Buffa-nero Chicken Nuggets with Lemon-Lime Gorgonzola Dipping Sauce

I have this running joke that I’m a hot sauce addict.

Thank God for science, because we can prove that eating the capsaicin in chili peppers results in the release of endorphins, giving hot sauce an addictive quality. So I guess it isn’t so much a joke as an actual fact.

But I’m living in the right time and place. Because nowadays, there’s more hot sauces to choose from than we know what to do with. I love discovering new brands in the grocery store, because each one has their own flavor profile and affinity to certain foods that I can tease out over time.

More often than not, I’ve found that hot sauces tend to fall into one of these buckets.

  • Cayenne Pepper-Based Hot Sauces
  • Green Hot Sauces (Jalapeno, Serrano, Poblano)
  • Very Hot Hot Sauces (Ghost Pepper, Scotch Bonnet, Habanero)
  • Smoky Hot Sauces (Chipotle)
  • Buffalo Wing Hot Sauces
  • Authentic Asian Hot Sauces
  • Authentic Mexican Hot Sauces

At any given time, you will find somewhere between fifteen and twenty hot sauce bottles on the door of my fridge.  There is a systematic approach to this madness. Some of the hot sauces are sparingly reserved for select foods – while others can go on just about anything.

Here’s a look into the best food & hot sauce combinations I’ve pinpointed in over a quarter lifetime of trial and error. Most are pretty obvious, but some are unexpectedly perfect when you take that bite. And because some of the hot sauces I’d like to call out by name are hard to come by – i.e. bought at an airport in Mexico, I’m just including the easy-to-find varieties you can buy almost anywhere.

  • Tabasco (Original) – Runny Eggs, Burritos, Raw Seafood, Potato Salad, Clam Chowder
  • Tabasco (Chipotle) – Steak, Chicken, Mixed Kebabs, Ribs, Rice Bowls, Roasted Nuts
  • Tabasco (Jalapeno) – Beans, Lentils, Bruschetta, Guacamole
  • Tabasco (Scorpion) – Ceviche, Honey-Mustard Sauce, Hearty Seafood, Tamales, Polenta, Onion Dip, Scotch Eggs
  • Crystal – Macaroni & Cheese, Fried Chicken, Hashbrowns, Sausages, Biscuits, Pot Pies, Gratins, Grits
  • Texas Pete’s (Original) – Mashed Potatoes, Pot Roast, Jambalaya
  • Cholula (Original) – Scrambled Eggs, French Fries, Grilled & Roasted Vegetables, BLTs, Tomato Soup
  • Cholula (Green Pepper) – Lamb, Hot Dogs, Cheeseburgers, Corn Salad, Avocados
  • Cholula (Chili Garlic) – Fried Rice, Chili, Roasted Chicken, In Salad Dressings, Hummus, Popcorn, Chicken Tenders
  • Sriracha – Salads, Soups, Pizza, Sushi, Hard Boiled Eggs, Slaws, Mixed into Ranch Dressing, Mixed into Ketchup
  • Tapatio – Mixed into Pico de Gallo, Enchiladas, Tacos
  • Valentina – Cocktails, Mixed into Queso, Refried Beans, Breakfast Burritos
  • Frank’s RedHot (Wings Sauce) – Buffalo Chicken Dip, Cobb Salad, Chicken-Fried Steak, Pasta Salad

What are some of your must-have combinations? Any hot sauces you swear by? If it’s as good as you say it is, I guess you’re giving me the go ahead to buy just one more bottle. Right?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes approximately 40 nuggets.

