And we’re back! Over Memorial Day weekend, I managed to knock out three recipes, so stay tuned for lots of cooking posts. Today, however, we’re starting with a simple one: Lee’s Homemade Sriracha. This was actually the recipe I was most intrigued by when I first paged through the cookbook (oh, how innocent and naive I was back then), and I had been eagerly awaiting my chance to try it out. Well, Friday was that day. WAS THE WAIT WORTH IT? Read on!
No, the wait wasn’t worth it. Oh well!
Gwyneth explains that this recipe comes to us from Lee Gross, a “(mostly) macrobiotic chef [she has] known and worked with at various times over the past decade.” Um, what? I don’t even know what that means. Apparently Lee devised this alternative to commercial sriracha, since the store-bought stuff is all full of chemicals. Interesting! Also, kind of scary! Let’s see if this homemade stuff is as good as the spicy chemical sludge we all know and love.
First, I had to blanch over a cup of peeled garlic cloves. “Oh, easy!” I thought. WRONG. Do you know how many cloves of garlic that is to peel? This took forever. And then I had to boil them, rinse them with cold water, and boil them again. This is already too much work for one freaking condiment.
While the garlic was blanching, I got to work on the main ingredient: the red jalapeños. I needed a pound of these bad boys, which worked out to about 16 peppers. I then had to stem and slice the peppers into rings, which was a brutal process, as I’m sure you can imagine. By the end of it, I had a mess of seeds, a giant pile of peppers, and an extremely uncomfortable BURNING SENSATION all over my hands. No joke, I had to frequently dip my hands in cold water to temporarily ease the pain. Everyone warns you not to touch your eyes (or genitals, of course) after handling spicy peppers, but no one tells you that it doesn’t even matter because your hands will already be in so much pain. This sensation lasted for at least four or five hours, I should tell you. Is chemical-free sriracha really worth all this effort? You be the judges.
But we’re only just beginning! I then had to thinly slice the blanched garlic, and added the garlic slices to a saucepan along with the massive pile of jalapeño rings. I removed a few seeds from the mix, fearing if I didn’t it would become a blazing inferno in my mouth, seeing as simply touching skin against the damn things had given me fourth-degree burns up to my wrists. Call me a wimp if you must, but I quickly realized these peppers were not messing around.
I covered the peppers and garlic with some rice wine vinegar and brought to a boil. Then I mixed in some agave nectar and salt, removed the pan from the heat, and let sit for an hour. The smell alone at this point had removed every hair in my nostrils.
An hour later, I pureed the ingredients in a blender and returned it to the pot. The sauce was much more orange than typical sriracha, and this is where I began to doubt the recipe. But I simmered it for 15 minutes, and slowly the sauce began to boil down and become a much more vibrant red. Sorry for doubting you, Lee Gross! Kind of.
Orange sriracha is NOT sriracha.
In a separate bowl, I then dissolved some arrowroot (which cost, no joke, almost twice the price of a pound of red jalapeños, but was kind of fun to buy because it sounds like something a witch would have on her shopping list) with lukewarm water, and added that to the pot to thicken the sauce. I stirred and stirred, and yet the sauce was still watery as hell. Gwyneth says it should be “slightly thicker than ketchup,” but I wasn’t even close. I added more arrowroot, and stirred. And then I added more arrowroot, and more arrowroot, and still the stupid sauce had only thickened to the consistency of, like, coffee. After I had added maybe a full dollar’s worth of arrowroot, I just gave up and decided I had made sriracha. Yay!
Aside from the watery consistency, the sriracha actually wasn’t a total failure. It was definitely spicy, and similar to sriracha, but only in the sense that it is also red and spicy. I mean, it can certainly be classified as a hot sauce, and a decent one at that, but to call it specifically sriracha is misleading. I know sriracha, I am friends with sriracha, and you, sir, are no sriracha. But you’re still good! And when I mixed you with mayo (of course, not real mayo – still this awful Nayonaise stuff), you made a pretty decent spicy mayo! But now I have a big tub of you in my fridge, and I’m not that excited about it. And here, perhaps, is the most damning evidence: Yesterday, during breakfast, we didn’t put Lee Gross’s sriracha on our eggs, even though I have at least three cups’ worth of this stuff — we used real sriracha.