Hot in Herre

Whenever I travel in Europe, I inevitably end up craving Mexican food. I need some heat. We have discussed traveling with a bottle of hot sauce, but that seems sort of weird and the chances of disaster are high. Admittedly, I could seek out Mexican restaurants, but I suspect they would be disappointing in one way or another. So, I return to the states wanting to put hot sauce on everything.

I hadn’t thought about making my own hot sauce until Amelia wrote about the neon orange sauce that I had also bookmarked in Bon Appetit a couple of months ago. She inspired me to try the recipe. Bryan and I bought all of the ingredients we needed at the market back in September and were excited to give it a try. And then that terrible thing happened where you don’t follow through and the ingredients sit on the counter making you feel bad about yourself for several days until they are finally beyond using and you throw them out. This happened to us twice. Twice! It is a terrible feeling.

So, this weekend when we saw a beautiful basket of peppers at the farmers market we looked at each other and wondered if the third time would be the charm. Luckily, our friends Emily and Aaron were with us and they convinced us we would actually make the sauce this time. We did! Well, more accurately, Bryan made the sauce while I hovered and micro-managed. He is the hot sauce connoisseur in the family, and so it made sense that he should be in charge of the project. Also, I was a little scared of dealing with that many habaneros.

The hot sauce is awesome. Totally perfect heat level and a nice, bright citrus/floral taste. It is really great with chicken, but we also loved it with fried green tomatoes. It is a rather posh hot sauce. It calls for St. Germain, for which I am sure some of you will find a clever substitute. Amelia used Grand Marnier, which seems good but would definitely push the citrus flavors of this recipe.

If you’re not familiar with Bon Appetempt, Amelia’s post on this hot sauce will make you a loyal fan. It is definitely worth a read. And if you decide to make this sauce for yourself, be like Nike (not us) and Just Do It.

Hot Sauce Butter (recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Dan Kluger via Bon Appetempt via Bon Appetit)

  • 3 ounces orange Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles (about 10)
  • 1 orange bell pepper, halved, seeded, coarsely chopped
  • 4 1×3″ strips orange zest (just the orange, no white!)
  • 4 tablespoons St-Germain liqueur, divided
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 cup Champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Wearing gloves, halve and seed the chiles. Puree chiles, pepper, zest, 2 tablespoons liqueur, 1 tablespoon salt, and garlic in a blender. Transfer mixture to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours (we let it sit for about 16 hours).

Puree chile mixture in a blender with vinegar, remaining 2 tablespoons liqueur, and remaining 1 tablespoon salt until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a small saucepan. Strain mixture, pressing on solids. Heat hot sauce over medium heat. Stir cornstarch and 2 teaspoons water in a small bowl until smooth. Whisk cornstarch mixture into hot sauce. Simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Whisk in 3 tablespoons butter. Season to taste with salt. Keep warm if you are using immediately or store in fridge. The fat will separate, but that is no problem. Warm it up and shake or stir.

27 comments to “Hot in Herre”

  1. You are totally right, most Mexican restaurants I’ve tried in Europe are totally worthless and not spicy at all. If you crave some spice kick, you might have better luck with some Thai and Indian places.. But it’s not the same, I guess :)

  2. Yes! We totally do eat Thai, and Indian and whatever other spice we can get our hands on- but as a Chicagoan, I eat so much Mexican food and that is what I really miss. The heat is a little different somehow.

  3. Having grown up in San Diego and now living in the Netherlands, I completely concur on the hotness-level. I’ve taken to making my own hot sauces, buying imported Mexican items, and asking for extra peppers in the restaurant dishes. I miss really good Mexican food!

    This looks like a delicious sauce to give a try. Thanks!

    By the way, where did you find that cute glass bottle? I’d love to find those here in Europe.

  4. It’s funny what foods we crave when we travel and the foods we want to duplicate when we get back home.

    I love the color of this sauce. I had it bookmarked but haven’t made it yet. Sounds like it will be a good one for this winter.

  5. I have some thawed frozen artichoke hearts in my fridge right now that look to be headed to the trash can, so boy, do I relate. That happens to me way too often. Best intentions, eh? But it looks like the third time for this hot sauce was definitely the charm! Maybe the same will hold true for my next box of artichoke hearts??

  6. Which farmers market were you able to score the habaneros? I’m looking to make my own hot sauce this weekend.

    Lisa in Chicago

  7. i really thought i was alone – guilty of buying ingredients for a specific purpose, and then letting them die on the counter or in the fridge. just last night, my husband finally turned the plum tomatoes that i bought 4 weeks ago to make tomato paste, into soup. i’m excited about this hot sauce – it might finally push me to buy a bottle of St-Germain.

