Bruce’s Habanero Hot Sauce

shutterstock_97622885 One of the most sought after sauces at Bruce’s Burritos is Bruce’s Homemade Habanero Hot Sauce; it is also the most feared. Habanero’s are hot, scorching hot little orange peppers; they look cute and even innocuous to the uninformed. Do not be fooled.

My first introduction to a habanero was about 11 years ago at the Bakehouse Café, Tor, one of the chefs, dared a dishwasher to eat one. It was a snowy night in Portland and no one was coming out to eat, we had to amuse ourselves somehow…we all offered up money for the challenge. I learned early on in the restaurant biz to always be careful about what the chef offers you, “peanut butter fudge” could just as easily be a sheet pan full of roux, a mixture of butter and flour used to thicken soups and sauces. This dish kid had no such experience and quickly jumps on the challenge as a way to make a quick $20, he was just one of the 50 kids we had through there washing dishes. I have to give it to the kid; he managed to chew and swallow the whole pepper, but after about three chews his eyes started to water and his face turned the most indescribable colors. After choking it down he attempted to drown the pain by chugging a gallon of milk. The results were disastrous, I won’t go in to details but he collected his winnings with a face that was streaming sweat and tears and we never saw him again.

Our habanero hot sauce involves five pounds of habaneros and various other ingredients that you would have to torture out of me. On the days that Bruce makes it-always before customers get there-it can feel like light mist of mace has been released in the air. We cough and choke when the pan is being washed and woe unto the new dishwasher who doesn’t know that you shouldn’t clean habanero bottles with hot water. These are peppers so hot that when you touch them your hands will burn for hours. Yet there are people that love to eat them. Hot sauce fans are obsessive, when they find a sauce they like they will do anything to get it, including driving from Boston just for a fix.

The cure for a habanero overdose, or just minor dose, the kid who’s friend dared him, the parent who doesn’t realize that they’re 8 year old is about to ingest fire, is sour cream. A quick spoonful of sour cream delivered as soon as I realize that someone has bitten off way more than they can chew. There have been many habanero pranks played at Bruce’s Burritos. It is almost impossible for our young, prankster crew to restrain themselves from tomfoolery that won’t kill anyone, but may give them an unpleasant 5 minutes. This is a game that is only played with employees, never with customers, and was recently outlawed due to a squirt of habanero being added to a fellow workers lip balm. It should be noted that most lip plumper’s contain capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers.

My brother, Evan, who has worked in the kitchen since day one, tried to habanero me once. I was taking home a quesadilla and he added a healthy dose of habanero sauce to the bottom of the salsa cup, he didn’t know that I was sharing with our mother. When I took the lid off the salsa cup I immediately smelled the habanero and told mom not to eat it. She didn’t believe me, couldn’t imagine that Evan would do such a thing. After five minutes of hopping around the kitchen with her eyes and nose streaming she was a believer.

Evan got his own in an act of habanero karma a few months later. He dropped a ladle into a huge pot of cooling habanero sauce and a giant blob flew up and landed in his eye. He hit the floor moments later crawling for the hand sink blindly. He was fine and even swore that the habanero had improved his eyesight in that eye. He never tried to sabotage me again.

So if you love hot sauce and hi-jinks come on in, I seriously don’t recommend putting it in your eyes, and if you overdo I will be there waiting with a spoon of sour cream.