It's Gonna Be Mayo
Chefs Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp know how to fry chicken. At Chicago’s Honey Butter Fried Chicken, humanely raised antibiotic- and cage-free birds get fried in non-GMO and trans-fat-free oil, then served up with honey butter and corn muffins. Even more love goes into their Original Fried Chicken Sandwich (aka The OG), which proudly stands alone with the sweet-sour-spicy kick of their favorite secret weapon recipe: candied jalapeño mayo.
To candy the jalapeños, they slice and quickly simmer the chiles in simple syrup, cooling them to room temperature. Those either get used straight on various dishes, or puréed and blended with mayonnaise. “Red and green jalapeños provide both flavor and color contrast,” Cikowski explains. “Then taking them out of the simple syrup and blending them into mayonnaise makes for sweet, spicy, creamy heaven.”
“Not only do we get these awesome candied jalapeños to use for the mayonnaise, but we also have the flavor of the jalapeños left in the spicy simple syrup,” Kulp adds.
The candying process evens out the various flavors of seasonal jalapeños, and folding into mayonnaise then allows their heat to evenly disperse for a wider variety of dishes. For even more heat, they suggest swapping in serrano peppers. Adventurous farmers' market explorers can try mixing a basket of whatever fresh peppers they find. “It’s a great way to preserve them for use throughout the year,” Kulp promises. “If you just keep them in the simple syrup, they’ll pretty much last forever.”
Here are a few of the chefs' favorite ways to guarantee their secret weapon won’t last nearly that long.
Replace standard pickled jalapeños on top of your nachos with rounds of their candied counterparts. To balance out the sweetness, add additional savory roast or fried chicken. And to make up for the lost acid and “brighten it a bit,” Cikowski suggests pumping up your pico de gallo or swirling some extra lime into your crema.
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② Snappy Spread
Chop the candied jalapeños and purée them into a spread “reminiscent of a spicy jelly. . . . A delicious condiment,” Kulp swears. Spread it on toast for breakfast, or for a midday snack, smear cream cheese or goat cheese on Ritz crackers and drop a dollop of jam on top. “Get yourself a jalapeño margarita and a patio, and you’ll be happy.”
③ Speaking of That Margarita…
Drink a spoonful of the jalapeño simply syrup, and you “immediately have something sweet, but then get heat on the back end,” Kulp explains. “The sugar coats your mouth, and you get the flavor of the jalapeño aside from the heat, too.”
To utilize that sensation in a margarita, the chefs recommend shaking the syrup with a silver-style tequila, lime and orange juice (to give a touch more sweetness and another citrus note), then serving it over ice. “It’s not spicy in the sense that your mouth’s on fire,” Kulp says, “but you get this warm heat from drinking it. It’s perfectly acidic and sweet, and with a bite from the tequila and one more additional bite from the jalapeño. It’s the kind of drink you don’t want to stop drinking.”
④ Poke and Tartare
For a sweet shellfish tartare, add a spoonful of the jalapeño jam into your shrimp or scallops, and then balance out the sweetness with additional lime juice for a rounded hit of spicy-sweet summer freshness. The same goes for poke–Kulp promises the jam brings out tuna’s sweetness, too.
⑤ Dipping Sauce for Fried Food
Purée the jalapeños, mix them into mayo and use it as a straight dipping sauce for french fries, hush puppies, croquettes and fritters. “Anything fried and savory is great with this mayo,” Kulp says. “Fried chicken strips dunked in the candied jalapeño mayo is my favorite way to eat fried chicken.” To get “super fancy,” try the dipping sauce with crab Rangoon. “Anything rich, fatty, creamy and unctuous we’d serve with this sauce.”
⑥ Red Sauce for Pizza
Mix a couple of spoonfuls of the purée into tomato sauce for a pizza that has a “hint of sweetness with the heat of the jalapeños,” Kulp claims of his recent pizza “obsession.”
⑦ Fatty Sandwich Spread
Cikowski is a fan of the mobility of mayonnaise for evenly distributing the sweet heat. Savory flavors like bacon and pork belly go particularly well with it, or you could whisk it into sour cream or yogurt for tacos. “You’re not getting this whoa hot,” she says, “but rather this even-keeled heat where you get all the flavors in each bite.” To cut some of the richness, add a few sliced candied jalapeños on top.
⑧ Meat Marinade
For a barbecue sauce-like marinade, purée the candied jalapeños and rub about two teaspoons onto each salt-and-peppered chicken breast or thigh, then roast in the oven on high heat. “It caramelizes as it roasts, and the juices release and combine with the purée,” Cikowski says. “It’s so delicious: spicy-sweet roasted chicken. Use it for tacos, chicken sandwiches and all kinds of stuff. I imagine it would be delicious on the grill getting super charred, too.”
The two haven’t tried the jam in a final course yet, but they’re open to suggestions. Panna cotta, anyone?
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