Cholula Green Hot Sauce

And the Lost Art of Thumping on the Bottom of the Bottle

It’s no secret around our house that I like spicy foods. Indian, Thai, Cajun, Mexican — I love them all, but not for the reason you might expect.

It’s the blending of spices rather than the heat that I love. And sometimes, the heat is merely a result of a particular blend of herbs and spices. Still, I must confess: a generous dash of hot sauce can take a boring meal and turn it into a culinary adventure.

Probably the most obvious example of this is Buffalo Chicken Wings. Since their introduction in a bar in Buffalo, NY — hence their name — they’ve pretty much become standard fare in bars, restaurants, Superbowl parties, and backyard barbecues all across America.

All because of the hot sauce.

But that’s not the only use. And while the sight of someone pouring ketchup on their scrambled eggs makes me queasy, I use hot sauce on my own eggs. Breakfast and brunch wouldn’t be the same without them.

Which Brings Me to the Point

I went grocery shopping the other day. One of the items on my list was a particular brand of hot sauce made right here in Rochester. I figured a local store would be a good source of local products, but alas! Top’s is not Wegman’s, and so I had no luck. I really needed to replace my Empty bottle of Frank’s RedHot, but I wanted to try something different.

When I saw the green bottle of Cholula, I made my choice. Poblano and jalapeño peppers! I was intrigued. I was already familiar with their original red hot sauce — indeed, I had had it on my omelet that very morning — so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I love it! My only complaint, if I can call it that, is that it’s a relatively thick formula compared with its red cousin. While the red comes out of the bottle with a few shakes, the green refuses to budge unless I hold the bottle upside-down and whack it on the bottom.

But it’s definitely worth it. It also happens to be the inspiration for this story, as the idea came to me over tonight’s dinner: sausage, hash browns, and eggs.

It’s Grocery Shopping Day

And for me, it’s a time for decisions. But first, some background:

I recently moved into my new place. And where before I had two rooms plus a kitchen and bath, I’m now renting a room in a house. I have a bedroom, and share the rest of the house with my landlord. Except even that’s not correct, because he also has one semi-permanent friend staying over, and another one who drops by every two weeks or so and stays sometimes for a couple of days, and sometimes for a week.

All of which add up to a very crowded refrigerator and freezer.

I use the bottom drawer of my dresser for storing things that don’t need to be refrigerated, but there are times when I don’t even have room enough in the refrigerator for a gallon of milk, much less a six-pack of hard cider.

Still, it’s better than living under a bridge, especially now that winter’s on its way. The temperature dropped to 44°F/6.6°C last night, and it’s not expected to get above the mid 50s today.

So when I do get to the store, I’m going to pick up some French bread, pizza sauce, and all the rest of the makings for a couple of French bread pizzas. Sure, it’s easier to buy them frozen and stick them in the oven, but I want my own recipes, not someone else’s. Mozzarella is a given, but maybe some Gruyere as well, caramelized onions, pear slices, spinach and bay leaves.

Oh…and I’ve also got a dynamite recipe for spinach and ricotta calzones I’ll be sharing with you a little later in the week.

Did I say French bread? Forget that: pizza is Italian, so I wonder why nobody ever talks about Italian bread pizza. The store I’m going to makes excellent Italian bread, and so I’ll be making Italian bread pizza!

My Search For Authentic Pub Food

One of my regular programs to watch is PBS’ “The Mind of a Chef.” One of the most recent episodes featured Scotch egg. A Scotch egg consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked or deep-fried. Pretty simple, huh? But before I invested any time in learning or finding a recipe, I decided to check out various pubs around Rochester to find the best Scotch egg in town. So I fired up my browser and Googled® “Rochester NY Pubs,” and started going down the list.

I must have checked the menus of at least 6 “authentic” Irish pubs before realizing why I don’t patronize any of them. How can you claim to be an “authentic Irish pub” when your menu consists of nachos, Buffalo chicken wings, tacos, sliders, and nothing but traditional Southwest American cuisine?

