short ribs in a single layer, douse them with olive oil and salt generously, then brown them in a 450 degree oven for about 30 minutes or longer until well colored.

Transfer to the bottom of a large slow cooker, including juices from the pan.

Add all other ingredients, and then enough water to bring to a level with the top layer of veggies. Slide bundle of herbs (Bouquet Garni) into pot at the side. If you have an unsalted demi-glace or stock (beef or chicken) you could add that in place of the water -- it is not necessary.

At this point you could add some optional spices, like 2 or 3 TSP of ground chipotle pepper, or ancho pepper, 1/2 TSP of liquid smoke, or 2 TSP of cumin, or whatever you think will taste good. Or you could save the modifications for the next time you make this.

So now you set the slow cooker for low heat and 12 hours, the night before, and come back in the AM to an all-pervasive aroma that makes you hungry for dinner before you've even had breakfast. That's what happens to me, anyway.

Part 2:

After the slow cooker pot has had a chance to cool a bit, transfer , carefully and gently, all of the short ribs to an appropriate sized dutch oven, with enough room left over to add more sauteed veggies, and all of the stock.

After you've transferred the short ribs, you can slide the rib bones out of the meat and carefully pull or cut off the rubbery membrane that sleeves the bone.

Strain the cooking stock through a chinois or a fine mesh sieve and carefully compress the solid matter against the mesh to extract all that slow-cooked goodness.

Transfer liquid to tall 1 or 2 quart containers with lids and place in freezer until fat has congealed.

Part 3:

Then remove fat from top of the frozen stock containers with a spoon and discard.

Reduce stock by about 1/3 at a simmer.

Saute in 3 TBS neutral oil over medium high heat 3 cups each of medium dice carrots and medium diced celery until just softening about 5 to 8 minutes, and reserve.

Saute over medium high heat 4 cups of medium dice sweet onion in 3 TBS olive oil. until well browned but not burned, about 15 to 25 minutes. Nonstick pans are good for this. You are carmelizing the onion to get sweetness to balance the flavor of the braise, so this is an important step.

Add to stock and simmer for 30 minutes more. All of that oniony good sweet flavor will dissolve into the stew.

Taste and correct the seasoning with additional sea salt and freshly ground black pepper as required.

Pour stock and onion mixture back into dutch oven with short ribs and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Add any optional veggies, such as mushrooms or pearl onions (you can saute them a little first if you like to build flavor and pre-soften them)

Add carrots and celery to dutch oven and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.

Correct the seasoning again and serve. Add some Hot Sauce to the pot if all of your customers will approve.

You can serve this dish with flat egg noodles, or potatoes of almost any kind. You can see Scalloped Potatoes in the dishes above and below. To the recipe in the link above I also add a couple of cups of grated sweet onion sprinkled on every 3rd layer or so.

As I said earlier, to my own serving I add my SR Virgin Fresh Red Cayenne-Cherry Pepper Sauce that's made with fresh pepper juice, fresh garlic juice, and fresh onion juice as well as a little sea salt and rice wine vinegar. !!!

This dish gets better and better over the week to 10 days from making it, and you can serve it with different sides each time.

By the way, it freezes very well and keeps in the fridge for quite a while since it's immersed in the solidified gelatin of the sauce.

If you make it, let me know!

Yours in flavor and heat,


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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hot Sauce Reviews: 2 Tropical Pepper Co. Habanero Sauces

Tropical Pepper Co. XXXXtraTropical Pepper Co. XXtraAll right, I'm still waiting for some more Benito's Hot Sauces. In the meantime, let's take a look at 2 Hot Sauces I picked up at the supermarket, that I've seen there and elsewhere recently, and have been curious about. Since these are apparently widely available, they may be of interest to you, too! They are from the Tropical Pepper Co. and labeled XXTRA HOT Habanero Pepper Sauce, and Special Edition XXXXTRA HOT Habanero Pepper Sauce.

