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The One With All The Hot Sauce

Posted Jan 17 2013 3:59pm

This is what it looks like when everyone in a room is standing around eating ice cream and hot sauce.

The Heaven and Hell Takedown occurred back in August, but five months later seems like a good time to talk about it, right?

We competed in the hot sauce division of a two-faced food battle: best ice cream recipes and hottest hot sauce recipes. I picked hot sauce because it seemed easier to prepare for a crowd than ice cream.

Just to remind you, back in 2010, I was a contestant in the Bacon Takedown . It was an epic undertaking, but we didn’t even place. I vowed to compete in takedowns until I claimed a title. Luckily, Matt Timms (the brains and brawn behind the Takedown operation) organizes takedowns year round in cities across the country.

He returned to Boston on the Heaven and Hell tour last summer, and I was ready for it!

We came up with a honey mustard hot sauce recipe. I really love the flavors, it would be delicious on hot dogs or sandwiches. We called it “Honey, I Nuked the Mustard Sauce” and served it with pretzels.

Check out our stellar set up.

I was sandwiched between caterers, pastry chefs, and restaurant owners serving their best hot sauces. Across the room, just as many people were serving amazing ice cream confections. Here’s a run down of all the competitors.

Well, we won over Matt Timm’s father with our recipe, but unfortunately he wasn’t one of the judges. I think one reason why we didn’t score high is because I put pretzels in the containers to pass out with sauce on them, and they got soggy. It was also a really thick and not actually a face-scorcher like some of the winners. The flavors were there but professionals, we are not. Try, try again!

I learned a lot in the process of developing the recipe. I burnt away all of my taste buds. I was introduced to pequin peppers, chocolate habaneros, and Chinese mustard seeds along the way. We tested lots of different recipes and cooking methods before settling on this one.

Gloves are very important when seeding and chopping hot peppers, especially if you want to touch your eyes again anytime soon. I suffered from mild burns on numerous occasions before I learned to handle the peppers more carefully.

We used fresh jalapeno and habanero peppers.

I seeded the habaneros and chopped the jalapenos whole.

The fresh peppers simmered with a little bit of water until they were soft.

After that, they went into the food processor and through a fine mesh strainer to create a smooth hot pepper paste.

I also rehydrated some dried New Mexico chili peppers and some tiny dried pequin peppers. These had different kinds of heat notes than the green peppers and were generally more mild.

I chopped up and simmered these peppers on the stove until they were soft, and put them through the food processor too.

The other part of this recipe is mustard. J & I both love honey mustard, so we were thinking it would be great to have a condiment that tasted like honey mustard, but packed a significant heat like Tabasco sauce.

We got three types of mustard seeds to grind: yellow, black, and brown. Each of the seeds has varying heat levels.

I never actually made mustard before this, so I didn’t know how easy it was! All you have to do is soak the mustard seeds, then grind them up in the food processors until smooth.

We combined the homemade mustard and hot pepper pastes with honey, vinegar, olive oil, and salt. After a batch or two, we worked out the heat and seasoning levels and wound up with a really tasty sauce. And finally, we were ready to compete!

It’s too bad we didn’t take home a prize for our efforts, but it was still a fun experience. I can eat spicy foods that are 10x hotter than I used to be able to tolerate, thanks to this endeavor.

I remain optimistic that we will eventually be recognized for our culinary excellence. Now that I’m in San Francisco, I am looking forward to competing with a new circuit of takedowners – and winning, eventually. There is a meatball takedown coming up in Brooklyn and I really hope that one carries over to the West coast so I can try my hand at it!

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