Tobasco Reserve

Every now and then, someone offers to send me something for free. Sometimes I accept; sometimes I do not. Sometimes I review it; sometimes I do not. Sometimes I like it; sometimes I do not. This is one of the cases where I accepted the item and decided to review it.
What is it?

Fancy Tobasco Sauce. Perhaps the fanciest of Tobasco sauce. 2011 Tobasco Brand Family Reserve Pepper Sauce from the McIlhenny Co. It's available at Amazon for just shy of $25, and the item description calls it a collector's item. Why?

Well, first of all it's small batch. Second, it's aged. Third, it's blended with premium ingredients. Oh, and the peppers were aged as well. The finest peppers.

Also, it has a wax seal and a little medal. So that's cool.

Now what you should be asking me is, "Brian, now that you've tried it, is this Tobasco Brand Family Reserve Pepper Sauce really worth $25? I mean, it does have a medal that goes around the bottle." To which I say, "Wellllllll… maybe. Probably not. But maybe."

I enjoy Tobasco sauce and other hot pepper sauces. I have even made my own, which is fun and tasty. However, I am not a Tobasco fanatic. There are those who pick a sauce, Tobasco or otherwise, and put it on everything. Everything edible. Probably a couple of other things, but most won't admit to that. Some of these people live a life of Tobasco-centered joy. If you need to buy a gift for one of these people, I would absolutely buy this gift. It's Tobasco-y, it's limited edition, it has slightly fancier bottling, and it comes in a box that makes it easy to wrap. How can you lose?

If you are thinking of buying this for yourself, and you are a Tobasconaut as described above, then I'm afraid I can't help you. I just don't have a refined enough Tobasco palate to be able to adequately judge the awesomeness or lameness of this sauce. Find another review, and check that.

If you are a casual pepper sauce eater, then I would not advise spending the $25 on a bottle of this. Go with the chipotle version, or the habañero version, or Sriracha, or one of the many many small-batch brands of hot sauce. Or make your own. All good choices. But spending $25 on this will not give you such a difference in flavor that a casual hot-sauce consumer would notice. You can get a lot of hot sauce for $25. But several of the other options instead.

Oh, and about that medal: don't leave it on the bottle. If you leave it on, every time you put hot sauce on your food, the medal will fall into said food. It's happened to me three times. Now that I've taken a picture of the thing, I am getting rid of it forever. If you, um, collect hot sauce bottles, set the medal aside and save it for when you've finished with the bottle. It will look nice on the shelf. Well, as nice as a bottle of hot sauce on your shelf is going to look, I suppose.

Chili Powder

Okay, this should be the final installment of my Chili saga, for a while, but it's an important one. This is your basic, all-purpose* chili powder. No fancy caraway, no dedicated mole to match with it. Just pure chili powder.


  • 6 oz. Dried Chiles, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wide strips

  • 2.5 oz. Cumin Seeds, whole

  • .25 oz. Garlic Powder

Toast the chiles over medium heat in a dry pan until they are warm. Set aside to cool. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pain until the scent of cumin wafts into the kitchen. Put with the chiles to cool.

Put the chiles and cumin into a blender and blend for 2 minutes or until powdered. Let settle and mix with the garlic powder. Use immediately or store for, oh, six months or so.

If you store the chili powder longer than six months, it will lose flavor. On the other hand, if you find that you've had it for, oh, 8-12 months and it's use that or buy some chili powder, I think removing the cap and smelling what you have will prove to you that it's a better choice than buying in most instances.

The chile mix is really up to you. I tend to lean towards a milder spice combined with whatever happens to be available. I also tend to use between 3 and 6 different types of chile, depending. As a guide, if you dab a bit of the chili powder on your tongue and it's too hot for you, you've probably made it too hot.

In the case of overambitious heat, get another 6 ounces of a very mild chile, and similar proportions of cumin seeds and garlic powder, make a second batch, and combine it with the first. No sense wasting it, and you can always give it as a gift if you don't make enough chili for it to be worthwhile.

*- if your purpose is to make chili.

TGRWT #13: Chili Mole

Round 13 of TGRWT is Chocolate and Caraway. For various reasons, including the fact that I had recently made Chili, I thought that a Caraway Cocoa Chili would be an interesting. caraway_chili_mole1.jpg Every step of the dish was on the precipice of disaster. I thought that there was way too much caraway, so I compensated with a lot of cocoa, and suddenly I had a mole. Hurray! There was far more chili powder than I could process at once in the blender, so after a bit of an optimistic time overfilling it, I had to redistribute the powdered and unaffected bits of chiles, eventually combining them together once everything was particulated. I went to open the beer and it started foaming everywhere so it spilled all over the kitchen. It took me 30 minutes to discover where the bottle cap disappeared to. Still, after all is said and done, the chili turned out great, and even got my wife's approval. She couldn't taste the caraway individually, but thought all the flavors were balanced quite well. I could certainly taste the caraway, as I had worked with it recently, and it definitely adds a new note to the chili. Probably some sesame would have rounded it out nicely. Ingredients:
  • Chili Powder
    • 3.7 oz. Cumin Seeds, whole, toasted
    • 2.2 oz. Caraway Seeds, whole, toasted
    • 1.5 oz. New Mexico Chile, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wide strips
    • 1.5 oz. Guajillo Chile, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wide strips
    • 6 oz. Pajillo Chile, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wide strips
    • 1.5 oz. Chipotle Grande Chile, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wide strips
    • .5 oz. Garlic Powder
    • .5 oz. Cumin Powder
    • 2.2 oz. Cocoa Powder, Unsweetened
  • Chili
    • 750 ml Beer
    • 30 oz. Tomato Sauce
    • 2 oz. Cocoa Powder, Unsweetened
    • ½ cup Chili Powder
    • ½ cup Masa
    • 2 lb. Lamb, 1" Cubes
    • 1 lb. Beef Chuck, 1" Cubes
    • ¼ cup Vegetable oil
    • 4 medium shallots, sliced
    • Salt, To taste
  • Topping
    • Crème Fraiche
Directions: For the chili powder: In a dry pan, toast the chiles and seeds and let cool. In batches, process the chiles and seeds in a blender until powdered. Combine with the other powders and set aside. For the chili: Toss the meat in half of the vegetable oil to coat. Season liberally with salt. In batches, brown each side in a scorchingly hot dutch oven. Don't catch anything on fire. Set aside. Either in a separate pan or letting the dutch oven cool a bit, sofrito the shallots. Pour the beer into the dutch oven, turn up to high, and deglaze the pan. Add the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 1-1.5 hours. Season with salt. Top with the crème fraiche. Notes: This makes faaaar more chili powder than you'll need for the actual chili. Feel free to cut back significantly or, as I do, jar it up to use later or give away. The beer I used was Mandrin au Sapin. Feel free to use whatever beer makes you happiest. This is not a proper mole. I know this because I really don't know how to make a mole, but I know it's a sauce with chocolate, and so I called it a mole. I believe a proper mole has more fat in it.

