Kitchen Nightmare of the Sriracha Sauce

This is a cautionary tale for all of those husbands who complain to their wives that their chili ain’t spicy enough. Watch what you ask for when it involves hot sauce because it could land you a one-night stay at the hospital. The circumstances surrounding the event are still, and always will remain blurry, but doctors attribute what happened to my darling husband to too much hot sauce.

It was a cold February evening, and I had prepared a batch of chili. Kept warm on the stovetop, it filled the kitchen with humming smells of cumin, sweet chili spices, and tomato. This pot in particular, was completely free of any hot spices because I wanted my 15-month-old son Noah to be able to eat with us. I also happened to be pregnant with our second son, and somehow could not tolerate anything spicy during that time.

Feeling heavy and tired, I just wanted to sit down to a nice, mild, and heartwarming bowlful of chili. So, I serve my son, and my husband Marc their supper, and just as I'm about to sit down to my own, my husband comments that the chili tastes different. He asks, “Is this a new recipe?”, to which I answer that no, it’s not and that I just omitted hot peppers for Noah’s sake. Apparently disappointed, he looks down at his bowl with a discontented pout. “It tastes kind of bland…”, he adds.

Exhausted, hormonal, and having just spent the last hours cleaning and cooking, I am not geared with the patience required to deal with my husband’s [albeit very rare] fussiness. My first thought goes to the Sriracha hot sauce sitting the fridge door. This would be an easy fix, a perfect compromise for a hubby who likes his chili hot. So I offer, “I can add some hot sauce to your chili, if you want.” With a doubtful frown, he wonders if it will be as good. He asks if it will taste the same as when I just make the regular recipe. He wants to make sure it will at least give enough kick to my bland batch to be somewhat enjoyable. “Yes, dear. It’ll taste just fine”. I grab his bowl, and start adding the hot sauce by a few squirts at a time. And I add a bit more. And a bit more. There. That should taste like a typical spicy chili that Marc seems to crave.
Ticked off from Hubby’s whining, I firmly plant his bowl chili in front of him, and huffing and puffing, I finally I sit down to mine. As I enjoy my first spoonful, Marc dearest lets out a, “Whoa! This is pretty spicy! How much hot sauce did you put in there??” Argh! God he’s annoying tonight, I think to myself. “Well then, go make yourself another bowl if you don’t like it!”, I snap back. I’m close to blowing up by now, and he must have felt it because he decides to lay low, and quietly eat his chili.

A couple hours pass. Noah is now sound asleep in his crib. I’m watching television, and for once in the day, I’m trying to relax. But my husband has not been feeling well since the supper. In fact, for the last hour he’s been complaining of digestive aches. And then it hits him. Gripping stomach pains make him run to the bathroom. In no time, he's on hands and knees, panting, and making horrible sounds (imagine what a man in labor would sound like). He throws up all contents of his stomach, half of it on the floor (for me to clean, of course).

The pain he’s in is becoming worrisome. Now, he’s screaming. Yes, actually screaming – like he’s being murdered. He’s holding his abdomen as if his intestines were trying to escape his body. He says he’s never felt such pain before (call me evil, but every time a man says that, I just feel like saying, "Try delivering naturally and then, tell me about pain... Sorry post-labor bitterness talking here). After fifteen minutes of agony, he seems to think his life is coming to an end because he starts giving his farewells. “Te-te-tel-ll Noah I lo..lo-ove him… Know that I a-a-a-always loved youuu! I’m…I’m dying babe! I’m dyyyyiiiinnngg!”

Whoa. Wait a minute here! First you criticize my chili for half an hour, and now you have the nerve of dying on me while I’m with child???!!! Oh hell no! “Stop that right now!!”, I tell him. “First of all, stop panicking! (I have a bad habit of always using that expression, and it drives him crazy). Secondly, I forbid you to leave me alone pregnant, and with a toddler (I should’ve reminded him that we also have two Great Danes to take care of…) So you are NOT ALLOWED to die!” But now, he starts to sob. Oh my.

This situation just went from comical to grave. Marc is not a man of many tears. And if he cries, it’s bad news. Real bad news. All of a sudden, our tiny bathroom has become the center of a terrible drama. Here I am, crying with my husband – actually bawling – begging him to breathe, calm down, and talk to me. But nothing is helping. “Call my Mo-o-m…. C-c-a-all 911”. He can barely talk anymore, and he is pallid, cold sweat dripping down his face. So I make a run for the phone, and make the calls. In a few short minutes, my mother-in-law is at the house. She finds her son contorting himself on floor, crippled with pain. As she is trying to calm him down, the paramedics arrive. The dogs bark wildly, and I rush to send them outside so that the medics can go to my poor hubby’s rescue. This is a bad dream, a nightmare happening in real time. Is my husband dying? Panick is taking over me, but I try to stay focused and hope it's nothing serious.

