Brooklyn Salsa Mole Tacos

With an enormous rainstorm and a chilly wind, we’ve finally ushered the oppressively hot summer out and have welcomed in autumn. I forgot how much I missed those good New England fall evenings. My new place is on the top floor of the building, and has an advantageous position both for a pleasant view and smoky winds, coming in from the fields and filling the place with that scent I so missed while abroad.

Last evening, the Bedfellow and I decided to mimic the smoky scents with a dinner reminiscent of that pungency, using an ingredient we picked up at the Fancy Food Show. This is Brooklyn Salsa’s newest creation, a hot mole salsa that speaks more like a sauce.  I can’t give it a higher opinion- it’s the best jarred mole I’ve ever tried, with absolutely no fatty or oily texture to speak of, with a smooth, rich flavor redolent with roasted chili peppers, sesame, and chocolate.

The tacos had equal aplomb, coated in crema, queso fresco, avocado slices, and roasted tomatoes. Color me gauche, but I love Hunt’s fire-roasted canned tomatoes. They added a decent depth of flavor without diluting the sauce, and if anything, contributed to the strength of the more roasted flavors.

With those and the aforementioned toppings piled on fresh blue corn tortillas- a pleasant and snappy diversion from the blank white corn canvases, we had ourselves a wonderful autumn meal. Making these vegetarian would likely also be fun, as I can imagine the flavors would translate well to squash or other dense vegetables.

I’m curious to try the other salsas- I’d love to see if they’re as dualistic as dips and sauces as this one was.

Heinz Hot Sauce: Chipotle and Garlic, Green Jalapeno, and Yellow Habanero

Yes, tomorrow is the end of the world, so you’re going to have to expect to see strange memes, awfully photoshopped photos of skulls and Microsoft Word texts from the mid 90’s, and liveblogging from the apocalypse, courtesy of the Foodette Isn’t Going Anywhere foundation, circa 2012. Incidentally, the number of strange coincidences, like France releasing limited-edition products in sets of threes, has me intrigued and slightly convinced that the world might end. I’ve been here four months already with no sign of strange things, and all of a sudden, special editions of products are popping up all over the place. 

Another thing that leads me to believe that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket: France has finally embraced the idea of hot sauces, commercially available, in stores, and made by large, familiar companies for lonely ex-pats and curious Europeans. Like Pago, and the new Red Bull, these, too, were released in three, which explains my most recent grocery bill:

Harry’s white bread: 0,98 Euro
Apricot juice: 1,8 Euro
Heinz hot sauce: 6 Euro
Apricot jam: 1 Euro
Butter: 1.5 Euro

Three new hot sauces! In three new-ish flavors! Obviously, I had to get all three of them, and prominently display them on my kitchen table next to a Parisian cinderblock and quickly overflowing ashtray. Hashtag bohemian, my friends! This appears to be one of the only markets Heinz uses for hot sauce, so I figured they had to be good. In fact, they aren’t even on the company website yet. In Green Jalapeno, Chipotle and Garlic, and Yellow Habanero, they looked both minimal in ingredients and high-end enough to accompany the pulled pork and corn flakes I’ve been noshing in the end of days.

Well, there’s some good and bad to these. On one hand, they are hot sauces, and I refuse to believe that this is the last attempt for France to jump on the “spicy good, bland bad” bandwagon. On the other hand, the perfectly-tailored John Lobb shoe has dropped, and the verdict remains that these sauces are not damned spicy. They’re trying- they are spiced, but they are not spicy, so to speak. Their quantifiers of “medium, hot, and very hot” are as useful as putting warning signs on pipe cleaners and stuffed animals. Why bother? They have the intensity of gingerbread despite a vibrant color. It’s a pity, as they are really impeccably flavored, with a very rich, natural taste and easily distinguishable between the three. Their succinct ingredients gave them a wholesome edge that allowed them to blend easily with all manner of meat, bread, or spread.