The goggles, they…may do something.

I was watching the most recent episode of Good Eats, the one on knives and related applications. He mentioned that a 5:1 concentration of water to bleach was the ideal solution for ridding hands of unwanted chile oils. Long time readers may recall my misadventures with chile oils, and my subsequent crying like a little girl who lost her favorite balloon. The problem was that I wore no gloves when working with many, many chile peppers, and after a while my hands started burning. Nothing I tried seemed to help, including laundry-strength concentration of bleach followed by hand washing, but apparently the bleach makes the oils water soluble, and in the 5-to-1 concentration, the oils actually get dissolved. If any of my readers go through this, please post how well the cure worked. Dedicated though I am to furthering your knowledge of cooking techniques, I still kinda remember the pain, and am not eager to repeat it. I know, I disappoint you all, but my dedication to my readers apparently has limits.

The goggles, they do nothing!

Hand on Fire I was making some Pepper Jelly (a.k.a. Fire Jam a.k.a. Sweet, Sweet Napalm) this weekend, which is a sweet jam with bits of chiles thrown in for flavor and heat. Super tasty, and good fun to make. This time, instead of using the food processor for chopping, I figured it would be a good time to practice my knife skills. After all, there's no way to get better with the knife if you don't practice, and this was certainly a large number of chiles I was chopping. Adding to the excitement of the story, I was out of powder-free rubber/vinyl gloves, and I didn't feel like running to the store to get some. You see, capsaicin, the molecule that makes chiles hot, isn't just hot on your tongue, though that's certainly one of the easiest places to detect it. I had mostly been concerned in the past about touching my eye after cutting chiles, as the eye is also a very capsaicin-sensitive organ. I figured I could be careful for a while, until the capsaicin wore off. However. After an hour or so of chopping chiles, discarding the seeds, and generally being around lots and lots of capsaicin, I discovered that the skin is also somewhat sensitive to it. And now my fingers are a little warm, and very heat-sensitive. Warm fingers and heat sensitivity, in and of itself, is not so bad. What is bad is that, when I went to bed last night, suddenly the body has nothing to pay attention to but warm fingers. And suddenly those warm fingers aren't just a little toasty, but instead feel as though they are being pressed against a live burner element. Which is not conducive to sleep. As you may imagine. Oh, and let me assure you that any folk remedy for removing the burn of the chiles from your hand will. Not. Work. The following items are going to fail your hopeful heart:
  • Soaking in milk
  • Washing with soap and water
  • Washing with grease-cutting liquid soap
  • Bleach-based cleansing products
  • Laundry-strength bleach
  • 99 Proof or weaker alcohol products
  • Burn cream
  • Moisturizer
  • Cortizone cream
And, indeed, some of these items may just make it worse. So, from now on I will take the 15 minutes out of my day and go to the store for gloves if I don't have them. I heartily recommend that you do the same. And, for those who are wondering, the title of this entry is a quote from an episode of The Simpsons.

Roulette Chocolate

I've mentioned before that the spicy/sweet connection is getting stronger in Popular Culture. It's not quite there yet, but one of my local coffee houses has a Maya Mocha which, so you know, thoroughly sucks. Mind you, that's more because of their poor coffee than the concept of the mocha, but I can think of a good version of that, so I'll work on that at some point. Anyways, most of the products that mix spicy and sweet are niche products, and this is no exception. It's called Roulette Chocolate, and it's a series of twelve chocolate "bullets" that are mostly pure chocolate, with one that has what would appear to be a Thai chile hiding within. It's meant to be scary, but I suspect it would be mostly tasty. Perhaps not as good as my Chocolate Lava Fudge, but interesting nevertheless.

Adjustable Hot Sauce

2006 Seems to be the year of consumer control. First there was a soda that allow you to choose the flavor by pushing in some dots on the side of the bottle to release flavor syrups, and Dave's Gourmet, Inc. has made a hot sauce with a dial to change from spicy to fiery at your whim. Feeling bold? Go for the fiery. Gout getting you down? Only have a little spicy. Hopefully the flavor on the base sauce is worth eating, so it's not just a matter of heat. Either way, it's pretty, um, cool. Sorry. via Wired's Gear Factor.