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.

Diner-Style Deviled Ham Hash

In this next post of my “no-no” mystery meat recipe series, I wanted to share one of my all-time favorite canned meats – Underwood Deviled Ham.

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If you haven’t had it already, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. Not for me of course – I loved it from day one. But it’s as American as red, white and blue. If you didn’t eat it growing up, my gut tells me you might – with an emphasis on the word might – not like trying it for the first time as an adult.

My boyfriend wasn’t a fan. He said he wouldn’t feed it to the dog.

You have to give this a try. For anyone who is familiar with this delectable max-processed delicacy, or still reading even after this cautious introduction, you’ll soon realize this is the breakfast hash that was missing in your life.

Deviled ham has a similar flavor to Spam, or any sodium-heavy canned meat product you’ll find in the grocery store. I used to eat it straight from the can. The most typical way to serve it is between two slices of mayo-smeared white bread topped with iceberg lettuce – right where it belongs.

I’ll usually keep a few cans of Hormel’s Corned Beef Hash in my pantry. This recipe is a home-cooked variation of the canned hash, using fresh potatoes and swapping out the corned beef for the deviled ham.

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The ham and potatoes go together like peanut butter and jelly. Alongside a couple of sunny side up eggs, this is just what the doctor ordered when you’re craving a greasy, filling diner-style breakfast.

I went to town and back on this. I probably met my sodium quota for the month. I don’t know about you – but if this hash gives me yet another excuse to eat deviled ham, my GP and I are completely on board with that.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

  • 2 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 1 can Underwood Deviled Ham
  • 1 / 3 cup white onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onion, potato, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper, cooking on medium heat until the potatoes are near golden and crisp and the onions are near translucent.
  2. Once the hash is almost done, add the deviled ham. Continue to cook the hash so the ham has a chance to crisp up.
  3. Plate the hash and serve hot, with a couple of sunny side up eggs and hot sauce, if desired.

 

Red Hot Pasta Carbonara Nests

Real Italian pasta aficionados would shudder at what I’m about to do – add buffalo-style hot sauce to pasta. It’s sacrilege. But I’m doing it anyway.

I pour the stuff on 99.98% of my food. Sriracha, a close cousin, claims to be a good accompaniment to salads, pizza, eggs and pasta among other things, according to the label on the bottle. But I would hedge bets they’re referring to soba noodles, or ramen.

Caution to the wind, I gave this a whirl, and it knocked my socks off.

So what elements are a must for a buffalo-style wing experience? In my mind, there’s the obligatory Frank’s Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce or Tabasco Buffalo Style Hot Sauce (pro-tip – always mix 2 parts hot sauce to 1 part melted butter), blue cheese crumbles, ranch or blue cheese dressing, and celery or carrots.

Not all of these ingredients are going to make the cut into this dish. Carrots in a Pasta Carbonara? No thanks.

But the uber-American buffalo-style flavor will shine through.

To that end, here is an Italian-American Frankenstein of a dish I concocted to share with you all. Cheese. Spice. Butter. Carbs. Garlic. Rendered pork fat. All topped with a runny egg yolk. What else could you ever want in a meal?

I genuinely hope you spice lovers like myself give this a try when the mood hits you just right.

And a quick disclaimer to add here – you may not be able to button your pants the next day.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 3 to 4, depending on appetites.

  • 1 lb. bucatini, or another long pasta
  • 1 / 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 oz. pancetta, diced
  • 3 large eggs, whisked, plus additional egg yolks for each nest
  • 8 tablespoons Frank’s Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce or Tabasco Buffalo Style Hot Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 5 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 4 oz. Parmigiana-Reggiano, shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons celery leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed*
  • 2 tablespoons spiced chili oil**
  • 2 / 3 cup reserved cooking liquid from the pasta
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

*The easiest way to crush peppercorns if you don’t have a mortar & pestle is to put the peppercorns in a sealed Ziploc bag and smash with a meat mallet or rolling pin.

**I made my own chili oil in a cinch. Just heat 1 / 2 cup olive oil with 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 1 habanero pepper, minced. Let the spices simmer in the olive oil over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes,  let cool, and place in a glass mason jar. Will last for several weeks at room temperature and can be used in any dish in place of olive oil to add a spicy kick.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Slice the whole chicken breast in half lengthwise. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the chili oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes and set aside, covering with foil to retain juices while you prepare the rest of the dish. After 10 minutes or so, when it’s cool enough to handle, shred the chicken by hand (or 2 forks) into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Whisk the 3 eggs in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Carefully separate as many eggs as needed so that each pasta nest has a yolk. Set the yolks aside.
  5. Melt the butter in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, and mix with the hot sauce. Set aside.
  6. Heavily salt a pot of boiling water and cook the pasta al dente. Be sure to reserve cooking liquid before straining.
  7. In the meantime, while the pasta is cooking, brown the pancetta in a large shallow pan in 1 tablespoon of chili oil. Once crispy, add the garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring often to make sure the garlic does not burn.
  8. On very low heat, add the chicken, hot sauce, the two cheeses and crushed black peppercorns.
  9. Ideally, you will now pour the pasta right from the colander into the pan with the chicken, cheeses, peppercorns, pancetta and garlic. Toss to combine.
  10. Once the chicken is heated through, off the heat, add the whisked eggs. Add some of the reserved cooking liquid to achieve a saucier consistency.
  11. With tongs, shape the pasta into a nest shape in large shallow bowls. Place an egg yolk in the center of each nest, and garnish with a sprinkling of minced fresh celery leaves and crumbled Gorgonzola.