Hot Pepper Vinegar

When I was growing up we always had homemade hot pepper vinegar. I know you can buy it at the store, but what’s the fun in that. In our case, my mom grew serrano peppers for hers. It was hot – no doubt about that, but we (meaning me and Fred), liked it that way. Fred would put it on things and you could see the sweat break out on his forehead from across the kitchen table – he and I sat at opposite ends of the table. It was always funny to me.

D&D_2792Collards, or any greens really, would not be right without good hot pepper vinegar. So as soon as some good looking skinny hot peppers show up at Bailey’s – well, there I am. I used finger hot peppers this time.

My mom made a simple version by just heating the vinegar and pouring it over the sliced peppers, but I’ve learned a few tricks I like from making pickles, so here is what I did this time.

Brine:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
8 finger hots – Bailey’s

Heat brine (everything but peppers) until sugar dissolves. Pour over sliced peppers. Let cool and then refrigerate. Easy Peasy.

All this said, about three weeks ago, I purchased my own serrano pepper plant just to make this like my mom did. Now if the temperatures would only be normal for us for April. I mean honestly, it’s the second week in April and we’ve run the heater a little tonight. I just don’t get it – and I feel for people who live further north than us – which is pretty much everybody.

These peppers are called finger hots, but I’m not sure whose fingers they are supposed to be. I can only think witch fingers because the are green, skinny, wrinkly, and pointy at the end. And yes, they are hot. Yum.

UPDATE: 30 April – I have three serranos on my little plant and am over the moon excited. That’s kind of sad.

 

Chicken Salad Sandwich

I love a really good chicken salad sandwich. But to me this is just a simple chicken salad on white bread with a little mayo and if I’m feeling really special, some iceberg lettuce.

This is another no-recipe recipe.

Poach chicken breasts. I do this in just water because then I can give the poaching liquid to the dog. But, if you want, you can add bay leaves or garlic cloves, and even peppercorns to the water. Poach low and slow just make sure the chicken is covered by at least an inch of water. Not sure how long, but until it falls apart when you pick it up with a fork – this also makes sure the interior is not still pink.

Remove chicken from water and let cool to room temperature. (Give a dog chicken water and he will love you, pretty much, forever).

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Yep – it’s a mess, but a very good mess.

Shred or chop chicken to whatever size you prefer. I am a medium dice/shred person.

Now here is where things get subjective. Things needed: Duke’s mayonnaise, celery, shallots, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Here is where I get a little weird exacting. I like, for two good sized chicken breasts (and, no, I don’t weigh them but I should), 3 celery stalks including the leaves. The thing is – you must peel the celery. This is just not optional. Get out that serrated vegetable peeler and go to town. It gets rid of those pesky strings that no one ever wants to eat. Then split the ribs into three pieces lengthwise and the mince well. I did say exacting, right?

Now for the shallots – two medium or one large, minced. I get my shallots at Bailey’s Farmers’ Market – they sell them by weight, unlike the grocery store that sells them by some little bag. At Bailey’s, I also get to pick the ones I want – yes, this is the way to do things.

Once all the chopping is done, mix celery and shallots into chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Add Duke’s mayonnaise to taste – remember, as my mom always said, you can always more, but you can’t take it away. Taste as you go and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Add lemon juice if you would like. Yes you do want to do that.

For the sandwich you need really fresh soft white bread*. Spread one side with more Duke’s and pile on the chicken salad. Then add the super crunchy iceberg lettuce that you cored, washed and have chilling in the fridge. Another option – toast the white bread first. Yes, do.

This, I know, is simple food, but sometimes that is what is best and even more often, that is just what you need.

Now you could do this with a rotisserie chicken, not that I ever have, but I guess in a pinch it would do. If you are really jonesing for some chicken salad. Who am I to judge?

* or Italian bread or a good whole wheat.

Roasted Red Potatoes

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Roasted New Red Potatoes

We get these really great creamer potatoes this time of year. They are these small red potatoes and they are so great for roasting – like candy.   Local, from the farmers’ market, and short lived, but wonderfully addictive. But I never realized how good those roasted potatoes could be for potato salad.  I have been on the search for really good potato salad – for years. Now I have some ideas. Will be hitting Bailey’s Market this weekend and if that fails – the By-Pass Market in Milton.

And how to I do this amazing roasting – it’s dead simple. Cut potatoes in half – they are small, like golf ball sized, and put in a large bowl. Add olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Line a baking sheet w/foil and dump potatoes out and turn cut side down. Roast at 350 until a paring knife pierces the potato easily – about 15 – 20 minutes or so. That’s it. Not rocket science, but damn good potatoes.

So what makes a good potato salad?* To be honest, it is not something I grew up with and I’m not entirely sure why, but it may be that we were a rice family – not a potato family. And to this day mashed potatoes – ugh. I do love a good baked potato, but I think that’s because I can put cheese (cheddar) and sour cream and chives, if I’m growing them, on top. It’s really about the toppings, not the vehicle.

Gingras Apple Cider Vinegar

Gingras Apple Cider Vinegar

Okay, back to what makes a good potato salad – potatoes cooked well, to me, is a key thing. Also, seasoning them while they are warm and will soak up whatever flavor you add. A friend taught me a little trick – she used juice from a jar of pickles while the potatoes were still warm – it is a wonderful thing. I prefer sweet pickles, but if you like dill it will work too. I’m not a huge fan of potato salad w/lots of mayo. There needs to be restraint, and a good bit of acid – either vinegar or lemon juice. I tend to favor vinegar either from the pickle juice or just a little jolt of cider vinegar – esp. the good stuff – Gingras ExtraOld Apple Cider Vinegar – beyond amazing and used for special occasions. I really think I could just drink it, but I won’t.

Aside: I want to make a good pasta salad too – but what are the particulars? Again, I’ve tried and made some advancements on that front, but I’m still not really happy.

 

*German Potato Salad is another story entirely but it involves vinegar and bacon. And is another challenge.