My favorite of the three was the green jalapeno, followed by the yellow habanero. Both allowed the pepper to be showcased front and center with very little additional spice or herb encumbering the vegetal flavors. Like I said, they weren’t spicy, unfortunately, but at the very least, they imparted a more developed flavor onto meat. A zesty warmth, if you will, disappointing for the habanero as we approached that with trepidation only to find that it was bland as all hell. As for the chipotle and garlic, while I liked it, it wasn’t too far from the Cholula or taco sauce I typically use back home. Tasty, but not really hot. They tried, though, and if that doesn’t say “delicious end of the world snack” to me, I don’t know what does! I’m looking forward to seeing these become a coveted item on the post-apocalyptic black market once all the Tabasco has been rationed for emergency energy supplements. Vive la France!

Heinz Ketchup Primeur

You’re probably wondering why I’ve called you here. No, I’d rather not discuss my estate today, nor is it occasion for one of my infamous Scotch, cigar and Euro tastings, but rather, a new opportunity in gustatory indulgence. Gentlemen? You may wish to sit down. What I am about to show you shall bring new life to your French-fried potatoes, a devilish tang to your roasted newborn calf filets. Men, we are humbled in the presence of this confounded condiment: Heinz Ketchup Primeur.

 En primeur, a concept formerly limited only to the finest and most expensive of wines, has now extended its graceful, feminine reach to ketchup, which many may agree is the Bordeaux of condiments, the Ferrari of fast food. Heinz has lovingly aged their tomatoes with only the gentlest of touches under the soft Portuguese sun. Monitored by a team of Harvard-educated, Oxford-refined, and McDonald’s trained tomato technicians and botanists, the Primeur ketchup is then bottled, numbered, and emblazoned with the gleaming, masculine signature of J.P. Heinz, the Burger King himself, fresh after his stint in the Oxford Federal Correctional Institute. His offense? Putting a hit out on Sir Kensington. Can you even imagine!?

This premier sauce of the one percent is jammier than its pedestrian squeeze-bottle counterpart, with a natural tang and sweetness and rich depth of flavor, not unlike the sweet and savory combination of Cornish sea salt-cured caviar atop shredded Birkin bag blinis. Carrying a light, healthy sheen and thick texture, it rises above mere mayonnaise and relishes its status as the creme de la creme of ketchup.

Preliminary uncorking allowed a spicy scent to waft from the cut glass bottle (regrettably, they were out of the Baccarat at Barney’s) but my initial tasting was slightly deterred, as the condiment was so thick it had to be coaxed out of the container with a Tiffany oyster spoon! However, after breathing for a brief sojourn, it proved to be intense and balanced, pairing impeccably with both steak and potatoes.

Currently only available in Europe, it would behoove you to fly there at once, so your potatoes and Sir MacNuggets shall go uncoated no more. Preferably in a private jet, or at the very least, atop a litter carried by five trained jaguar siblings across the Incense Road of Antiquity.

Godspeed, Hunt’s. You may shut the door behind you.

Long live Heinz!

Bratwurst, Jalapeno, and Caramelized Onion Potstickers

I hate summer. There, I said it. I’m allergic to the beach and catch burns faster than Snooki catches STI’s. The only person more miserable on a boat is Tommy Lee Judd post-Double Jeopardy. The irony of spending over 75% of my childhood summers on boats and at beaches is not lost on me. But now I’m a grown-ass woman! I can fast-forward to any damned season that I want. And today, I decided that I wanted autumn to hurry up and get here already. So for lunch, I made Miss Love a boatload of homemade dumplings, filled with bratwurst, jalapenos, caramelized onions, and topped with a spicy mustard sauce. And they say July is a summer month.

If you haven’t made homemade potstickers before, take it from an authentic Jewish, American white woman whose only contact with Asian heritage involves casual hookups: these are easy and worth your time. I cheated a little and got premade dumpling wrappers from a local Asian grocery. They tasted fresh and were easy enough to make that in retrospect, it seemed silly to make the dough from scratch. If you have access to these wrappers, I highly suggest you pick some up. They’re hardy and thaw quickly for easy preparation.

