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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hot Stuffed Hot Banana Peppers with a Hot Tomato Sauce Hotness

As the final days of summer come to a close, we will close out our month of hotness with this little gem.  It's not your grandma's traditional stuffed pepper with rice (boring) and hamburger (boringer).  This recipe is based on a Western PA-style stuffed pepper and pretty darned tasty, even if we do say so ourselves.  At the end of the recipe, we've provided some varitions so you can adapt to your preferred taste styling.

Stuffed Hot Banana Peppers

12 hot (or sweet) banana peppers


1 lb hot (or mild) Italian sausage
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 ½ tsp fennel seeds


1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, pureed
2 tsp basil goop (optional)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Cut off the end of the pepper (big end, not tip end).

Take a long thin knife (or paring knife) and cut the ribs free from the inside of the pepper as far down as you can reach. If you want to get more of the loose seeds out (i.e., cut back on some of the hotness), run water inside the pepper and rinse out the seeds.

Mix the sausage, breadcrumbs, egg, and fennel seeds together like you’re making meatloaf.

Using a little bit at a time, stuff the sausage mixture into the banana pepper.

Place the stuffed peppers on a rack in (or on) a baking pan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

While the peppers are baking, warm up the tomato sauce in a small saucepan (if you like big chunks, you don't have to puree the tomatoes). Add in basil goop (ref: end of post from Aug 15

You'll be able to tell when the peppers are done because the peppers will be slightly translucent and the filling will have a nice browned and crisped look to it.  Cover with your sauce and serve.


Wussy = sweet banana pepper + mild Italian sausage + no red pepper flakes in sauce

Have It Your Way = one or more of the above in a combination that won’t (or will) make you cry

Super Duper Hot = hot banana pepper + hot Italian sausage + red pepper flakes in sauce + throw in some hot sauce into the tomato sauce

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Keepin' the Kitchen Hot

We wanted to dedicate our last non recipe posting of the month to our spicy staples. We try to keep these in our kitchen at all time just in case the mood for spice hits us!

Hot Sauce- Going through culinary school the biggest thing we learned about ‘our friend Pete’ (Texas Pete) was that it could be put in pretty much anything. If you use very little, it doesn’t bring much of a burn, but it does give a different level of flavor. Examples of where we frequently use it, not as a heat element, but as flavoring. Just make sure you use a small amount and taste as you go:

- Pasta sauce
- Hummus
- Salad dressings
- Mixed with ketchup for dipping or as a sandwich topping
- In tuna, chicken or pasta salads

Of course it can also be used to add heat:

- Mix it with some melted butter and pour over popcorn
- Add a little extra spice to your takeout Chinese food
- Spicy Bloody Marys

Chili Oil- If you’re sautéing this is a good base to use either alone, or in combination with a mild oil. The chili oil gives just a little extra kick.

Ground cayenne- Excellent for putting into homemade Mexican foods if you don’t have any fresh or dried peppers hanging around.
Crushed red pepper flakes- Great on pizza and in sauces. Can be used on sandwiches and salads for that extra zing.

Peppercorns- We highly recommend investing in a pepper grinder. Buying pre ground pepper is alright, but it doesn’t have the punch of freshly ground pepper, it also loses its potency much quicker. Freshly ground pepper can be used on/in anything (although, we tend to use it more in savory dishes).

Horseradish/Spicy mustards– We use to spice up all sorts of mayo based salads and sauces. It’s also a fun little addition to dips and dressings, and if you’re looking for some extra heat in your cocktail sauce, throw in a little horseradish. These also have the added benefit of clearing out your sinuses!

Those are the basics. If you want a couple things above and beyond:

- Chipotle peppers packed in adobo- awesome added to chilies or soups that you want a little spicy and smoky. These come canned and if you can’t use all of what’s in the can at once (we never do) you can pack the remainder up in a storage bag and pop it in the freezer.

- Various dried peppers- If you’re ever in a pinch, you can rehydrate peppers and use them in place of the fresh peppers that are called for in a recipe.