Then I checked out The Old Toad. Here’s what it has to say about itself:

Located at 277 Alexander Street, The Old Toad is nothing short of your traditional British local. From the staff to the food and ales, everything is purely authentic. Even the bar itself was imported from Great Britain. Truly “a pub from over there, over here”.

And on the menu? Under “Starters” I discovered this gem: “Scotch” Egg. Hard boiled egg wrapped in Scotch whisky seasoned sausage meat, bread crumbed and fried until crisp and golden, served with homemade mustard sauce.

A further look at Google® confirmed my suspicions: The Old Toad is the only place in Rochester that offers a Scotch egg. The only other hit for “Scotch egg Rochester” on Google® was an Irish pub in Rochester, Minnesota. And that’s just too far for me to drive.

I did, however, find a link to the web site for the magazine Edible Finger Lakes, a publication which features cuisine and beverages from our neck of the woods. And there I found the article For Passing at Parties: The Scotch Egg. And wonder of wonders, the attribution for the recipe is “a non-boozy version from The Old Toad!”

ediblefingerlakes

Now the only decision remaining for me is this: do I go to the Toad, or make it myself?

Scotch Eggs

By The Old Toad in Rochester

scotch eggs
A platter of Scotch eggs. Photo by Robyn Wishna

(Serves 12, as an appetizer)

Ingredients:

3 leeks, finely chopped and washed
1 tablespoon butter
3 pounds of sausage (breakfast sausage works well)
2 shots of whiskey (optional)
7 drops of Tabasco
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
12 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups breadcrumbs
Canola oil

Directions:

  1. Pan fry leeks in a little butter over low heat until translucent. Let cool, then mix with sausage in a large bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix well.
  2. Place eggs in a pan of cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 8 minutes. Quickly remove from water and refresh making sure that you crack all of the eggs (this will stop the yolks from going grey). Peel shells and wash eggs of any remaining shell bits.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using clean, slightly wet hands, encase sausage meat around an egg and shape it into a ball. Place finished eggs on a baking sheet while you work through them all. Put flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs in three shallow bowls or pie plates. One by one, dip each pork-wrapped egg in flour then whisked egg and lastly into breadcrumbs.
  4. After all the eggs have been coated, fill a frying pan with canola oil, about two-inches deep. Heat oil to about 350 degrees. Flash fry the eggs, turning them with tongs until evenly browned on all sides. Place fried eggs on a clean baking sheet and cook in oven for 20 minutes. Turn each of the eggs over to prevent them sticking to the tray. Remove from oven, allow to cool and enjoy.

Thanks fpr reading!

Robyn Jane

Collections and Hoardings

I’m a collector. It’s a habit I developed rather late in life, when I was in my early 30s. That’s when I got my first personal computer and discovered the world of public domain software. And in those early days of the computer revolution, with the exception of a few big-name, brand-name programs, that’s pretty much all there was. WordStar was the de facto word processing program, the Microsoft Word of its day. Because of several shortcomings in the program—mostly due to technical issues in the CP/M operating system—several add-on programs became available. SpellStar was a spell-checker which was later included with WordStar, as was DataStar, a program used to generate mass mailings. Eventually, a spreadsheet program, CalcStar, rounded out the package.

WordStar also needed help with academic writing. Again, because of hardware limitations and weaknesses in the O/S, it didn’t do such academic requirements as endnotes and bibliographies. That’s when I took it upon myself to learn to program in Turbo Pascal in order to write a couple of programs to overcome those limitations. This, in turn, developed into an obsession the habit of collecting Pascal source code, because hey! you never know!

Sadly (at least for my programming career), computers grew more powerful and programming languages grew more complex. BASIC and Pascal gave way to C and then C++. CP/M yielded to MS-DOS and PC-DOS, which in turn became Windows. Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Computer Calisthenics and Orthodontics (Running Light Without Overbyte) morphed into Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Propaganda for and People Who Program Exclusively in C and C++ For Windows. No longer could I whip out a nifty little utility in a couple of hours, and so I just gave up and let my compiler disks gather dust. There were a couple of DOS-based programs I wrote for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, but that was almost 40 years ago, and I’m sure they’ve moved on to Windows by now.