To make the dumplings, we combined a few of our latest and greatest favorite ingredients- I’d had the good fortune to receive a selection of Gold’n Plump chicken sausages earlier this week, as well as a tangy, sticky mustard sauce simply named, “That Yellow Sauce.” I’m addicted with this. I’ve been slathering it on top of all of my favorite foods. Mixing those together with some of Gordy’s Thai basil jalapenos, picked up at the Fancy Food Show, and chopped caramelized onions yielded a sweet, savory filling with a wonderful lingering spice.
Bratwurst, Jalapeno, and Caramelized Onion Potstickers
Ingredients (makes 18-20 dumplings)
2 3oz. uncooked bratwurst sausages, taken out of casing
2 tablespoons chopped jalapenos
2 tablespoons of spicy mustard
4 tablespoons of chopped caramelized onions
18-20 dumpling wrappers
1. Mix together ground bratwurst, jalapenos, mustard, and caramelized onions. If you’d like, you can do this the night before you make the potstickers so the flavors have more time to blend together.
2. When you’re ready to make the potstickers, place a teaspoon of the filling in the center of a dumpling. With your fingers, wet the edges of the wrapper and draw them together, pinching and sealing the edges so that the filling doesn’t leak out.
3. Place the filled dumplings in a greased pan on medium-high. Cook until the bottom is brown and crispy. Pour 1/3 cup of warm water in and steam on medium-high for five to six minutes, tossing the dumplings as needed. When the water is evaporated, lower the heat and simmer until fully cooked. Serve with a garnish of onions, mustard, and hot sauce.

These are easy to customize and create and can easily be frozen for later snacking. I’m planning on trying these with spicy brisket and shredded chicken next.

Frontera Limited Edition Farmers Market Salsa

I could live off of salsa and chips in the same way that Miss Love could eat nothing but pasta with tomato sauce for dinner. Many a dinner has gone by where I’ve sat, bag of Tostitos and jar by my side, all gone an hour later. That being said, that’s one of my biggest trepidations about moving to Paris this August. Yes, all the TMZ rumors you’ve heard are true, your faithful critic is shipping off to Gay Paree for six months to study abroad. But for the life of me, I don’t know where I’m going to get my fix of Mexican food. I know that any Southern readers are likely scoffing incredulously. We do have good Mexican food up here, though, I swear! It’s right near our cowboy hat emporiums and famed barbecue joints, too.

Luckily, I can order Rick Bayless’s Farmers Market (Farmers’ Market?) salsa online while I’m away. Sure, the shipping charge may deter some aficionados, but not this guy. The flavors alone are enough to keep me coming back time and time again. In October, I gushed over the Chipotle Pumpkin salsa and now I’ve got a jar of the Heirloom Tomato for my own. Well, half a jar, now. I could tell you how gorgeous the juxtaposition of the rich, maroon salsa was against the rustic label design and blab about the huge chunks of smoky tomatoes and roasted onions, but again. Half a jar. I think that hammers the point home that I loved this salsa.

Lately, I’ve discovered that although my bloggy tendencies and tastebuds love weird sauce and salsa flavors, thank you very much, in terms of a daily grazing delight, it doesn’t get much better than a classic salsa. This is an upscale version of the flavors you’ve known and loved for years- tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, and a healthy shake of cumin. No rocket science here, but it melds together impeccably with a thick, cohesive texture more akin to a simmered sauce than a chip dip. The one switch that brings this from salsa to stardom is the addition of habanero and serrano peppers as backup singers for the jalapeno. The result is a clean, sweet bite with a tangy flavor and lingering heat that seeps into all of the vegetable pieces. Deelish, although a bit more tang and heat would make this near perfect. This might be the saving grace to French cafeteria food, non?