So, what else do you keep in the house to add heat to your food?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why'd the Chiken Wing Cross the Road?

Here’s a great way to use your newly acquired hot sauce knowledge. Wings. Oh yeah, baby, HOT wings!!

It seems that no two places make the same wing, and if you saw Wednesday’s post, with all the different hot sauces available, there’s a reason for it. You have almost an unlimited amount of choices when it comes to which hot sauce you are going to use for your wings, and if you decide to combine sauces, well you just made your flavor possibilities infinite.

Below we’re going to provide a couple of preparation methods, along with suggestions for ways to create your own signature wing. Remember as you’re creating the ultimate wing, there are three pieces to the puzzle: heat level (provided by hot sauce); texture (breading, flouring, naked wings); flavorings (spices to add in addition to the hot sauce).

TCC’s basic hot wing:
For wings:
2-3 lbs. chicken wings*
¾ c. all purpose flour
salt and pepper (go easy on the salt, because the hot sauce is pretty high in sodium. The pepper is going to give you a little added heat, up the amount if you really want to taste it in your finished wing, decrease if you don’t)
Oil for frying

Mix flour, salt and pepper into a bowl (or if you don’t want to do extra dishes you can use a large Ziploc or plastic grocery bag). Drop the chicken wings, a few at a time, into the flour making sure they’re complete coated. Place the coated wings into the fridge for 15-20 minutes, this helps the flour stick really well to the wing throught the cooking process.

If you have a deep fryer this is an excellent time to whip it out. Deep fry your wings, in batches, at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes (they’ll be nice and golden brown). Pull them out and set on a paper towel to help absorb some of the grease.

If you do not have a deep fryer, pour enough oil into a heavy bottomed skillet so you have about ½ inch of oil. Heat over medium high heat, you’ll know it’s hot enough that if you put in a pinch of loose flour it sizzles. Fry in batches, do not overcrowd the pan. Fry 7 minutes then flip and fry another 7 or 8 minutes. Remove and place on paper towels.

For Sauce:
½ c. hot sauce (chef’s choice)
½-1 stick of butter (the higher butter to hot sauce ratio the less the spice)

Heat butter and hot sauce over medium heat until just bubbling. That’s it, sauce is done.

Place cooked wings in a bowl and pour sauce over, mixing until all wings are coated.

Put on a plate and serve with blue cheese dressing (see below for bonus dressing recipe). If you’re completely opposed to blue cheese you can use ranch.

Blue Cheese Dressing:

8 oz sour cream
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. buttermilk powder
¼ medium onion (finely diced)
3-4 oz. blue cheese (such as a Maytag or Roquefort. The amount you use is dependent on how much blue cheese flavor you want in your dressing)
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste

Combine mayo, vinegar, buttermilk powder, and 2 oz. blue cheese in a food processor. Mix until creamy and transfer to a bowl. Add in sour cream, onion and spices, mixing until combined. Crumble in remaining blue cheese.

You can use the dressing right after mixing, but giving it about a day in the fridge lets the flavors get to know each other and gives a better flavor.


* You can buy wings two ways, disjointed and whole. When you get an order of wings in a restaurant, they are already disjointed into two parts (you know you always reach for the mini drumstick since it’s easier to eat!). You can also buy whole wings which you can disjoint yourself (check out this you tube video for step by step on how to do that). We don’t recommend trying to prepare the wings whole… there is potential for uneven cooking, and really it’s just a whole lot messier to try to eat an entire jointed wing! It’s not a bad idea to cook like pieces together. That way you’re getting the ideal cooking time for each piece of the wing.

Here are some secrets to spice up your wings even more:

For the flour mixture: think about adding the following spices: garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, red pepper flakes, or chili powder.

For the sauce: our preference is to use half Texas Pete and half Frank’s red hot sauce. You may ask yourselves, why use both? Why those? It’s a matter of personal preference; we really enjoy the flavor that this combination provides. We also tend to like them a little more on the spicy side, so we favor a smaller amount of butter.

