Packing heat

My son has a friend who chose “Sriracha” as the theme of his seventh birthday party. Yes, that’s right; the boy turning seven loves hot sauce, and Sriracha is his personal favorite. I find this fact fascinating and impressive, and it’s always been interesting to me how people have strong feelings about particular brands of hot sauce. My uncle is passionate about Crystal Hot Sauce, my husband favors Cholula, my friend Ellen’s a devotee of Spicy Chili Crisp, and there are countless other people who swear by one of the overwhelmingly many other options. Frank’s RedHot has a strong following, and who wouldn’t recognize that iconic Tabasco bottle with its rhomboid label and octagonal redcap sitting pretty in many a refrigerator from here to Louisiana? Tapatío is a relative newcomer on the picante scene, and its popularity has enlarged over the past few decades to the point that it can be found for sale by the gallon, a generous upgrade from the original five-ounce bottle size. I feel like there are probably secret societies dedicated to specific brands, or at least scores of exhaustive and impassioned articles written to extol the virtues of one boutique pepper sauce concoction or another. I mean, predilections toward a specific admixture or another is certainly “a thing” in many a culture.

Thoroughly intrigued by this young boy’s fondness for Sriracha, I felt compelled (or perhaps challenged) to try it again and picked up a bottle the next time I ordered groceries. I tried it a few more times–with meat, cheese, and even a French fry–before deciding that my opinion hadn’t changed; though the sauce followed through as promised in delivering that arrabbiata punch of heat, I felt the spice eclipsed all other flavors potentially involved in the mouthful without adding enough dimension merit the expense. To me, it felt one-note: raw heat but lacking the kind of complexity that builds nuance or texture in a taste, and I resigned myself back into the shadows where people who don’t really “get” hot sauce hover.

And then one night inspiration struck, and I felt that it was important to take a tablespoon of Sriracha, a tablespoon of Heinz ketchup, and a tablespoon of Gulden’s Spicy Brown mustard and mix them together, and that’s when a very, very beautiful thing happened. I call my creation “Trifectcha”, and it completely revolutionized how we do hotdogs over here. Still too spicy for the kids, it’s enjoyed exclusively by the adults and would pair well with anything you’d think to garnish with hot sauce. The unctuousness of the ketchup, the nuance of the mustard, and the piquant power of the Sriracha all hold each other in a beautiful balance, each flavor shining through but tamed just enough by the others to play its music at precisely the right volume. The equal-part proportions feel judicious, too, somehow, as if the conversation among the three constituents allows each fair audience on the palate, creating a flavor harmonic that uplifts each component as a result of the interaction with its counterparts.

The reason I recount this recipe story this is twofold: first, the sauce is so good that it deserves to be shared. And second, let it stand as a reminder on those hard days, when the moments of parenthood are so difficult it’s breathtaking, that there are so many wonderful things in this world that most likely never would have found their ways into our lives lest for the existence of our children. Simply put, this story began with attending a seven-year old’s Sriracha-themed birthday party, and its ending is delicious.

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