Thursday, April 11, 2013

Snowing in Hell

Hell Flakes
Todd Wilbur's Top Secret Recipes

I was contacted last month by a BMM reader who wanted to spread the word about a new product he has introduced to the chilihead world. Todd Wilber himself was this person and he is the blogger of an awesome site about top secret recipes Within this website, he offers cloned recipes of favorite American dishes, recipe books and a selection of spices. These are all experiments done by him in his own kitchen until he replicates the dish we have all grown to love over the years. The product he contacted me about is simply called "Hell Flakes" and is a five-pepper blend of chili peppers ranging from sweet bell peppers to habaneros. He sent me a sample and I anxiously waited for its arrival from Southern California.

The 1.9 oz shaker arrived within a few days and I wasted no time giving it a go. On the shaker, the ingredients are listed as "Dried Chile Flakes". That's it. No salt. No sugars. No added spices or preservatives. I took in the different red and brown colors of the flakes, dabbed some on my palm and cleaned them off with my tongue. The flakes packed a great flavor like crushed red pepper flakes but better, and much hotter. 5 times to be exact. I decided to try it on some fried tilapia that evening. With some steamed veggies for a side, dinner was served and I sat down to enjoy it.

The flakes made my fish filet outstanding. I normally put some homemade ghost rub on fried fish but these flakes added a whole new flavor. Since there aren't any added spices or salts, it cannot simply replace a rub or seasoning but whatever you would use crushed reds on, Hell Flakes would make a great substitute. My mouth burned pretty good but it wasn't too powerful. The 5-pepper blend to the fish was just right. I was impressed with the combination of sweet and hot peppers. We have since used the Hell Flakes on baked chicken, soups, wing sauce and (of course) pizza. I will personally order more Hell Flakes when my sample runs out. They run $6.95 on Todd's website and should last for a little while. Say goodbye to the average crushed red pepper flake and add a little Hell to your recipes!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Joe's Knows

Trader Joe's Habanero Hot Sauce

Being from Memphis, I have only heard of Trader Joe's for as long as I could remember. Their stores were only in California until the 90s and even after that, it took them a while to make it out East. The Midwest stores didn't open until the 2000s which means only until recently have Memphians been able to visit a location if they were able to travel hours away from home. I finally made my first visit to a Trader Joe's last December in St. Louis and there was an instant love when I walked through the door. I try to eat healthy and organic foods have been something I have paid attention to for a while now. With our limited health food choices in Memphis being small, expensive, inconvenient Whole Foods and Fresh Markets, I mostly buy Kroger brand organic foods and products. It took a whole 5 minutes within my first trip to Trader Joe's to realize that if we had one of these back home, I wouldn't shop anywhere else.

I visited the Trader Joe's in St. Louis multiple times during my December trip and bought many things from bruschetta to honey to mixed nuts. They seem to have just about everything and for an unbeatable value. Most everything in the store is labeled with a Trader Joe's trademark and they pride themselves with providing products that are all free of artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, MSG, genetically modified ingredients, and trans fats. All this time in my life I thought providing healthy options would be an expensive ordeal but Trader Joe's proved that theory wrong. My, how Memphis could benefit from one of these stores!

As I continued shopping one day at the St. Louis Trader Joe's, I came across their line of hot sauces. One of which was a habanero hot sauce that had a crushed, fresh habanero texture. It looked very enticing so I grabbed a bottle. I opened it and tried a dab when I got home and the habanero hit my tongue instantly. I was surprised with the fresh flavor and super, instant pain it gave me. It didn't take long before I found an opportunity to try it out on food and that came with a big breakfast my dad cooked Saturday morning. I put a nice quantity on top of my omelet and gave it a taste. The sauce gave the fresh omelet an even fresher flavor, packed with a major punch that left me sweating after just a few bites. There are no added ingredients that take away from the flavor of habanero. It's as close to crushed, sweet, fresh habaneros that I have found yet. I finished my breakfast and knew I had a new favorite hot sauce to try on my own dishes back home.

A trip this weekend to Nashville brought me to another Trader Joe's. This is the closest one to us in Memphis and it was no different than the store in St. Louis. Without being able to order their products online, a 3 hour drive east is the closest option local BMM readers have to purchasing this sauce and/or other Trader Joe's products. There is a Facebook page created with thousands of followers aiming to bring Trader Joe's to Memphis. You can find their page here: With this and lots of talk I hear around town, it's obvious there is a major desire for expansion so hopefully we can join the 21st century like our neighbor down I40-E. To BMM readers from areas with Trader Joe's already in your cities, go grab you a bottle of their Habanero Hot Sauce and add some burn to your mouth!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Extracting Love

Henry Family Farm Varietal Chili Pepper Extracts

Late last year, I was contacted by an agency spreading the word about a new line of chili pepper extracts created by farmer in Virgina named Bob Henry. Henry Family Farms is located in Virgina's Shenandoah Valley where chili peppers have been grown by Bob and his father for over 30 years. The peppers are harvested within 24 hours and are used to create a pure chili sauce. This is where the Varietal Chili Pepper Extracts are born. Some samples were sent my way and when they arrived, I couldn't wait to give them a try.