Strangely amid all this noise and chaos of dogs howling, Marc wailing, Mother-in-law shouting, me bawling, Noah remains sound asleep...

So it is decided that Marc’s mother will accompany him in the ambulance while I stay at home with Noah. It’s not until three hours later that I get a phone call from my mother-in-law telling me that at last, Marc seems in less pain. He has been seen by a doctor almost immediately upon arriving at the hospital, and has even passed an ultrasound for his intestines. Finally, for lack of finding anything conclusive, he has been given a sedative and some type of pain killer and appears more serene. I conclude that they basically knocked him out for lack of any better idea. Either way, this is relieving news and Mother-in-law insists to come stay the night at our place in case I may need her help.

First thing in the morning, I drive to the hospital. My mother-in-law has offered to stay with Noah a couple hours so that I can go visit my darling husband. When I get there, I find Marc sitting up in his bed, and thankfully, looking a lot better. He tells me the pain is almost all gone though he still feels a bit queasy. I notice an intravenous machine, and Marc explains that they had to rehydrate him with an intravenous solution throughout the night. Poor, poor hubby. I feel so badly for what has happened to him. But could have caused this?

As we’re talking, a doctor comes around Marc’s bed. A young exhuberant fellow, this doctor seems in pretty high spirits. He greets us good morning, and gets straight to the point. “The results of the ultrasound, and blood work all came back normal.” He goes on to explain that nothing abnormal was noted throughout his observational stay either. And just then, with quirky smile, this young fellow of a doctor looks straight at me and says, “I hear that Mr. Henrichon had a pretty spicy chili for dinner last night?” Huh! I gasp. Actually, I forget breathing while half laughing, the doctor tells me that Marc could have had a bad case of food poisoning over too much hot sauce. “No more chili for a while, ok Miss?”

My eyes leap out of their sockets. My jaw drops to my pregnant belly. How dare this doctor accuse me of poisoning the love of my life, my better half, my partner in crime! I beg to differ mister Doctor! But before I say anything, I notice Marc looking at me with a little smile that seems to say, it’s okay babe, you're all forgiven. Though I vehemently protest this nonsensical accusation, I smile back at the doctor and keep my convictions for later when Marc and I will be in the car. Which is where we find ourselves ten minutes later debating over the quantity of sauce I poured, and why did he eat it all if it was so spicy anyway.

In a million years, I never would have thought of harming my husband with hot sauce. But needless to say, it was a long, long while before I made another batch of chili. I did end up making some again months later, but whether it was because of that ill-fated dinner, or a brand new appreciation for milder stews, but I have yet to hear any complaints from my husband in the spiciness [or lack thereof] of my chilis.


Pangasius with Cherry Tomatoes and Capers

A few months back, while killing some time at a magazine stand, I came across a special edition of Gourmet Magazine called Special Edition Italian Kitchen. It retailed at a whopping $12.99 +tx, which in my opinion is just a stupid price to pay for a magazine. But, oh my God. Every single recipe in there had me weak at the knees just by reading them. Yes, as I have mentioned before, I am addicted to any literature involving food. So I just couldn't resist, and had to have it, price being stupid, or not.

The first recipe I tried was called Black Sea Bass with Tomatoes and Capers, but I used pangasius since that's what I had on hand. It turned out so great, it became an instant family week-night dinner. On the picture here, I served the fish with a saffran pilaf rice, one of my favorite recipes by Pol Martin. This rice is so easy and delish, with grated parmesan tossed at the very end of cooking. Yum. I'll be posting this recipe in the coming days for sure!

Pangasius with Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic

4 pangasius filets
8 thyme sprigs
1 lemon, sliced in 8 slices
12 cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
1 ½ tbsp capers, liquid drained
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Your best olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF.
First, prepare the fish. Remove any excess liquid from the filets by pressing them gently with paper towel. Line a baking sheet with aluminum paper, and spread 1 tbsp of olive oil on the foiled sheet.
Place the filets on the sheet with two lemon slices under each. Season the fish with salt and pepper, and place two sprigs of thyme on each filet.
In a saucepan, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat. When the oil is hot, throw in the sliced garlic and cook until it becomes slightly golden. Now, add the halved tomatoes, and cook until they become softer, about 5-6 minutes. Add the capers to the pan, and cook for another minute or two.
Pour the tomato-garlic sauce as evenly as possible over the pangasius. With another sheet of foil, create a tent over the fish, and seal the edges by rolling the top and bottom foil together.
Put fish in the oven, on the middle rack, and cook for 13-15 minutes, or until cooked.