Pig of the Month Key West in a Bottle Citrus Grilling Sauce

People go on quests for the perfect type of food all the time. America’s best burger, the most extravagant red velvet cupcakes Venus has to offer, the types of things that reality television shows and type 2 diabetes are made of. I have some staples that I find always need improvement, but when it comes to barbecue sauce, I’m a closeted settler. I find that in most cases, it’s so slanted toward the mediocre that finding a sauce that doesn’t send me into a Tazmanian devil-esque frenzy makes my pants tent.

I thought it was crazy to want more out of barbecue sauce, and had been perfectly happy with either ignoring it or using it as an industrial-strength paste for my wallpaper, until I found this. Buyer’s Best Friend sent this summery sauce over by Pig of the Month. Initially, I looked at it and could almost taste the sugar and molasses-heavy flavors through the glass, like a useless sixth sense. However, since my father was coming by, we decided to throw caution to the grill and use it as a marinade and glaze for chicken, and boy, are we glad we did that.

Pig of the Month specializes in cutting out the middleman and sending dismembered animal parts right to your door, fresh for consumption and ritual sacrifice over fire pits. In addition to controlling the meat racket, they also sell bottles of their homemade sauces. We tried the Key West Citrus sauce and it was divine. I think I’ve used this on no less than three dishes in the last two days. Dumplings. An omlet sandwich. Grilled chicken. Turkey burgers.

Holy cow. BB-who, now? This sauce is silky. This sauce is sweet, but nowhere near unctuous. It has a spicy, bold pepper kick. Exceptional really isn’t a strong enough word for this sauce. Stupendous? Finger lickin’ good? Doesn’t hold a candle to how it really tastes. Instead, I’ll casually mention that by accident- I cannot stress that enough, a few drops of this made it onto a spoonful of peanut butter I was eating. And I kept eating it. And it was freaking awesome. That good enough for you?

Point is, this has the best balance and fruitiness of any barbecue sauce I’ve had. It eschews the unwritten philosophy that meat needs copious amounts of sugar, salt, and bland spices to handle a six-hour ride in a smoker and instead, soaks a bright, clean set of fruit juices (grapefruit comes out especially well here) and bold cayenne and cumin into the meat. It’s both a wonderful marinade and glaze as well as a drizzled sauce. If you’ve tried any other sauces from Pig of the Month (or any of their delectable porky products) let us know how you like them!

Tabasco Buffalo Style Hot Sauce

My life is flaming right now. And I don’t mean in a listening to Elton John more than usual, leather jacket wearing, pompadour sort of way, because that would imply that I hadn’t already been doing those things. Ahem. What I mean is that things are coming together all at once and the hours in the day just aren’t feeling long enough. Cooking, blogging, and overall enjoyment of life have been pushed aside for finals preparation and LSAT cramming, as well as the ensuing therapy that comes with both, and I’ve barely had time to eat a full meal on an honest-to-goodness table, as opposed to the pile of papers that typically serve as my plate, much less prepare one for Miss Love and I. Imagine my joy when the newest sauce from Tabasco came to the house today- Buffalo style, no less. Easy to use and easy to enjoy…or was it?
I was initially skeptical, but then again, due to the aforementioned LSAT prep, I’ve been initially skeptical about everything I’ve been doing lately. Reading traffic signs. Watching television. Even a simple question from Miss Love about dinner will elicit a stern discussion about whether or not her suppressed premise includes not wanting to eat chicken for the sixth night in a row and determine if her argument to do so is structurally flawed.  
So reading on a package that something is “Buffalo style” rather than “Buffalo” in name gets my brain racing. And calorie-free Buffalo to boot- now that’s something to tweet about.

