When someone tries to blow you up, not because of who you are, but for different reasons altogether.


This sauce is completely evil, yet it comes from lovable pothead Rick Bayless, who, on the douchiness scale, is the anti-Flay. Can you ever imagine him showing up at your house to try to best you at the one thing you do well in life? Of course not; he would show up, deliver a genial, 30-minute lecture on epazote and make dinner for ten of your friends. He’d probably do the dishes, too.

You’d be all, like, “DAMN, my newfound knowledge of the history of epazote has BLOWN MY CULINARY WORLD.” And then Rick Bayless would disappear in a puff of mesquite smoke, to be borne back to Chicago on the backs of magical burros, and you’d be left wondering if it all really happened or it was a fever-induced hallucination. But Rick knows the truth.


Above: the maw of evil. When Rick made this habanero hot sauce on his PBS show, I was jealous of the callous, gloveless way he handled the chiles, including the innards. Whereas I swathed my entire body in a triple-ply layer of plastic just to pick them off the plant. It’s been five hours since I made this sauce, properly be-gloved, and I’m still scared to touch my nose or go to the bathroom.

So it turns out that Jersey City soil, when fortified with a bag of cow shit, is remarkably fertile ground for chiles; we planted cayennes, jalapeƱos, infernos, red chiles and habaneros, and they all produced prodigiously. So prodigiously, in fact, that we were left scratching our heads, because what the hell are two people going to do with so many chiles? One also has to wonder what it is about Jersey City soil that encourages such a high level of pepper production, but I probably don’t want to know. I probably wouldn’t be able to get as much for the apartment once I have to disclose that it’s on a Superfund site.


So we pickled some, are drying some for chile powder and decided to make hot sauce with the rest. What else do you do with two dozen habaneros? Exactly. Fortuitously, we caught an episode of Rick Bayless devoted to condiments that showcased a simple habanero hot sauce. Since the Bayless must be trusted implicitly, I decided to go for it.

Personally, I’m not actually a big hot sauce person, although I do like the occasional scrambled egg with chipotle Tabasco. Brian, however, is a hot sauce fiend – he inherited it from his dad, an inveterate seeker of new and ever-hotter hot sauces, along with his love of cheesy sci-fi and Atari 2600. Which is good, because this recipe? Makes a LOT of hot sauce, some of which we’ll doubtless be pawning off on ol’ pa.

Aside to my mother-in-law: I’m not trying to give them ulcers, I swear. I’m sorry.


The sauce itself only has a few ingredients and comes together in about twenty minutes. I rough chopped some onion and carrot and de-seeded the chiles; all the veg went into a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar to simmer until tender. While the veg cooked, I toasted up some garlic. The whole mess went into the FoPro along with a hint of salt and sugar and whizzed until smooth. The end.

hot hot hothot hot hot 2

The net result is about two cups of bright orange sauce. Sauce that doesn’t smell particularly potent, but which sent my heat-loving husband diving for the dairy after tasting a drop. Having seen his reaction I demurred, but I can report that heat aside, he found it quite flavorful; it was vicious, but had the fruity, floral notes that habaneros are known for.

Rick Bayless, you can lecture me on epazote anytime.

Habanero Hot Sauce
makes about 2 cups

1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped carrot
5 oz. habaneros (this was 14 for me, since some of them were kinda wimpy)
1 c. water
1 c. cider vinegar
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar

Stem and de-seed the chiles. Make sure you wear gloves, and wash everything they touch well afterward.

Put the onion, carrot, chiles, water and vinegar in a medium, non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

While the veg simmers, toast the unpeeled garlic in a small pan over medium heat until they are browned and blistered. Let sit until cool enough the handle, then peel.

Put the cooked veg, garlic, salt and sugar in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth. Add more water if the sauce is too thick for you.

Pour into the storage vessel of your choice, and go to town.