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 2 cups habanero hot sauce of your choosing
  • 1 habanero, minced
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 3 cups flour
  • 6 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 4 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 24 oz. vegetable or canola oil

F o r  t h e  L e m o n – L i m e  G o r g o n z o l a  D i p p i n g  S a u c e

  • 1 / 2 cup sour cream
  • 1 lemon, juiced & zested
  • 1 lime, juiced & zested
  • 4 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Put the chicken cubes in the buttermilk and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Combine the dredge ingredients – the flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a large shallow bowl. Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter, and combine it with the hot sauce and minced habanero. Set aside.
  4. Combine the dipping sauce ingredients in a bowl, and allow to sit in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  5. To dredge the nuggets, remove the chicken from the buttermilk, roll in the flour, put back in the buttermilk and coat, and then roll in the flour a second time. Repeat for all chicken cubes, placing them in one layer on a large clean plate.
  6. In the meantime, heat the oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Make sure there is about an inch of oil in the skillet, adding more if needed. Heat until you can feel the heat rising off the oil. To test if the oil is ready, put a pinch of flour into the hot oil and see if it begins to bubble and sizzle. If it’s too hot or too cool, adjust the heat.
  7. Once the oil is ready, place the nuggets in the oil with tongs, being sure not to crowd the meat. When you see the chicken is golden brown on the underside, flip the chicken to the other side to finish frying. Remove the cooked chicken and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
  8. Once all the chicken nuggets are cooked, toss them in a large bowl with the hot sauce mixture until all nuggets are completely coated with the sauce.
  9. Serve immediately alongside the dipping sauce.

Hot Dogs with Horseradish & Half Sour Slaw

We’ve been opting to cook outside the kitchen and grill on the roof of my apartment complex – and much more lately with the end of summer calling.

Hot dogs have always been my go-to beloved grilling meat. To be specific, Oscar Meier Weiners. This is not a time to be health-conscious folks – it’s a time to enjoy yourself and savor that sulfite-packed meat product you know you want so badly.

Hot dogs are typically not too filling either, so you can fit lots of other grilled meats in your belly. And don’t forget all the best side dishes – my favorites are the classic potato salad, pasta salad and corn on the cob.

(For a spicy, delicious twist on potato salad, try Hankerings’ Spicy Dill Pickle Potato Salad.)

Chicago-style hot dogs throw a speared pickle on top, along with the other musts: sweet relish, white onion, tomatoes, celery salt and peppers.

Now I love the pickle spear concept – I really do. But it can be unwieldy and makes the bun a bit soggy. A slaw creates a much more approachable bite to get through. It’s also a refreshing, cold counterpoint to the grilled dog.

This slaw pulls together the mustard and pickle elements, and the dash of mayo brings yummy richness to the sauce. Horseradish adds some heat. The cabbage does its job adding a much-needed crunch factor. It’s also a super-cinch to make, and flexible depending on the flavors you’d like to amplify, or add.

One steadfast recommendation is to seek out half sour pickles, which can usually be found at your local deli or the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Their flavor is so underrated and incredibly delicious in this recipe.

If you’re a pickle fanatic like me, you’ll enjoy this topping more than you can imagine – and if you have extra, it’d be perfect to add to burgers. Or in my case, great for sneaking bites of on its own!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  H o t  D o g s

  • 2 Oscar Meier Weiner hot dogs
  • 2 hot dog buns (If you can find them, brioche hot dog buns are delicious)

F o r  t h e  H o r s e r a d i s h  &  H a l f – S o u r  S l a w

  • 1 large half-sour pickle, cut into one inch shreds
  • 1 / 3 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Fresh dill, for garnish

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. To make the slaw, combine all the slaw ingredients and set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until the mixture is chilled through.
  2. Turn on the grill, setting it to your preferred temperature.
  3. Slice shallow slits down the hot dogs to allow the more of the surface of hot dog to get crispy.
  4. Put the hot dogs on the grill, cooking until the casing is blistered and lightly blackened. Toast the buns as well, if preferred.
  5. Put the hot dogs in the buns, topping each hot dog with half the slaw. Garnish with fresh dill, if desired. Serve immediately.

Rack of Lamb with Black Truffle & Morel Pan Sauce

Sometimes my mind wanders to scenarios like, “What if I could I buy truffles by the dozen?”

When I really think about it, I don’t want to live in a world with a caviar aisle. I live for the rare occasions when I get to splurge on a French cheese aged for decades in a cave sold by monks or a bank-breaking filet of perfectly marbled wagyu beef.

Hope exists for those of us who don’t have a $1,500 line item in our budget for truffles each month.