  8. I’m always nervous when “put on gloves” is used in a recipe. Looks amazing.

  9. Lisa- we got ours at the Oak Park farmers market, but it ended last week. Obviously not the same, but they have them at Whole Foods.
    Anna- That bottle has been floating around my kitchen for years. I have seen them at kitchen supply stores and even The Container Store (which is maybe not helpful to you).

  10. If anyone needs to borrow some St. Germain for this, I have a bottle collecting dust… Or I maybe I should just make a bucket of this sauce and give it as holiday gifts! Hmm. I am curious to see how it would taste in a hot sauce, very intriguing.

  11. Habanero + St. Germain?! Sounds like an amazing combination. I am definitely giving this a try.

    I spent some time in Germany and I remember that I could not find a decent Mexican restaurant.

  12. “Mexican food is like the bloody Holy Grail for you people!” a British friend said to a group of American expats who were complaining for the *umpteenth* time about the lack of Mexican food in London. Yeah, I’d say Mexican food is one of the top ten expat bonding topics.

    To be fair, apparently the Kiwis bemoan the lack of good Thai and if you drag a Brit to the States, they miss a “proper curry.”

    Guess all regional cuisine has its ethnic counterpart… and nobody does it like they do at home!

  13. OMG I so agree with you. Mexican food/flavors are completely my comfort food. And I’ve gotten desperate enough in both Dublin and Chiang Mai to try Mexican and UGH.

  14. ooh! it’s so pretty. And I do have a bottle of St. Germaine sitting on my counter next to some overripe bananas…I wonder how it would taste without the butter? I am thinking it would keep longer without butter in it?

  15. Hey Ginny, Yes, it would last longer without the butter. The flavor would still be good, we tried. The butter makes it smoother, which is nice. You could even add the butter as you use the sauce.

  16. I’m pretty sure I want to put this on everything. I’m a pepper fanatic, and it looks ridiculously good. Oh, and anything with St. Germain in it is okay in my book.

  17. How could one not fall in love with that color? I was gifted several habaneros from a friend’s garden and I was not sure how to use them, but now….!

  18. Oh my, I wish I had some of these right now! I love hot, hot, HOT sauce and absolutely adore St Germain (I even wrote a love letter to it in my blog) so this is right up my alley. A reader forwarded me this recipe (and your wonderful blog), so glad to find this!

  19. I had very strong craving for Mexican when in the Netherlands and it was the most disappointing experience of my life. Yes, natchos can be screwed up big time. I would love to try to make my own hot sauce and I have some thai bird eye chilis from our CSA handy. It probably won’t be like this gorgeous looking sauce, but since I’ve got the ingredients on hand it will be more of a push to give it a try. Though, I have to say I love the sound of St. Germain in this! Nice work.

  20. Can we have more hilarious rap references in food blogging? I love the title. And hot sauce. And Mexican food. And the lovely vivd orange of those peppers.

  21. I would love to make this, just without the liqueur and Champagne vinegar. What can I use insted?

  22. Hi Helle, The liqueur and vinegar are two of the main ingredients, so substitutions will make this a different hot sauce entirely. I’m note sure why you don’t want to use them, so I am not sure what type of subs to suggest. You could try white wine vinegar in place of the champagne vinegar. You could try a citrus liqueur in place of the St. Germain. Good luck!

  23. Homemade hot sauce?
    Sounds amazing!

  24. As a Texas writer, I know this kind of cuisine is mother’s milk to us.

    Fire-breathing hot milk, but mother’s milk!

  25. It is true, Europe just doesn’t understand Mexican food. Normally this breaks my Mexican-food-loving heart, but it doesn’t seem so bad now that I have a recipe for hot sauce!

  26. This looks great, but I also wonder if you can substitute/out the liquor seeing as I don’t drink and I’m uncertain if the fermentation process sufficiently neutralizes or “cooks out” the alcohol. I’m also looking to just make this a sauce so I wonder if the cornstarch is necessary as well.


  27. Hey Justin- You could certainly try this without the alcohol, but obviously it won’t be the same. That slight floral note of the St. Germain is what makes this special. I don’t have a non-alcoholic substitute to suggest. Also, because of the butter this doesn’t really work as a traditional hot sauce. It has a short fridge life. You might be better off searching around for a sauce recipe that doesn’t have these hurdles to overcome? Good luck!

What do you think?