In my chilihead days, I have never been a big fan of pepper extracts. They tend to be very bitter and can easily make a dish taste pretty bad. Some hot wing establishments, for example, like to add extracts to their wing sauce which ruins the traditional Buffalo-style flavor we all love. For quick, intense heat, I have since adapted to pepper purees which fall along in the sauce category but without a lot of added flavor. I was skeptical about these new extracts but I soon became aware that these were discovered and sold by David Rosengarten; the journalist and host of "Taste" on Food Network. His work in the culinary field speaks for itself so I was then confident that these extracts would be a great addition to my experiences. After coming home from a work trip out of town, I saw the box waiting for me on our breakfast bar.

I opened the box and took a quick peak. I found two 5 oz bottles, one being a naga jolokia and the other a yellow fatali habanero. I noticed that the labels on the bottles appeared to be printed by an inkjet printer and applied rather loosely. Having made sauce in past and printing labels out myself, it reminded me of my own bottling line I had going in my kitchen. I refused to judge the extracts at this stage because, just like my homemade sauces, you cannot judge a book by its cover. I snapped a few pics and took a taste of each extract, starting with the jolokia. To my surprise, I found this extract to be a lot sweeter than bitter. The heat kicked in almost instantly and so did my love for it. I then tried the habanero and found it to have a much bitter taste than its partner. The bitterness subsided and the sweetness from the habanero left a nice, pleasant aftertaste. Into my pantry they went from there and I set a goal to try each in some dishes in the near future.

The first opportunity came in a Japanese miso soup that I made for us one night. In a pot with 2-3 servings-worth of soup, I added 2-3 teaspoons of the jolokia extract. This really set this soup off with a nice punch that had zero bitterness. I built up a good sweat and found myself going for seconds. Out of all the times I have had miso soup, none have had this much flavor. The extract gave it a very nice kick without the addition of other ingredients most hot sauces would have given. I was very satisfied with this experience and began planning the next. That opportunity came this week in a 15 bean soup made with a leftover Christmas ham bone. In a large crockpot of soup, I added a tablespoon of the habanero extract after the ham bone was removed. I let it simmer for another hour then made a nice bowl for dinner. I didn't find a lot of heat in this soup as much as I did the miso with the jolokia but it did give it a nice, sweet flavor. Some bitterness was present, however, but I still considered it some of the best bean soup I have ever had. I am sure the extract added flavors to help achieve that status (as well as the awesome ham I smoked).

I definitely recommend Henry Family Farm's Varietal Chile Extracts and they can be purchased on the link above. However, I do advise getting a 3 pack at $32 because at $22 an individual bottle, they are simply priced too high. This is due to the limited supply from the small batch made last year so I would hope to see prices come down eventually if the product takes off. Hopefully the word keeps getting around about these to help make that happen!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Enter the Dragon

Redd-Eye Brand
Dragon's Fury

We recently went camping at Mount Nebo state park in Arkansas during Memorial Day weekend. It’s a beautiful park nested on the top of a mountain that overlooks the Arkansas River delta with a breathtaking 360-degree view. The plans were to hike as much as possible in two days and to prepare every meal on the camp fire. Everything else in between was up for grabs. We ended up having a wonderful time with great hiking, awesome food, beautiful sunsets and amazing scenery. The highlight of the trip, however, ended up being a slow-cooked vegan chili I made on the camp fire.

My girlfriend is a big fan of vegan dishes so I searched online for a chili recipe that we could both enjoy. Normally I use this recipe that is heavily loaded with meat and heat but I had to compromise with another hunger. I modified a recipe I found and picked up all the ingredients at Whole Foods. Not only would the chili be vegan, it would also be 100% organic. My brother got me a cast iron dutch oven for Christmas last year, which was envisioned for the purpose of making chili. I have competed in chili cook-offs in the past using the wrong equipment and this big pot is going to be my key to taking home trophies. Both the recipe and dutch oven would be new experiences for me on top of Mount Nebo. 

