Irish Catholic kids growing up in the suburbs of Boston in the 70’s (1970’s that is) didn’t get much of a chance to experience the spicier side of life. I was one of those kids. On the rare occasion when pepper made it to our dinner table, it was largely shunned as being ‘too spicy’. The memories are vague, but I believe pepper only made an appearance when someone (Uncle Ray who grew up in Tennessee and therefore loved spicy food - yeah, I don’t know what that means either, but it’s what we were told) came to visit. My introduction to Scoville units came when I was about 12 years old and my family was on vacation in Washington D.C. We were eating dinner in a restaurant (a very rare occasion, I assure you) and I had ordered shrimp. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what shrimp were but ordered it anyway. They were bland. Everything that ever touched our dinner table was doused in salt. We went through salt the way I now go through flour. At this particular restaurant and on this particular night and with my brain being filled with rebellion as I edged toward my teen years, I decided to buck the system. They fought over the salt shaker and I reached for a mysterious bottle filled with red liquid. The word ‘Tabasco’ on the front meant absolutely nothing to me. I had never seen it before. My father warned me. My mother didn’t know what it was either and wasn’t focussed on me anyway. The red liquid came out in tiny drops. One, two, three...and was instantly absorbed into the shrimp. I was used to thick liquids that lay on food like blankets, smothering the original flavor out of whatever lay underneath. Shake, shake, shake went the bottle.... I would not allow myself to cry. I did, however, look absurd with my tongue hanging in my water glass for the rest of the meal.
Some time between my 12th year and my current status of 45-years old, I fell in love with chili peppers. Originally I was enchanted by the rip-it-up heat produced by the various peppers, but now it’s the depth of flavor I most admire. Years ago I was introduced to Sriracha hot chili sauce. (Sun-dried chilis mashed into a paste and combined with garlic to make a sauce.) In the beginning, I used it in Asian food and not much else. Today it makes its appearance in everything from meatloaf to beef stew to scrambled eggs to tuna melts. Yup, tuna melts. Last night’s dinner of chicken-fried rice contained the sauce and wasn’t spicy at all. A light hand added just a little somethin’ something’ without any of the heat. Do yourself a favor and check this stuff out. The smell alone is intoxicating....
Tuna Melt a la Sriracha
Okay, so this isn’t even really a recipe, but it’s a great way to introduce yourself to this sauce. I believe that the tuna melt is one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer (a GOOD tuna melt and just ONE of the greatest pleasures). It can be made anytime and always, always, always bring satisfaction...
1 can tuna fish (Albacore)
couple of shots of Sriracha
Good whole grain bread
Good extra sharp cheddar (I really like Irish cheddars)
Mix the tuna, mayo and sriracha together. Spread one piece of bread with tuna mixture. Layer cheese on top. Top with other piece of bread. Generous slather outside of bread with butter. Cook with butter side down on grill pan. Slather butter on exposed bread. Cook until bottom is brown. Turn over and cook the other side until cheese is melted. Cut that sucker open and squish it to watch the cheese ooze down the side. Eat with salt and vinegar potato chips and a Diet Pepsi and you will have just eaten one of my very favorite lunches.
Go buy a bottle! They sell it right in the supermarket. Take the top off and breathe in deep. You’ll thank me...