If and when you’re ready, authentic truffles can be found in butters sold online, but be wary about the vendor you choose.

D’Artagnan products, which I aspire to stock my fridge with, are great quality – they sell white and black truffle butters and oils that are surprisingly affordable. They also sell beautiful fresh chickens. When I place an order, I’ll splurge and buy several tubs of truffle butter to freeze and have on hand for special occasions.

This presentation calls for a packed audience, an encore, and a standing ovation with dozens of thrown rose bouquets. Make this at a dinner party, holiday, or on a special anniversary.

A tried-and-true side dish for any roasted meat is the versatile potato, and whipped potatoes always serve as an elegant accompaniment to any meat-heavy main course.

For a piquant twist, try the mash component of my Jägermeister & Guinness-Poached Blood Bangers and Mash, being sure to whip the potatoes vigorously so they develop that airy consistency. The added Dijon mustard twang works perfectly with the hefty flavors here.

You won’t be breaking the bank with this, but your guests won’t know that. They’ll be too busy experiencing truffle nirvana to even speculate.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4 – 6, depending on appetites. I have eaten an  entire rack of lamb before, so in my case this may serve 1.

  • 1 rack of lamb, frenched
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary, minced
  • 2 oz. dried morel mushrooms
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 / 3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 / 2 small shallot, minced
  • 3 oz. black truffle butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 / 2 black truffle, shaved for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

O p t i o n a l

For a perfect side, serve with the mash from Hankerings’ Jägermeister & Guinness-Poached Blood Bangers and Mash.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *450.
  2. Place the dried morels in warm water for 15 minutes to reconstitute the mushrooms Remove from the bowl with a slotted spoon, reserving 1 /4 cup of the liquid for the pan sauce. Cut the stems off, slice the mushrooms in thick rounds, and set aside.
  3. Ensure the fatty membranes are fully removed from the lamb chop bones – if needed trim off of some of the sinew so all that remains are the chops and bones with a cap of fat.
  4. Rub the whole rack of lamb with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, minced rosemary, and salt & pepper, ensuring the seasonings are covering all sides.
  5. In a cast iron skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until near-smoking. Pan sear the lamb rack fat side down first for 3 to 4 minutes. Ensure your vent fan is turned on or a window is open – your kitchen will get smoky.
  6. Sear the rack on the other side for another 3 to 4 minutes, so that the underside of the chops have a chance to brown.
  7. Place the lamb in the oven, cooking for 15 minutes for rare and 18 minutes for medium-rare.
  8. Remove the lamb from the oven, and cover with foil while you prepare the pan sauce.
  9. In the same cast iron skillet, add the truffle butter, morels and shallot. Sautee for 3 to 4 minutes until the shallot becomes translucent. Next, add the cornstarch, heavy cream and 1 / 4 cup of the reserved liquid used to reconstitute the mushrooms. Continue to cook on medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the sauce is reduced by about half and thickened from the cornstarch. It should be glossy.
  10. Cut the lamb rack into chops, pouring a generous amount of sauce over the plated chops & serve family-style at the table. With a shaving utensil, shave black truffle over the chops.

Jägermeister & Guinness-Poached Blood Bangers & Mash

I’ve been working on-site for a client in downtown Manhattan. We have an apartment through Airb&b overlooking Times Square that they’re paying for. It’s really, really cool.

Except for the work part.

Work culminates each day with a zombie walk to the nearest Irish pub like a moth to a lightbulb, where I will always order a Guinness.

I didn’t realize how many Irish pubs were in Manhattan – they’re on every block.

Whenever I’m at one of these places, my mind goes to Archer.  When he chugs directly from the Jägermeister shot dispenser machine slurring one liner insults at Pam or Cheryl / Carol, when they get hammered at happy hour a dinky Irish pub near the ISIS office, all following a funeral of one of their brutally-murdered colleagues.

You’ll always see the go-to Irish pub grub when you walk into these places – Boiled Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes, Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips. And I smother on that Colman’s Mustard like there is no tomorrow.