As we were checking in at the office on our first morning, we looked through the gift shop and saw a familiar label on a jar of salsa. What we found was Redd-Eye Brand Black Bean & Corn salsa which is a blend I have never had, made by one of my favorite salsa/hot sauce manufacturers.  It was really cool seeing their products for sale all the way up on the top of this mountain. After falling in love with their Smokey Orange Habanero salsa in the past, I grabbed a jar of this new creation. I then noticed that they had some Redd-Eye Brand hot sauces. I added a bottle of their Dragon’s Fury XXX Hot Sauce to the purchase and mentally made plans to try this back at home soon. I brought some hot sauce for the trip but wasn’t going to use any in the chili. I felt as if the jalapenos and spices would be ok sources for heat, considering we were hiking the next morning and the park only had one public bathroom. My curiosity about the new sauce got the better of me in the end. 

I put the chili on in the afternoon and let it cook for about 4 hours. We snacked on the awesome black bean & corn salsa while the chili simmered. I grilled burgers as well so we had plenty to eat. The pot of chili was huge so we would have leftovers to take back with us. Upon the first tastes of the chili, we were blown away with the flavor. The heat was perfect and was actually on the hot side just a tad without any hot sauce. The fresh jalapenos gave it a great kick. Knowing that I had this new sauce within reach was too much to handle so I opened up the bottle and put a nice dab in my bowl. Dragon’s Fury XXX is made with a blend of vinegar, spices, rum and ghost peppers. It gave the chili awesome, additional flavors that went well toether. The heat of the sauce wasn’t as powerful as I was expecting having burnt my mouth on their habanero salsa before. The lack of a massive heat was balanced well with the good, all-natural flavor of the sauce’s remaining ingredients. In summary, the sauce gave the bowl of chili a unique taste without making me sweat. I have since used the sauce back at home on several other dishes which gave me similar experiences as the chili: Unique flavors without a massive punch to the mouth. I believe Redd-Eye Brand did a good job of blending the heat and sweet to present a different style of sauce that’s good on just about anything. I have been told by Redd-Eye Brand that they sell their sauces at Whole Foods in Memphis which is where I first found their salsa. So go there, or Mount Nebo, and live the Redd-Eye Brand experience yourself!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wing Fest 2012

2012 Southern Hot Wing Festival

It's that time of year again when we fire up the smoker and heat up the oil. Burn My Mouth will be represented by a new team called "On The Wings Of Love" at this year's Southern Hot Wing Festival in downtown Memphis this Saturday, April 21st. 2 teams from last year, "The Red Wings" and "Two Guys, One Cluck" have joined forces to combine techniques and tools to become the King of the Wing in 2012. Last year, our teams placed 10th and 3rd, respectively, so we know how to do this thing. We've got sponsors signed up to help us out including Whole Foods, Spindini, Alex's Tavern, 3 Little Birds Custom Cakes and some late-comers to name later. We have also recruited Seth from Best Memphis Burger to be on our team. Lot's of things to be excited about, for sure!

Besides the changes in our team, there are also lots of changes with the event itself. It will no longer be in the historic South Main District, rather, located now on Riverside Drive at Jefferson Davis Park, between Beale and Jefferson. Also, this event is no longer being judged by Memphis BBQ Network. They have changed the format and brought in KCBS, Kansas City BBQ Society, to do the judging. It's a totally different format where we will no longer have 3 on-site judges visiting our booth at different times as well as a blind box turn-in. KCBS simply wants a blind box only. The 12 top teams from that round will then be asked to submit another box and the winners are picked from there. All of this will be new to us, but we come without any fear for winning this wing thing!

If you make it downtown this weekend, you don't want to miss this fun event. All proceeds, once again, benefit the Ronald McDonald House. $10 at the gate gets you as many wings as you can eat from teams handing out samples and if you stop in and say hi to us at On The Wings Of Love, I'll make sure you get a cold beverage, too! Just be on the lookout for the banner below. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Seeing Redd

Redd-Eye Brand
Smokey Orange Habanero Salsa

Last weekend, we made a run to the Whole Foods on Poplar for some groceries. Surprisingly, I have never been there before. I have found a lot of the items available there at my local Kroger for a lot cheaper so I have not had a huge desire to make the journey. Now before anyone goes beating me up over that statement, let it be known that I do my best at eating healthy. I find the concept of eating organic and having stores that sell nothing but healthy products a very awesome idea. Since everything sold here is grown/made with all-natural/organic ingredients, I was curious to see what kinds of hot sauces and salsas they had. I did not find anything eye-popping for hot sauces but I did find a salsa that I later found to be redd-eye-popping.

In the salsa section, I found a variety of salsas made by a company called Redd-Eye Brand. They are out of Casa, Arkansas which is basically local to Memphis. I then took notice of their ingredients and they all seemed like things I would pick up at a farmers market. No preservatives or funny names I couldn’t pronounce. A particular kind of their salsa caught my eye, called Smokey Orange Habanero. The thinner (not-so-chunky) texture looked like my style of salsa, so I put a jar in the basket. We grabbed some blue corn chips, paid for our stash and headed home.

