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The Cookstr 10: Ten Spicy Recipes to Light Your Fire

September 21, 2010

We’re feeling hot, hot, hot. Not hot weather-wise, but hot like spicy hot. The kind of heat that puts the “oo” in your vindaloo, the “cha” in your Sriracha. The kind of hot that makes you happy to see a glass of milk or a bowl of rice nearby (you knew that water doesn’t really put out the fire of an over-spiced mouthful, didn’tcha?).

Jamie Oliver's Spicy Roasted Squash

But don’t be scared; this isn’t about blowing-the-top-of-your-head-off spicy (well, most of it, anyway). It’s about the pleasurable and somewhat primal lift provided by a well-balanced amount of heat in a dish. We’re not going to get into a technical discussion about endorphins and the like (especially because we had to double check the spelling of endorphins), but we do know that there is an elemental rush of sorts when you eat something spicy, and that, baby, we like.

We’re talking about chili peppers (fresh and dry, powders, spice blends, and pastes) and hot sauce, sure, but also peppercorns, garlic, shallots, onions, mustard, ginger, cloves, galangal, and a host of other spices. Each with its own personality and level of piquancy, alone or in combination, give a dish flavor as well as heat.

Sara Moulton's Bibimbap

Catharine E. Beecher, author of Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, one of the first cookbooks ever written, published in 1846, wrote: “Eating highly seasoned food is unhealthful, because it stimulates too much, provokes the appetite too much, and often is indigestible.” With utmost respect, we beg to disagree.

1. Nancie McDermott’s Spicy Beef in Lettuce Cups. This Szechuan-style dish gets its pow from fresh ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and scallions. It comes together quickly and is entertaining to eat, whether you do the assembly ahead of time or let your guests put their own packets together.

2. John Mariani’s Shrimp Fra Diavolo. Whether or not the origins of a dish made “fra divaolo,” or “in Brother Devil’s style,” are authentically Italian is debatable. However, you can bet it will be zesty. This recipe relies on a choice of cayenne or red pepper flakes as well as a few cloves of garlic in the tomato based sauce.

3. Grace Parisi’s Indonesian Peanut Dressing. This dressing, known also as Gado Gado, is simply addictive, and you’ll find yourself enthusiastically pairing it up with just about anything that you’re interested in consuming: meat, chicken, vegetables, greens. Sambal olek is a Indonesian red chili sauce, readily available at many markets, and along with the shallot, garlic, and ginger it provides the undercurrent of warmth that keeps you coming back for more.

4. Jamie Oliver’s Spicy Roasted Squash. Dried red chilies and crushed garlic are joined by the tingle of sweetly citrusy coriander seeds, and spread over sunshiney wedges of butternut squash. They are then joined by some bacon, which seems to make itself welcome wherever it appears.

5. Pat and Gina Neely’s Pat’s Wings of Fire with Horseradish Dipping Sauce. Goodness, gracious, great wings of fire. To summarize: both the wings and the batter are seasoned with cayenne, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and a little hot sauce. But don’t start sweating just yet: the dipping sauce also contains scallions, horseradish, chili sauce, and more cayenne pepper. We wanted a beer and an antacid just reading the recipe (but we also wanted a big pile of the wings).

6. Suneeta Vaswani’s Pork Vindaloo. Vindaloo is a fiery curry dish from Goa, in the Southwest region of India. Dried red chilies, black peppercorns, cloves, mustard seeds, garlic, ginger, onions….Uncle! Uncle! Don’t be stingy with the rice.

7. Paul Prudhomme’s Crawfish (or Shrimp) Etouffée. This recipe for a Creole-Cajun classic employs not one, not two, but three peppers (white, black, and red, or cayenne). Perfectly cooked shrimp or crawfish bob in a roux-thickened broth built on the basic onion, celery, bell pepper triumvirate. Je Ne Regrette Rien.

8. Sara Moulton’s Bibimbap. Say it out loud. Go on, you know you want to. Bibimbap. This is a take on one of Korea’s most famous dishes: rice loaded with vegetables and tofu and topped with a cheerful bullseye of a fried egg. Scallions, chili sauce, and fiery kimchi, another quintessential Korean dish, provide the sizzle, and an umami-ish sesame miso sauce pulls it all together.

9. Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Jerk Chicken. This streamlined recipe for the national dish of Jamaica relies on Scotch bonnet peppers for its fieriness–they’re some of the hottest peppers in the world, and integral to the distinctive flavor of jerk. Jerk preparations involve marinating meat–usually pork or chicken–in a spicy mixture, then slow cooking it over fire. Be sure to reserve some of the sauce for serving with the cooked meat.

10. Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach’s Green Curry Chicken. Okay, this is for the hardcore hot-heads out there. The coconut base is the creamy wave that carries the heat of the red Thai chilies and the green Thai paste to your taste buds. You can of course adjust the amounts, but you may find yourself talking in a higher pitched voice for a while after consuming this.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 18, 2010 11:54 am

    Talking about spicy – look at this Cipollata recipe.

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