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Big in the Big Easy

October 22, 2009

The Hot Sauce Librarian was intended to be a weekly post.  Then one week turned into two weeks.  And two weeks turned into three weeks.  Well, it’s time to get the train back onto the tracks.  It’s time to right the ship.  Otherwise, I’ll never get through my library of pepper sauces.

Since it has been so long, let me just take a minute to catch everyone up and refresh your memory about where we’ve been.  I think it is important to keep a library of hot sauces.  Each one is special and different, and different dishes call out for a specific kind of spicy.

We have been going through the ins and outs of the pepper sauces in the hot sauce library in order of volume consumed.  They have been:
1)    Frank’s Red Hot – For that famous Buffalo flavor
2)    Sriracha – The ubiquitous foodie hot sauce of the moment
3)    Tabasco – With its concentrated heat and brininess

Which brings us to hot sauce number four, by volume, the other Louisiana pepper sauce in the top five, Crystal.

Pepper sauce is a simple preparation.  It’s chili peppers, vinegar and salt.  What makes Crystal special is its vinegar content.  Now, I have no secret window into the formulations of the different hot sauce manufacturers.  All I have are my perceptions of taste.  But it’s that cleansing vinegar acidity that compels me to break out the Crystal for red beans & rice.

I couldn’t imagine using any other pepper sauce on this noble Louisiana dish.

Yes, the sauce has some lingering front of the mouth spiciness.  But Crystal is not defined by its level of spice, or by the flavor profile of its peppers.  Other pepper sauces are hotter.  Other pepper sauces have deeper flavors or a greater concentration of chili peppers.

But no other pepper sauce offers the mouth clearing acidity of all that vinegar.

And especially with some of the fattier foods of the south, this is exactly the kind of flavor profile you want to help wake up the dishes.  Fried catfish and stewed collard greens with bacon come to mind immediately.  It’s no wonder that it is the #1 hot sauce in Louisiana (at least according to their website).

Crystal also serves an important role in my Buffalo wing/insert-substrate-here sauce.  While the majority of the sauce is Frank’s Red Hot and butter, Crystal helps to cut through some of the butter, without significantly reducing the heat, like straight vinegar does.  Using complementary pepper sauces while cooking also helps to produce a rounder, more complete chili pepper flavor.

It’s similar to cooking with wines that are a blend of grapes, rather than single varietal wines.

If I ate more southern food, surely I would consume more Crystal.  Really I should work on that.  But I don’t like to fry in my house, and Mrs. Fussy doesn’t really like greens.  Luckily she loves my simplified take on red beans & rice – the only meat it contains is Andouille sausage – but it’s tasty stuff.  If anyone is interested, maybe I’ll share how I make it.  It would be easy if I used a recipe, but I don’t.

For hot sauce number five, we’re heading west.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2009 11:08 am

    i would certainly enjoy a post of yr red beans and rice receipe

  2. October 22, 2009 12:34 pm

    Fussy, have you had Tiger Sauce? I am always singing its praises on my own blog. It is the Sauternes of hot sauces to use your wine analogy. It is fruity and sweet along with hot. The guy in the following link attempts to clone it.

    Tiger Sauce Clone Page

  3. October 22, 2009 1:37 pm

    Thank you for not forgetting Crystal, Profusser. And here’s a tip: a very acceptable substitute is the “hot sauce” provided in little packets at both KFC and Popeye’s fried chicken places. Just ask when you go in there and after they have thrown a few packets in the bag say “can I have some more”.

    Popeye’s is more understanding. They appreciate that their customers like lots and lots of hot sauce. My experience in the Western Addition in San Francisco is that eventually I’d have more hot sauce than chicken in the bag, a pleasing phenomenon.

  4. Kerosena permalink
    October 23, 2009 12:21 pm

    Do you know if Crystal is sold anywhere locally? I’ve heard so much about it, but have never tried it. I have a feeling it would be right up my alley.

    • October 25, 2009 10:49 pm

      As of right now, we sell Crystal at the FUSSYlittleSTORE. Can’t get more local than me.

      If you actually wanted to go to a store, and you can live with shopping at Walmart, they stock Crystal at the one on Washington Avenue Extension in Albany. You may want to call ahead to make sure it’s in stock. They sometimes run out.

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