I anxiously opened the salsa the moment we got to the house and took a generous chip full of greatness. The natural ingredients stood out instantly as well as the smoky flavor. The heat took a dozen or so seconds but when it hit, it hit me really good. As a chili head, I have this problem with stopping once capsaicin does its wonders to my mouth. Pretty soon I had a ¼ of the jar down and I was sweating like crazy. I told my girlfriend several times that this was some of the best salsa I have ever had. The mixture of all the goodies and the wonderful amount of heat was exactly how I would make it myself. I really enjoyed the additions of smoke and citrus flavors as well. After the first endeavor, I decided to check out their website. I was happy to see that they have a whole line of products to include sauces, relishes and more salsas. I also read that they make their products available for fundraisers, which is an awesome idea to me. I can see myself doing this with some products of my own in the future!

We made our way back to Whole Foods the following day to grab some more stuff and in the process, I grabbed two more jars of Redd-Eye Brand salsa. It won’t last long and it will be my ever-so-needed excuse for returning to the store. Unfortunately, in Memphis, this is currently the only location to purchase this amazing product but their online store seems to be another avenue. If you’re like me and love really good, hot salsa, you’ll be making your way to Whole Foods or placing an order online soon yourself!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Trinidad Trio

CaJohns Fiery Foods

Before everyone ran off to ZestFest in Texas last week, I placed an order with CaJohn for some of his new Trinidad scorpion products. I bought some scorpion seeds last year but it was too late in the season to start them. These products would be my first experience with the newest "World's Hottest Pepper". I anxiously waited for the package which, as usual, arrived just a few days after placing the order. I've had several of CaJohn's products in the past, as reviewed on here, so I knew I was in for some pain. In the box was the Trinidad salsa, hot sauce and puree.

It was fairly cold the day it arrived so the salsa, after sitting on my front porch, was as chilled as it would have been in the fridge. I opened it immediately and took a generous dip with a tortilla chip. The heat hit me instantly. No waiting for the pain like you would with a habanero and sometimes a bhut jolokia. I dipped about 10 more chips in the jar from Hell and found the flavor to be amazing. CaJohn always uses all-natural ingredients. The sugar made it very sweet, but this had no impact on the heat. I noticed that the heat was actually cooling off but that was due to my tongue going numb. After I stopped, it hit me really hard in the throat. It was warm all the way down to my gut like a shot of moonshine, except it crawled slowly, unlike a swig of liquid. Milk was no help. The pain did not cease inside me for well over an hour. This was, without a doubt, the hottest salsa I have ever had. Stand back, Death By Salsa. There is a new leader in town.

I was in no mood to try the other two products for a few days after my salsa excursion. The menu in the near future was open for some kicked-up additions. I was very curious to see how the puree would be, considering it's just a mixture of scorpion peppers and vinegar. The opportunity quickly came in the form of a hot wing sauce. I usually make my wing sauce from scratch but wasn't in the mood for the task at hand this particular day. I mixed up some Franks Red Hot, butter, spices and 1/2 a teaspoon of puree to about 16 ounces of wing sauce. I then shook some fried wings with the sauce and went to town. I could not believe how much that little addition kicked up the wing sauce. Even the flavor of the scorpion pepper was evident with all the other ingredients. Unlike the salsa, however, it did not burn my insides, but I got a very good sweat from the wings. The little 2 oz bottle of puree will bring the pain for several future wing cooks.

Dinner was served this evening with a side of red beans and rice. Finally, a perfect time to try the last of the trio: the Trinidad Hot Sauce. After reading about CaJohn bringing home an unreal number of awards at ZestFest (including 2nd place in the hottest non-extract category), I stared at the bottle wondering what it would do to me. I put a half a dozen or so dabs on the red beans and rice and took a seat, turning on the TV. I could instantly smell the sauce which was a very potent, sinus-clearing sensation. I took a bite and fell in love. As hot as it was, it added an amazing flavor to the meal, even better than the other sauces I have in the pantry with John’s name on them. After I began my meal, the Modern Marvels episode of "Hot and Spicy" came on, which I've seen several times. It never gets old, especially when you're indulging in a mad creation from a man who is talking about his crazy products on your TV screen at the same time. Meant to be? I think so!

So, once again, I thank you, John. Another super hot experience is in the books. You never cease to amaze me. Keep the trolls busy in the kitchen, cooking up the mad concoctions and I will continue to keep burning my mouth on your awesome products!