 Luckily, my fears were for naught. While I was initially put off by the scent, a combination of regular Tabasco and an underlying nose of spicy musk, as well as its ability to tattoo the skin with its signature orange brand, a sure sign that tells everyone you see that you’re well on your way to obesity and are proud of it, the flavor carefully mimicked buffalo wings without the usage of butter. Or witchcraft.
It’s less spicy than Tabasco but spicy enough to leave a good tingle on the lips and tasted amazing with our homemade chicken patties. It’s also thicker than regular Tabasco, which makes it easy to toss wings or chicken pieces in and not have to worry about the sauce dripping off. It’s got a good texture and easily adheres. This will definitely be a key player in our dinner condiment lineup.

Spoonable Peppered Orange Caramel Sauce

The older I get, the less I find myself enjoying really sugary food. Used to be that I could walk into a grocery store and, given the choice between a rotisserie chicken and a red velvet cake roll, leave with diabetes and the reassurance that I would never lack for saturated fat again. Now my first reaction to those foods in the bakery section is repulsion, though that could also be because they recently started putting nutrition facts on the labels and I can no longer estimate the caloric value of cream cheese-stuffed black bottom Reese’s frosted cupcakes. Oh well.
If there’s one food I know I love, though, it’s salted caramel sauce. It’s laborious to make and satisfies my inner pyromaniac and allows me to briefly face dangerous splatters and intense heat head on before padding back to the office to write about 18th century French literature. It goes to show, though, that it’s rare for me to find and buy a good caramel sauce in a jar because of how much I like to make it on my own. Recently, I was sent a selection of sauces by Spoonable, a caramel sauce company in Brooklyn, to sample and evaluate.
The packaging on these is gorgeous, with a stamped design and concise label on butcher paper. It seamlessly blends with the glossy, smooth caramel inside. Of the five flavors they sent over, I knew I’d have to try peppered orange first. And who wouldn’t want to try a sauce whose label enthusiastically recommended spooning it over both pancakes and pot roast? While we didn’t break out the carnitas just yet, it is worth noting that the endorsement for slathering Spoonable on everything isn’t just laying it on thick, so to speak.
The sugar, despite being the first ingredient, is masterfully tempered in the caramel, and has a gooey texture with a strong bitterness from the extract. This makes my homemade caramel look like dog crap on a spoon. It’s easy to eat on a cookie, with chocolate, or just out of the jar with a spoon. An amazing example of a versatile, sweet condiment. And a silver SOFI nominee, nonetheless!

Robert Rothschild Thai Plum Garlic Dipping Sauce

Today brought sunny skies, a productive afternoon, and an enormous package of Robert Rothschild sauces and snacks from Buyer’s Best Friend, quickly turning into Foodette’s Best Friend with the selection of goodies they tossed my way. Most of the package consisted of some awesome looking simmar sauces, one of which I immediately eyed as my conquest for tonight’s dinner. Thai Plum Garlic, you sultry devil. Once again, due to my inability to eke out more than three pages of dry academia in more than one sitting, I turned to cooking to ease the drudgery.
Tonight’s selection was a hodge-podge. I flirted with using a few other Asian ingredients to accentuate the sauce along with my cornmeal potstickers, but a brief tryst with sake-infused onions yielded no more than an awesome, creepy sci-fi photo and an overly sweet end product. Basil-infused garlic just seemed stupid. So, a few caramelized pearl onions and slices of pickled ginger later, I had my potsticker mixture in record time.
The sauce was really the highlight of the filling- it brought a sweet, yet pungent flavor to the chicken and really enhanced the ginger with a zippy chili flavor. Its texture was thick and bound everything together without the need for additional binder or liquid.
It wasn’t too sweet or salty, though, and had a quick lick of heat that inspired dipping the dumplings into the sauce even after using them in the mixture! A sign of a great condiment, for sure. While the dumplings weren’t perfect- I still have a ways to go with my wrapper recipe, the sauce definitely gave them that deliciously glutenous texture and flavor without having to order take-out.
Do you have any good tips for dumplings or best go-to grilling recipes? I have a ton of condiments to use now and I need all the tips I can get!

