Hot Sauce

If I may be accused of food snobbery, it is specifically in regards to one item: hot wings.  And really, there’s no good reason for it.  I am not one to shy away from butter-laden sauces, such as the hot sauce-infused one integral to the hot wing experience; and if you’ve ever seen me around a bottle of Tabasco or Sriracha, you know that’s not part of the issue either.  The wing is even my favorite part of the chicken; the invariably crisp skin, the middle joint with its silken flesh that always slides seductively from the bones (no matter how dry the rest of the bird), the miniature drumstick with its pleasingly small portion of meat.  Add the three together – butter, hot sauce, crisp chicken wing – and the result should be enough to win my heart for life.

But alas, for me there are simply old prejudices associated with that particular food.  I went to college in Alabama, you see, and have firmly connected the stuff with noisy hordes of young men and women, dressed in too-large T-shirts emblazoned with Greek letters, each indistinguishable from the next, all drunk on whatever was cheapest, shouting, “Oh my gawd, y’all, let’s go get hot wings!”

It would be enough even to turn me off Côtes du Rhône.

Understanding, however, that though they may be anathema to me, hot wings are nevertheless widely beloved and often served at Super Bowl parties nationwide.  So in the interest of bringing a little dignity to this food, I offer you a recipe for homemade hot sauce.  The chicken and the butter, I figure you can manage on your own, and there’s really not much else to it.

This hot sauce starts with dried piquin chilies, tiny little things that pack a surprising amount of heat.  This is about 1/2 ounce, or approximately enough to make your head explode.

I used half of this in the actual hot sauce, but found myself wishing that I had used the entire amount; the end result had a pleasant and slight burn on the finish, but the overall sauce was more condiment than powerful accessory to be used with utmost caution.  I typically prefer the latter; if you like the former, this is right up your alley.

Having said that, though, the mild nature of this hot sauce makes it ideal for hot wings.  You don’t exactly want to melt your face off with an entrée, so a milder sauce is perfect here.  For a more fresh and vibrant tone, I’ve added fresh peppers, three serranos, one jalapeño, and one Cubanelle.  The base of the sauce is a can of crushed tomatoes, while Worcestershire sauce and Asian fish sauce provide a robust depth that mimics the rich flavor of a long-fermented batch of chili peppers (as is often used in commercial hot sauces).

It might seem like there are too many chilies used, but I can assure you that the result is rather mild.  And besides, it’s called “hot sauce”, not “spicy tomato sauce”.  I’m sure you’re asking yourself if it’s really worth it, when there are about 10 million different hot sauces on the market.  Why bother?

Well, darlin’, if you’re anything like me, making your own hot sauce is just about the only way to elevate the basic hot wing, from its base reputation as 2 am post-keg-party fodder, to sophisticated and refined hors d’oeuvre.  Call me a snob, but that’s reason enough for me.

Hot Sauce
Adapted from White On Rice Couple
Makes about 3 cups


  • 1/4 ounce dried piquin chilies, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 fresh cubanelle pepper, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped finely
  • 3 fresh serrano peppers, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 three-fingered pinch salt


  1. 1.  Soak the dried piquin chilies in the boiling water for 20 to 30 minutes to soften.  Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients.  When softened, drain and chop finely (wearing rubber gloves).
  2. 2.  Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and shallots.  Cook until just fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.  Do not let them brown.  Add the tomatoes, fresh peppers, bay leaf, and about 1/2 cup water.  Simmer over low heat until the peppers soften, about 30 minutes.  Add more water as needed to keep the mixture from thickening or drying out.
  3. 3.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the rice vinegar, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and salt.  Let stand until cooled to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf.
  4. 4.  Blend mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding extra water as needed to thin to desired consistency.  Strain if needed.  Store in refrigerator.


1.  Always wear rubber gloves when dealing with very hot chilies, such as piquin.  Thoroughly wash hands and all items that have come into contact with them.  Even with all this, avoid touching eyes for the rest of the day.

2.  If you like, you can add the stems of the fresh peppers to the mixture as it simmers (in step 2), to bring a slightly floral quality.  Remove with the bay leaf before puréeing.

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