Gourmet Magazine, Special Edition Italian Kitchen, May 2011.


Mussel Mouclade

Every time my husband Marc and I go to Costco, we always come back with something we could have done without. So on our last trip there, Marc dearest came upon a 4.5 pound box of fresh mussels while wandering in the seafood isle. "Hey, it's only $10.99 for all this!", he said as if we had found some great bargain. I tried explaining to him that preparing mussels is a bit of an endeavor, and what you save in  money, you pay in labor. 
 Cleaning and scrubbing the shells, cutting and discarding the beards, checking to see which ones are alive (by tapping sharply on the shell to see if it will close), and which ones are not, rinsing them out, etc (and you haven't even started cooking them yet). All this screamed to the full-time working mother that I am ,"Time consuming! WASTE  of time. No time for these frilly dishes! Don't do it!!!"
But I have to admit I have a really hard time saying 'no' to trying a new dish, especially when my husband is getting excited about it. So, I agreed to humor my better half, and off we went with our Costco box of fresh mussels.
And what exactly did I make with these darling shells? Une mouclade, of course! A 'mouclade' is basically a French word to describe a mussel dish in a cream and wine sauce lightly spiced with curry and fresh fennel.
The mouclade recipe I used is out of one of my favorite cook books, L'encyclopédie de la cuisine méditerranéenne by Sélection Champagne (the original English version is called Mediterranean, by Lorenz Books), and I am taking back all of my this-is-a-waste-of-time arguments against making mussels. The results were just delicious, great for our family, and so worth the full hour it took me to prepare this dish. I totally encourage anyone try it!


4.5 lbs mussels
1 cup white wine
A generous pinch of grated nutmeg
3 thyme sprigs
2 dried bay leaves
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp curry paste
2 tbsp flour
2/3 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh dill, chopped

1. Clean out the mussels, and discard the ones that don't open up when tapped with the back of a knife.
2. Add the wine, nutmeg, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and onion to a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and cover. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until mussels open up.
3. Drain the mussels, reserving all of the liquid. Discard the mussels that have remained closed.
4. In a pan, melt the butter, and sautée the fennel and garlic for about 5 minutes.
5. Add the curry paste, and flour to the fennel mixture and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and add the mussel cooking juices, a little at a time. Let simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
6. Pour the cream in the sauce, and add the black pepper.
7. Return the mussels to the large pot, add the sauce and cook for another 2 minutes.
8. Now pour everything onto a large enough serving dish, and top the mussels with fresh chopped dill.

We dipped slices of fresh baguette in the creamy sauce, and indulged in a glass of Muscadet white wine (which I also used for this recipe). Perfect pairing! And as for the quality of mussels at Costco, I have to say they were extremely fresh and clean, which helped cut down the prepping time by a lot.


It's never too late

Better late than never, they say. Well, it's been a long time coming, but here I am anyway. At long last, I have decided to give my passion a voice, a platform... and even perhaps a bit of therapy too. See, the love I have for all things edible borders on the pathological. Or perhaps more on the pathetic? Humm, I don't know... That's a tough choice. Either way, this obsession needs some form of outlet.

So here I am, about to start sharing so many of the ingredients, meals, dicoveries, recipes and memories that have been shaping my world, my whole life. Meals that have at times elevated my soul to the Heavens, meals that have caused me to think, "Why am I slaving over this dish exactly?", meals that have soothed my son's bellie, and other meals that have {unfortunately} sent my dear husband to the emergency room (long story involving too much hot sauce on a chili that was meant to be mild to start with, but I'll have to get back to that one later).

Food is so powerful. It moves people, it changes people, it makes certain moments forever engraved in our hearts. And talk about therapy, food is therapy sometimes. I know it is for me. Whenever I need to feel some love, I just start cookin'. Now, for my obsession on food, I'm not sure what type of help is out there. But I am starting here. On my brand spankin' new blog. And I can't wait to share all the things I am so friande of, or so very fond of. So here I go.

Happy reading!