Burger King’s New Chicken Strips and Roasted Jalapeno BBQ and Kung Pao Sauces

Now that the iconic fear-paralyzed face of the Burger King royalty is gone, who will usurp the noble throne? Built on ketchup slicks and nuggets seized from the crownius region of the chicken, the fast food restaurant has decreed a complete overhaul of its restaurants. My local BK, not a king, but not yet a lounge, has been partially remodeled but is stuck in a strange dead zone where the only recognizable theme is the leftover St. Patrick’s Day decorations from last week.
Aside from the new menu cards, BK has introduced a few new menu items, expanding to the cafe-style foods and coffee beverages to garner business from some of their obvious competition from Ronald the Court Jester. I guess if they play their cards right and assume that the law of gravity holds, it would be the most obvious and closest place for me to go for a mediocre frappe. But only if my Rascal stopped working and I had to…walk. Along with these, they’ve introduced a new chicken strip to go along with their new chicken tenders, released around this time next year. T’wasn’t the poultry that intrigued me, but rather, the debut of their two newest sauces, Kung Pao and Roasted Jalapeno BBQ, that carried me into my local establishment on this, the day of the newly released chicken strip.
Touting the strips in both a 3 and a 5 pack for $3.29 and $4.49, respectively, it works out to just over a dollar a strip if you’re going for the small pack. Not the most economical choice unless you’re just really, really into chicken strips. The strips are billed as being marinated and breaded in a seasoned coating, but eaten plain, salty, mediocre chicken was the only noticeable flavor. The breading was crisp, but lacked the crunchiness its counterparts have in abundance and clung closely to the chicken like a too-tight tube top on a girl making a duck face on Facebook. It was surprisingly devoid of oil, but left a very salty, onion-heavy aftertaste and had a bone-dry chewiness more appropriate on jerky than chicken. Only one of the strips was longer than a ballpoint pen and all were tough in texture. Hideously underwhelming, and they made me glad I’d anticipated the worst and bought a cheeseburger to eat instead.
I figured the sauces would be my saving grace for these strips, and let’s face it, they were really just a vehicle for them anyhow. Boasted as being “totally sweet” by my server, the new sauces don’t try to mimic anything I’ve seen from the competition. They blaze their own trail. The roasted jalapeno barbecue suffered from a lack of two things- enthusiasm and proper nomenclature. Assuming that titles as well as ingredients are listed in their order of amount from largest to smallest, I came into this carrying the expectation that “roasted jalapeno barbecue” would be peppers first and barbecue second. Not a chance, unfortunately. It was gummy and sweet when sampled on a spoon, with a heavy brown sugar assault and the clean, lingering bite of jalapeno peppers after. But eaten with the chicken strips or spread on a little bite of burger, the spiciness drowned in the rich ingredients that outnumbered it, leaving a generically sweet flavor with a touch of cayenne, like Sweet Baby Ray’s. I would have loved if there had been chunks of fresh pepper in this or even pickled rings.
The Kung Pao sauce, on the other hand, was perfectly executed and tasted like delicious, cheap Chinese takeout sauce with a more pronounced set of flavors. Hell, this even encompassed some of the cheaper takeout chicken sauces, at least around here. Wafting sharp, sweet pickled ginger aromas from the moment I opened the packet, I knew this would be a great addition to the sauce line. I’ll give it this- it completely blows McDonald’s Sweet Chili out of the water. This sauce had large pieces of ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes and brought an umami-laden depth to the traditional flavor profile of sweet and sour with an aggressive, lingering spice. Slightly tinny at first, but nothing repulsive. This was the only sauce we went back for seconds on.
I’m not typically crazy about fast food chicken as I’ve started making my own nuggets at home, but the new sauces are unique enough that I’d definitely consider getting the Kung Pao if I were ever at a loss for condiments around the house. Not that that will ever happen, but it’s a pleasant deviation from the standard ketchup ‘n’ mustard set.