This recipe is a twist on Bangers and Mash. The blood sausage, replacing more traditional pork or beef sausage gives it a heartier (read: bloodier) edge that makes this a good cold-weather dish.

Look no further than Lucky Peach’s “A Guide to Blood Sausages of the World,” to understand why blood sausage is such a ubiquitous dish outside the U.S. – hint, it’s generally categorized as a poor-man’s food, like so many of the delicious foods of the world.

In terms of the type of blood sausage you can or should use for this recipe, I can only say, treat yourself. As in, get the best quality available to you. Which, by the way, will not be an expensive product if you go to a good butcher. Realistically, I’d recommend calling your butcher to see 1) if they have blood sausage available 2) if not, whether they can place an order for you ahead of time, and if all else fails 3) order the blood sausage online. If you have a choice, French Boudin Noir has particularly good flavor.

The only real prerequisite for this recipe is that the sausage has a substantive casing so it survives the poaching process, and is shaped into a sausage form to retain that good old “bangers and mash” presentation. This recipe calls for an entirely optional sauce derived from a reduction of the poaching liquid, because I can’t leave well enough alone.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 – 4, depending on appetites. But really, I have to ask. If you had left over mash, would that be the worst thing in the world?

  • 4 – 6 blood sausages of your choosing, in their casings

F o r  t h e  P o a c h i n g  L i q u i d  &  S a u c e

  • 4 12 oz bottles Guinness Extra Stout
  • 1 / 3 cup Jägermeister liquor
  • 1 / 4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 / 2 medium white onion, skin removed
  • 10 clove buds
  • 5 star anise

F o r  t h e  M a s h

  • 2 1 / 2 lb medium Yukon gold potatoes, or 2 1 / 2 lb equivalent of another potato, peeled and large-diced
  • 1 – 2 cups of the cooking liquid from the boiled potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons course ground mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups Dubliner Cheese by Kerrygold, shredded
  • 6 tablespoons Kerrygold butter, melted
  • 1 / 2 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

O p t i o n a l

  • Serve with Colman’s Mustard and / or the reduced sauce from the poaching liquid, instructions below

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Put 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of boiling water. Throw in the large-diced potatoes. Cook until a knife slides easily into the center of the vegetable, approximately 15 – 20 minutes. Be sure to reserve two cups of the cooking liquid before draining. Once the potatoes are tender, drain in a colander and cover with a clean dish towel to allow them to steam for an additional 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cut an onion in half, removing all the onion skins, and stud the onion with the clove buds.
  3. Put the onion half and all the poaching ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring the liquid to a temperature just under a simmer, about 180* F. Drop in the blood sausages, making sure to keep the liquid at a stable temperature. You do not want to boil the sausages.
  4. Allow the sausages to poach for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Skim off any fat or impurities that rise to the surface. The sausage is done when it reaches 160* F internally.
  5. After 45 minutes and when the sausages reach an internal temperature of 160* F, remove them to a clean plate and cover with foil.
  6. To finish the mash, throw the potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add all the mash ingredients, the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt, reserving 1 tablespoon of the chives for garnish. Mix with a hand mixer or potato masher.*

*One note on mixing – a hand mixer will give you a smoother consistency that gives the mash a more elegant mouth-feel. If the mixture is too dry or thick, continue to add the cooking liquid to thin it out, until you reach desired consistency.

  1. Heap as much mash as you want on serving plates. Cut each banger in half diagonally, if only plating one. If plating two bangers per plate, lay one on top of the other cross-wise. Sprinkle the dishes with the remaining chives. Serve with Colman’s Mustard, if desired.

O p t i o n a l

  1. Once sausages are done, drain poaching liquid through a colander or sieve into a glass bowl.
  2. Take 2 cups of the poaching liquid and pour into a sauté pan heated on medium-high. Reduce the liquid down for 10 to 15 minutes, until approximately half of the liquid remains. The sauce should be thick, but still pour-able.
  3. This step is important – taste the sauce for seasonings. It should be highly flavorful and will likely need to be heavily salted. Add as must salt as needed to taste.
  4. Pour as much sauce as you’d like on top of the bangers and mash, and sprinkle with chives.