Field Notes

Hot Sauce Field Guide: Mojo Picon

Mojo, like salsa or aji, is really a blanket term, used across multiple countries to refer to a wide spectrum of chili-based sauces. In Cuba, its defining characteristic is orange juice; in Puerto Rico, it’s more of a garlic marinade than a hot sauce—some versions don’t even contain chilies! But the original version, which stems from the Canary Islands, is typically made with chilies (including dried ground pimentón), and bread.

Yield: 3/4 cup

  • 3 dried guajillo chilies (about 1/2 ounce)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 slice bread, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked pimentón
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

In a small bowl, cover the guajillos with boiling water and let sit for 10 minutes to rehydrate. Drain, reserving the liquid, and remove the stems and seeds from the chilies. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bread and toast, stirring occasionally, until it turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the pimentón and toss to coat. Transfer the bread, the rehydrated chilies, garlic, red wine vinegar, and cumin to a food processor, and process. With the motor running, add the reserved chili soaking water by the tablespoon, until the sauce reaches your desired consistency (you can keep it thicker, like a paste, or thin it out to be more of a sauce).

Ginger Chile Pancakes

This time of year, that family of ingredients known as “baking spices” gets extra attention. Practically every holiday recipe is imbued with the rich notes of cinnamon, the deep sweetness of cloves, or the tangy zing of allspice. We’ve always felt like chilies should be part of this motley crew, adding an acidic note and subtle smokiness to our favorite cakes and cookies. These gingerbread pancakes make a great case for our cause. We used sweet paprika in ours, but a mild smoky chili, such as urfa biber, would work well here also.

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Chicken Paprikash

Goulash may be the best known culinary export of Hungary, but chicken paprikash is the dish that steals our hearts. Rich and creamy, the stewed chicken in paprika-stained gravy hits the ideal balance of simplicity and comfort. It’s classic to serve paprikash over small dumplings (similar to Austrian spaetzle) or egg noodles, but we’ve scooped it over rice, and even sauteed kale if we’re trying to keep things light.

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