By Robbie Johnson Robbie Johnson lives aboard a steel Tahiti Ketch and is the author of Gourmet Underway – A Sailor’s Cookbook. Order his book at www.gourmetunderway.com.
Some Like It Hot!
very cuisine from around the world relies on peppers to add a bit of kick to an otherwise bland dish. The supermarkets have shelves with hundreds of different kinds of hot sauces, and the produce section will usually have at a minimum jalapeno peppers, serrano peppers, habanero peppers, Anaheim peppers, chipotle peppers (smoked jalapeno peppers), and of course, the sweet varieties like bell and banana peppers. To polish your galley skills, it really pays to get to know your peppers and what their particular tastes and heat levels are. I learned a long time ago how to make a Chinese-style chili oil that really comes in handy when spicing up a wok dish, or for adding a bite to dressings and dipping sauces. It also has a long shelf life on a boat without refrigeration. Here’s how to do it:
Chinese Chili Oil: ½ cup of sesame oil ½ cup of canola oil 1 tablespoon of Szechuan peppercorns (almost every Chinese store has them) 6 stalks fresh scallions, smashed 6 slices of ginger root ½ cup dried chili pepper, cut into ½-inch pieces PREPARATION: Combine and heat the sesame oil and the canola oil in a wok (or sauce pan) until almost smoking hot; then add the tablespoon of peppercorns, the scallions, the ginger root, and the chili peppers. Turn off heat; cover and let sit for about a half-hour. Then strain out the seasonings and transfer the chili oil to a clean jar. Allow to sit for a day at room temperature; then use when needed to add a bit of fire to a dish.
Making Your Own Hot Pepper Sauce When you are traveling in the Caribbean and along the coasts of Central America and South America, you will almost certainly find yourself visiting familyowned restaurants in the small coastal towns along your way. You will notice that every one of these modest dining establishments has two or three bottles of family-brewed pepper sauces on their tables. I have been fortunate in wrangling from their chefs the recipes for some of the ones that I found particularly delicious. One of the advantages to making your own hot pepper sauces is that it is a whole lot cheaper, and you don’t find yourself playing a Russian roulette version of choosing the sauce that’s just right for the meal you are about to eat. Here is a recipe that is a perfect starter, and you can tweak it with your own selection and quantity of ingredients to make it perfect for your boat’s galley. Minced garlic, roasted garlic, rosemary twigs, tomato paste, or grated carrots are just a few of the variations you might try. Unlike the Chinese chili oil, your newly made chili sauce should be allowed to “age” for about a week before using it, just to allow the ingredients to get together and mellow a bit. I usually make four or more cups of the basic sauce in different bottles, and
then fine-tune each with a different ingredient.
Gringo Hot Sauce 1 pound jalapeno or Serrano peppers (or your favorite combination) 10 whole black peppercorns 1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar ½ teaspoon salt PREPARATION: Begin by stuffing your jars or bottles with your choice of chili peppers, adding a few peppercorns as you go along. Next, put the vinegar in a high-sided skillet and bring it to a boil. Stir in the salt and remove the skillet from the heat to cool for a couple of minutes; then pour the vinegar over the peppers in the jars until they are completely covered. Screw on the lids tightly, and put the bottles in a galley closet for about a week or two. Once opened, it’ll store indefinitely in a cooler or refrigerator. Have fun, and enjoy!
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SOUTHWINDS May 2011