-Don’t be afraid to combine different hot sauces to find what you like the best.
-Different sauces may require different amounts of butter to increase or decrease the spice.
-Whatever you do end up doing, we suggest writing down what kind(s) of sauce, and how much you used. This way when you find your favorite combination, you’re able to recreate it.

Other methods:

-Bake the wings (at 400 degrees), flour as instructed above and lay on a lightly oiled pan, flipping about 10 minutes into baking. Use chicken breast for a boneless version ‘wing’.
-If you want to skip the flour breading feel free, you can prepare by frying or baking using the same method as above.
-When Wendi prepares her “Jessica and Fred safe wings”, she will coat the raw wings in the sauce and bake them (as above) for a nice flavorful, flourless wing (oh, and then she’ll re-dip them in hot sauce, just for that extra kick).

Create, love, eat, share… Have fun… and remember, pass up the water and grab some milk to calm the burn.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The hot sauce selection at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, NC.
Hot Sauce has been around for a long time, though these days, there seems to be a veritable plethora of sauces on the grocery shelves to choose from. Our favorite thing about hot sauces? The packaging! Don’t know how it tastes, but a clever bottle label will catch your eye every time.
Who says there's no truth in adverstising?
At least you can't say you weren't warned.

800,000 Scoville Units?!? Let’s put this in perspective for you – Satan’s Blood (which actually is a ghastly blood red in color) falls somewhere between a Red Savina Haberno Chile (350,000-580,000 s.u.) and common pepper spray (2,000,000 s.u.). Can you say burning ring of fire?
I’m not sure if the point here is to tempt you or scare you away. If you can’t read see them clearly, the bottle labels on the left read Sphinster Shrinker and Colon Cleanser…ummm….
Thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the more popular brands and provide you with some did-ya-knows.
TABASCO SAUCE – the sauce is made from the Tabasco chile which is where it gets its name (did not know that). In 1868, Edmund McIlhenney manufactured the first domestic hot sauce in the U.S. The recipe was patented in 1870 and then name trademarked in 1906. Tabasco became a household staple. Interesting thing, the label hasn’t changed much from when it was first bottled.
FRANK’S RED HOT SAUCE – the sauce is made from Cayenne peppers (learning new stuff all the time). It first came into being in 1920 after pepper farmer Adam Estilette partnered with Jacob Frank in New Iberia, Louisiana, to create a sauce spiced with the flavor-filled richness of cayenne pepper. In 1964, this spicy creation was used as the secret ingredient in the first ever Buffalo Wings in NY. Thanks Frank’s!
TEXAS PETE – or as we referred to it in culinary at ACC, the underpants of any good recipe! It’s a blend of three peppers, with some definite Cayenne overtones, that provides whatever you make with a nice stable flavor base. Despite its name, Texas Pete is from North Carolina. The sauce was developed by the Garner family in the 1930s and owes part of its name to the popularity of movie cowboys during that period.
ROOSTER SAUCE – this Thai sauce is made from sun-ripened chiles and is used as both a condiment and an ingredient in any number of dishes. Tuong Ot Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce is the most popularly used hot sauce by Asian food aficionados in the U.S. It gets its nickname because of the recognizable white rooster on the bottle label.

Feeling in the hot sauce know yet?  We are.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Angry Noodles!

Even the gnome knows it's hot!

The comes from the K2 family recipe vault and we think it was translated from an Italian cookbook originally, but no one can remember back that far.  It's simple to make and, even better, adjustable which means you can make your noodles as angry as you want. We went with a middle of the road anger that leaves a nice light coating in your mouth, just enough to give it a little sting, but not enough to make you cry.

Penne all'Arrabiata
(arrabiata = angry)

14 oz box penne
6-8 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
2/3 stick of butter
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes *
16 oz can peeled tomatoes (we recommend Cento, yellow can), smooshed
7-8 basil leaves, minced or 1 tsp dried basil or 2 tsp basil goop **

Take the prosciutto slices and rough cut them into smaller pieces, doesn't need to look neat or pretty.

