The Second Team

Posted: August 02, 2007

Keep an eye out for these accomplices:

Hot sauces: Some of the names on these labels sound like biker bars, and what's inside has the same flare-up attitude. Just a few shakes will have your recipe packing some serious heat.

Turbinado sugar: This is one sugar that can take the heat and withstand higher grilling temperatures. You can sub with demerara sugar, light brown sugar, or raw sugar.

Sherry vinegar: Sherry vinegar sounds like a nightclub singer with a sour disposition. For something a little more assertive than balsamic, this is the vinegar to wink at. It flirts with a sly sweetness but can really have you puckering up for more.

Pomegranate molasses: It adds real muscle to glazes. It's a double-barreled blast of sweet and tart flavors. While it has some Middle East connections, you can find it in most well-stocked supermarkets.

Chipotles: These are jalapeños that look as though they've done some serious time. They look old and wrinkled, and the canned version in adobo sauce looks as though it's constantly soused. Dried chipotle packs a little more heat and a little less smoke than its Spanish cousin, pimentón, and can shake up any rub.

Dried chiles: Technically, chipotles and pimentón are part of this crowd, but their smoking sets them at a distance from the other chiles. Dried chiles like ancho, New Mexican, cayenne, and bird (Thai) can run the Scoville scale. They should be ground with a dedicated spice grinder. Avoid pre-ground, nondescriptive chile powder. It doesn't pack the heat.

Tamarind: Milder than lemon and sweeter than vinegar, this souring agent likes to go undercover in marinades and tropical glazes.

Asian spice blends: Five-spice powder, Togarashi, curry, or garam masala. Asian spices tend to run in packs. Any of these spice gangs can have five or more members. Spicy with these groups does not necessarily mean hot.

Rice wine vinegar: Rice wine vinegar is like white wine vinegar on probation. It behaves itself, and is not that aggressive when mixing it up with sake, soy or mirin. It's probably the softest of all vinegars available.

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