But I still have my obsession with collecting things. It’s no longer centered around software, since just about everything and anything I could possibly want is available on the Internet, but now concerns recipes.

Collecting and Organizing Recipes

My iPad Mini has replaced my floppy disk storage boxes for housing my collections. There are three main programs I use: Pepperplate, Evernote, and The New York Times Cooking app (available for both Android and iOS). My web browser has buttons that allow me to import recipes directly into either Pepperplate of the NYT app. In addition, my NY Times account is linked to my Evernote account, so everything I save to one app is also saved to the other. Currently, I have 166 recipes in NYT, 137 of which were imported from Evernote. My Pepperplate account has 2355 recipes.

All of these recipes are available on my iPad, which is why I rarely buy cookbooks anymore.

But as I said before, it’s an obsession. Why do I call it an obsession, as opposed to a hobby? Well, do I really need 15 different recipes for fried chicken? How about 8 recipes for pies and hand pies, when I’ve never made either in my life? And that doesn’t even count the number of recipes I’ve pinned or re-pinned on Pinterest!

And I almost forgot! I’ve also got a few in OneNote!

See? I told you it was an obsession!

Robyn Jane

The Great Food Mystery

Or, How Can Walmart Sell A Roasted Chicken For Less Than It Can Sell The Same Chicken Uncooked?

Here’s the conundrum:  I can buy a roasting chicken at Walmart for $1.56 a pound.  I can also buy an already-roasted chicken as a meal-to-go at less than the price-per-pound for the raw one.  So what’s up with that?  I mean, if I buy the roaster and cook it myself, I’m already paying a higher price.  Add in the cost of spices and herbs, plus the electricity I pay to run my crockpot for the 6 to 8 hours it takes to cook it, and I just have to wonder: why the hell am I even cooking my own chicken?

A rhetorical question if ever there was one.  I cook it because nobody makes the exact mix of spices that I like.  Not that I have a set recipe: I like variety, and except for the chicken and the crockpot, I never make the same recipe twice.  The chicken goes into the crockpot, and then I throw in some onion powder, maybe a little garlic, a couple of tablespoons of dried rosemary, salt and pepper, and whatever the hell else sounds good.

That’s it.  Set the crockpot to low, and that’s it for the next 6 to 8 hours, depending on whether or not I thawed the chicken in the first place.

But I’ve found you really have to be careful when shopping at Walmart, because their pricing is tricky.  And not just on chicken.  I can buy a single roasting chicken for right around $5.50 ($11.00 for two, right?), or I can buy a package of 2 roasting chickens—for $18.00 ($9.00 each).

I’ve also seen fresh orange juice priced at $3.25 a bottle, or $6.98 for two.  This seems to be a standard practice:  relying on customer ignorance (lack of basic math skills) to overcharge for larger packages of the same product.  And by overcharging, I mean a 32-ounce bag sells for a higher price-per-pound than the exact same product in a 16-ounce bag.

I suppose in a perfect world I wouldn’t even shop at Walmart, but the reality is that I’m on a limited fixed income, so I really don’t have much choice.

Still, when I’m feeling naughty and decide that a quart of Rocky Road ice cream is just the thing to augment my antidepressants, Sam’s Choice is every bit as good as Ben & Jerry’s or that pseudo-Scandinavian brand…and a hell of a lot cheaper, too!

And where else can I go grocery shopping when my Social Security check is deposited into my account…at 3 o’clock in the morning?

So I’m not completely down on Walmart.

Just their weird pricing.  And their “fresh” produce that always seems to go bad by the time I get it home.  And the last 3 gallons of milk that were sour the day I bough them.

Walmart: Always Low Prices!  That is Arkansas-speech for “Caveat Emptor.”