Even better they are cheap -- they may have been on special; I'm not sure -- at $1.89 each, although on the website below they list for $2.99 ea.

There is a web site listed -- http://www.tropicalpepper.com/ -- and the bottle states that the sauce is packed for the H.L. Benndorf Corp., in Medford, NJ.

Made in Costa Rica, as are many others, including the fairly famous Dave's Gourmet line, these sauces appear to have a nice, thick body in the bottle with visible bits and pepper seeds, and a bright orange-red color.

The listed ingredients are the same for both sauces, and except for the labels, the sauces and the bottles appear identical.

Tropical Pepper Co. XXtra Hot Habanero Pepper Sauce &
Tropical Pepper Co. Special Reserve XXXXtra Hot Habenero Pepper Sauce
Ingdts: Crushed Habanero Peppers, Salt, Acetic Acid, Starch, Onion Powder

The nose of both sauces is primarily Vinegar (in this case Acetic Acid) and Brine, with a hint of Pepper and a touch of something sweet, the pineapple, no doubt.

The 1/4 teaspoon to the tongue test gives initially a Salt/Vinegar taste with a moderate Habanero heat and flavor with just a touch of sweetness, and a very minor hint of onion. This is true of both sauces, and except for more seeds and pulp in the Special Edition XXXXtra Reserve and possibly a tiny bit more heat, both sauces are essentially the same.

These are fairly simple sauces with a little more heat than, say, Tabasco, or a lot more than Frank's, but with a primarily Pepper/Vinegar/Salt flavor profile that will be familiar to Louisiana Style Hot Sauce people

In short, good, basic sauces with some kick and thickness. They would make a nice Wing Sauce. And they would be good for anyone who wants or needs a traditional sauce with more heat and thickness.

They aren't particularly tropical or Caribbean, in spite of the added pineapple.

Don't expect sweetness or fruit.

Recommended. Especially at the price.

Don't know why they bother to have 2 separate sauces.

You could always buy the Special Reserve XXXXTra Hot and say you spent 6 bucks for it ... sounds fancy enough.

Yours in heat and flavor,


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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mexican Hot Sauce Review: Cholula

Time out from Benito's Hot Sauce Reviews -- which are upcoming. I want to talk about Cholula Hot Sauce from Mexico. Widely available in supermarkets, I have been told by many people over the years that it is their hot sauce of choice. I myself have liked it for its "aged" pepper flavor and less vinegary smell and taste.

Cholula says their "Original" sauce is made from a paste of Arbol and Piquin peppers and it has an orange-red color in the bottle and appears to have a thickness to it.

Ingdts: Water, Arbol and Piquin Peppers, Salt, Vinegar, Xanthan Gum

Interesting that water is the first and principal ingredient, because this is a thick and finely textured sauce indeed -- that must be a finely ground and fairly dry pepper paste they use, if the added water only brings it to a ketchup-like consistency!

OK, to the nose there is a classic Arbol pepper note with Vinegar, not at all lemony like the Louisiana sauces, and the Pepper nose is aged.

The 1/4 teaspoon to the tongue gives a Salty/Vinegar and then Aged Pepper flavor with Heat building mid-tongue, with a nice Vinegar and Salt finish and a fine peppery heat on par with, or a little hotter than, Tabasco, for well over a minute.

There is a nice balance to the flavor and I can see that this sauce could be used where other more vinegary sauces would over-sour or over-brighten, and the aged pepper flavor is nice and deep if not quite as complex as that of Tabasco.

The pepper flavor is different from that of Tabasco, too, earthier, tasting more of pepper solids.

Although I have tried Cholula in the past, I have a new appreciation for it -- more interesting than most of the Louisiana style, Vinegar-based sauces -- thick like Frank's or Trappeys -- it makes a great base for a Wing sauce, it's good on a burger, great with eggs or soup, and a very good all-around sauce.

Highly Recommended.

I got my bottle at the supermarket and it was cheap by the standard of "high-end" Hot Sauces.

Yours in heat and flavor,


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