Thai Chili Glaze
by Katie Ruppel
After a long day at chesca’s restaurant many summers ago, chef Jo Maxwell was in her own kitchen looking for a snack. In her mostly-bare pantry, she rustled up a few unlikely ingredients: old crackers, brie cheese, and Chesca’s Thai Chili Glaze. With a quick tiptoe to the garden to cut fresh chives, she created a personal appetizer inspired by red pepper jelly. Crackers with cheese, chives, and a drizzle of chili glaze on top.
This little snack demonstrates the versatility of Chesca’s Thai Chili Glaze, a shelf-stable item made with red chili peppers, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, ginger and cane sugar. While Jo’s impromptu snack used the sauce quite simply, the glaze takes on a different when heated up or grilled.
Jo owns and runs Chesca’s with her husband David Joyce, who is also a chef. David first created the concoction 10 years ago to use specifically for salmon at the restaurant. With pressure from guests and friends, the couple decided to bottle and sell the glaze for others to have in their everyday kitchens. David’s cooking method involves glazing the salmon then giving it a quick grill to caramelize the sauce onto the fillet.
When the salmon comes out of the restaurant kitchen, Jo confidently proclaims, “You’ll never want plain salmon again.” The fish glistens ruby red, and easily flakes onto the fork. Each bite is juicy and flavorful, some bites more spicy and others more sweet, with the tangy sauce providing a welcome kick to the subtle salmon. Jo inspired me to get creative with this sauce. I thought of my old roommate, who baked mountains of brownies on a regular basis. She consistently added cayenne pepper to the sweets, a fact I would usually forget until after I had grabbed a messy glob of brownie with my hands and stuffed it into my mouth without thinking. (Talk about a glass of milk!)
Nevertheless, my friend taught me something about the savory combination of spicy heat and sugary sweets. Like Jo, I looked around my kitchen to see what I could come up with. I had vanilla ice cream in my freezer and some Vermont maple syrup in my fridge. I heated up the syrup with equal parts chili sauce in a saucepan over medium heat until well combined, stirring all the while.As with other barbecue-like for long cook times. Heat it quickly, only a few minutes, and do not let it boil. Once the sauce was hot, I scooped out some vanilla ice cream, poured the thickened sauce on top and added some fresh mint. The cool ice cream cut the heat of the sauce, and the syrup added sweetness.
At the farmers’ market Jo and David often get asked what the sauce would work well with. “We start off saying we use it on our salmon, but it’s fabulous on shrimp or for marinating steaks or for dipping spring rolls,” Jo said. “We go on and on and I start to think, it can’t possibly be great on everything, but it is.”