In a hot skillet, melt half of the butter and then cook the prosciutto in it until the color changes.  Remove prosciutto from pan and set aside.

so okay, cooked prosciutto is not as pretty as
uncooked, but it tastes just as good, trust us

Melt the rest of the butter in the same skillet, then add in the garlic and pepper flakes.  Cook until the garlic turns yellow.

Before adding the tomatoes, you want to gently smoosh the tomatoes with your hand.  We find this is the best way to get the tomatoes to the texture and consistance we like.  You'll want to pull the tomatoes into smaller pieces.  It seems weird, but it's fun!

we say gently smoosh because if you just grab and
squish them, you should expect a tomato shower

Once the tomatoes have been properly smooshed, add them with the basil to the skillet.  Let simmer for about 30 minutes over low heat.

In the meantime you can prepare the noodles according to the box directions.

Once the noodles are cooked and drained, mix them with the sauce and add in the prosciutto.  Top with your favorite grated cheese, serve with bread and wine, and you have a scruptious pasta dinner.

* adjust the amount to suit your taste:
           1/2 tsp -- just a little pissed
           1 tsp -- angry
           1-1/2 tsp -- hopping mad
           2 tsp -- just gone Vesuvius
           2+ tsp -- RIP

** in case you don't have access to fresh basil, or say you ran out of the house and forgot to take some along, and the store you stopped at before cooking didn't have any fresh basil leaves, and you really aren't fond of dried basil unless it's winter and you can't use basil from your garden, then we recommend basil goop.  It's as fragrant as fresh basil and easy to measure out.  A good substitute if the need calls for it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hot Challenges!

So there we were, fixated on the Travel Channel and Adam Richman. If you have never seen Adam’s show Man vs. Food, you should think about checking it out. It’s amazing some of the food challenges that are out there.

We thought it would be fun to feature some spicy food challenges in this post. Are you brave enough to try them out for yourself? If you come across a spicy challenge that’s not here, or that is and you try… let us know!!

Have some time to kill before the Broadway show up in New York City. Go ahead and head to The Brick Lane Curry House. Their Phaal touts itself as being more pain and sweat than flavor. If you finish this challenge, you get a free bottle of beer … think it’s worth it??

Have some business in Charleston, SC? Stop by Bushido’s and attempt their Spicy Tuna Hand Roll Challenge. For this challenge you must get through 10 levels of increasingly spicy Tuna rolls! There’s a pretty good reward, $25 gift certificate and a headband. If the headband is worn on subsequent visits you’ll get a free appetizer or small sake.

Visiting some friends in Richmond, VA? Figure out how to get them over to Caliente, for their stupid wing challenge. You must eat 8 wings in 30 minutes or less… not just any wings, you guessed it super spicy wings! The prize? This one’s the best … a tee shirt that says “I’m Stupid”. How can you resist?

After all these challenges, you might be ready to cool down with some nice dessert. If that’s the case, don’t do this one. Sunni Sky’s in Angier, NC serves up something called ‘Cold Sweat Ice Cream’. You must sign a waiver before even sampling the ice cream.

Good luck, and please, let us know if you decide to try out any of these challenges!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Sadness!  The the end of summer is coming up quick, but there's still time to enjoy that warm weather favorite -- watermelon!  So here's a little something different to do with it.  As a salsa, it makes for a fun new taste sensation.  On one hand it almost seems too light to hold it's own against the other ingredients, but the contrast makes an interesting taste blend and by the you've tried enough samples to decide whether or not you like it, you'll find that the salsa's half gone.

Watermelon Salsa

4 cups seedless watermelon, rough chopped (= about 1/4 of a medium watermelon)
½ purple onion, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
1 tbsp parsley, chopped fine
juice from 1 lime
2 jalapeno, seeded and minced*
salt to taste

Combo all ingredients and chill. Can be served with chips, chicken or pork.

