Monday, June 16, 2008

Master Sauce Travels the World

Remember our friend Jenn? She described how Master Sauce solved a culinary conundrum. Jenn is a phenomenal cook who always finds creative ways to use our sauce. She is also a great writer and world traveler. She and her partner recently adventured in Belize. Naturally, they took a bottle of Master Sauce with them...

For winter vacation this year I went to Belize. Belize is pretty darned hot, and so is the food. In fact, it is home to a brand of hot sauce exported around the world: Marie Sharp’s. I must say—and I mean no disrespect—I find this hot sauce to be as overrated as the average film touted as a masterpiece by the Academy. Like the typical Hollywood production, it grabs your attention, but ultimately disappoints. It’s all hype.

In my opinion, Master Sauce is the indie hit of the spicy condiment world. To test this theory, I brought along a jar of Master Sauce to Belize, thinking that there I would find the most discerning panel of experts to judge its merits. I quickly learned not to call it “hot sauce.” (Belizeans require that a condiment burn the cilia in your throat to be called “hot.”) Much better to explain the theory behind the appellation “Master Sauce.” Once tasters understood the distinction, it was a hit just about everywhere.

In the photo I am offering a taste to David, a tour guide that my travel companion and I hired to take us canoeing through a beautiful river cave once used for Mayan burial ceremonies. The tour included a lunch of “super burritos” and Belizean beer (quite good!), and I suggested David try some Master Sauce on his burrito. (As you can see, we discovered that a screwdriver works well enough as a spreading utensil.) David loved it, but didn’t find it very spicy. He probably would have dumped half the jar into his burrito if I hadn’t told him it needed to last the whole vacation.

Did you catch that? I’ve become so addicted to the stuff that I can’t even go on vacation without it! My primary motivation for wrapping the jar carefully in a sarong and stuffing it inside one of my flippers was to try it in something completely different. I got my chance when I discovered that the atoll where we spent a week snorkeling and kayaking was teeming with conch. I had never eaten conch before, but by the time we left our island paradise, I had perfected a Master Sauce conch stew that can only be recreated with both rare ingredients. Here it is below.

Honestly, I’ve never seen conch in a store, but I live in a small town. Maybe it’s available in big cities at specialty markets. This recipe will work just as well with any other seafood, though. You could use calamari to approximate the taste and texture of conch, but fish or shrimp would also be tasty.

Conch Stew with Master Sauce:

Spend the day snorkeling, keeping an eye out for conch, which prefer flat, sandy areas. If you don’t have time to spend the day exploring a reef, go to the nearest seafood counter and buy the flesh of your favorite saltwater creature.

Sauté some chopped onion and garlic in oil with a little salt, and then add some cubed sweet potatoes or winter squash, carrots, and tomatoes to the pot. Sprinkle with herbs de provence if you have some. If not, don’t sweat it.

After the veggies have sautéed for a while, add enough liquid to cover the vegetables. The liquid can be canned coconut milk (cut with some water), or you can use the far superior and more exotic method of piercing a whole coconut and draining the water found inside. (To do this, hammer a nail into two spots on one end of the coconut, which will create a nice pouring spout.) I think whey would be good, too, if you happen to have a cheese-making friend.

Simmer until veggies are as soft as you like them. In a saucepan, sauté the seafood with a little garlic, salt, and—of course—Master Sauce! (Conch takes only about 4 minutes.)

Add seafood to stew and serve over rice. Or, if you value simplicity or simply dislike doing dishes, you can throw a cup of uncooked rice in the stew when you add the liquid to the vegetables. By the time the veggies are soft, the rice will also be cooked.

Add more Master Sauce to taste!

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