Packing heat

Published in FSD Update

Customers’ demand for spicy foods brings a wide variety of chiles to menus.

By Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

Customers like foods hot, and operators are turning to chiles for new ways to deliver the heat. The customers at a Bon Appétit B&I account in Folsom, Calif., love spicy food so much that Matt Kurtz, executive chef, had Sous Chef Bobby Georges create their own hot sauces for the café’s condiment station.

“We took it upon ourselves to get a bunch of different chiles, dried and fresh, and play around with them to make a really good variety of super, super hot sauces,” Kurtz says. “We’ve made sauces that I myself find too uncomfortable [to eat].”

Georges says the most popular sauce is called The Four Horseman, which uses the four hottest chiles the department could source from its produce company: habaneros, ghost chiles, serranos and Thai bird chiles.

“We basically just grind the chiles up in a food processor and add some lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper,” Georges says. “The customers seem to love that one. Another one is called After Burner, and for that we fry habaneros with some onion in the oil. Then we blend it with the fry oil and make a really rich, spiced spread.”

The department has made about six versions of hot sauces and it tries to carry at least two at a time. “We keep these hot sauces in their own little area of the condiment station so they don’t get into the other stuff,” he says. “[Customers] use these sauces on anything from burgers to fries to pizza.”

Elsewhere in the café, Kurtz uses chiles in a few other dishes, including the café’s Drowned Burrito.

“We take our normal burrito and drown it in a red serrano chili,” Kurtz says. “It’s a very interesting chili. We get it from a local farmer. Normally you buy green serranos, but this farm lets them overripen, then they pick them and dry them. It’s got a clean heat, but it’s a little on the sweeter side.” The sauce is made with the chiles, onion, garlic and puréed tomato.

Kurtz says the café also does a lot of moles with chiles. A recent version was made from dried ancho chiles, pumpkin seeds, nuts and chocolate, which was served over tilapia. Because chiles pack dishes with lots of flavor, Kurtz says dishes like this one are great for a station where they don’t use salt.

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