*Make sure to wear protective gloves when handling the jalapeno. If you decide to be bold and do it with your naked hands, then PLEASE remember not to rub your eyes or lips because there will be pain…and possibly crying, or at least a lot of whining, and nobody wants to hear that.

For a hotter salsa, you can keep the seeds and not remove the pepper ribs, or you can add another jalapeno.

Cilantro can be substituted for parsley.

To de-sweet the taste a bit, substitute a green bell pepper for the red one.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pepper? I don't even know her.

Since we’re focusing on hot-n-spicy this month, we won’t bore you with the details about your everyday ordinary don’t-melt-your-face peppers. Instead, we want to share a couple of good-to-know tidbits with you about the ones that might make you cry.

The scientific term for peppers is Capsicums and there are hundreds of variations. Peppers are categorized by their heat level and that heat/spiciness is determined by their level of capsaicin. Way back in the olden days, a clever fellow by the name of Wilbur L. Scoville came up with a test for determining the rate of intensity of heat produced by a pepper based on its capsaicin concentration. For the scientific breakdown and techno-jargon check out:

They have a handy not-to-hot pepper scale and it may frighten you to know that habaneros are only half-way up that list!

Some of the “medium” heat peppers you might be familiar with are Jalapeno, Rocotillo, Chipotle, and Wax (banana pepper).

from Peppers: A Cookbook (1997)

Some of the more commonly used “hot” peppers include Cayenne, Habanero, Serrano, and Thai.

from Peppers: A Cookbook (1997)

One of the cool things about capsaicin is that it’s so potent it retains its heat strength through most every cooking method.

If you want to control the heat intensity of the pepper you’re cooking with, removing the seeds will help some, but the highest concentration of capsaicin is actually in the ribs and so you should remove them if less heat is desired.

When cooking with peppers, it’s best to wear protective gloves because the oils will get into your skin and can cause irritation. If you do get it on your skin, do NOT rub your eyes or other sensitive parts of your body because you will be in pain…trust us, we know from experience.

When it comes to eating peppers, most people know that cold water is NOT the answer to soothing the flames that burst from your lips, the reason being that capsaicin is actually an oil and since oil and water don’t mix it just exacerbates the matter. Milk (rinsing with it as you sip), bread or rice will absorb the oil nicely and bring you back to a tolerable level of comfort.

There are a number of cookbooks available that focus on peppers, but one of TCC’s favorites is “Peppers: A Cookbook” (Robert Berkeley, 1997). It’s got a great intro with pepper photos (see above) and about 50 recipes divided by the type of pepper dish it is: Mild, Warm, Medium, and Hot. If you can find it, it’s a great book to add to your collection.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Green food is fun!

To start off our month of spicy (that’s right, month of spicy people!), we are going to post a quick and simple recipe for salsa verde with avocado. The final product has the feel of guacamole, with the tang of tomatillos! If you don’t like avocado or know somebody who may be allergic, you can skip adding them and just be left with a lovely salsa verde.

Salsa Verde with Avocado

4 large tomatillos (grab a couple extra if they’re small)
1 jalapeno pepper
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp. heavy cream (you can also use milk)
Cilantro to taste (we used about ½ of our bunch, leaves and small stems only)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 avocados pulp scooped and tossed with lime juice (about 1 Tbsp).

Place tomatillos, jalapeno and garlic in a pot and cover with water.

Bring the water to a boil and wait for the tomatillos to become a darker green (they will also soften). When you see that this has happened, they’re ready to come off the stove (this takes about 5 minutes after water has boiled).

Place the tomatillos, jalapeno and garlic into a food processor or blender (reserve some of the cooking liquid). Blend up with cream, cilantro and salt and pepper.

Add avocados and continue to blend until creamy. Add some of the cooking liquid if the salsa is too thick for you.

Adjust seasoning to taste.

To adjust the heat, you can change the amount of jalapeno you put in. For example, after boiling, we only used half of the pepper (with seeds removed) … we’re kind of wimpy when it comes to heat!