My wife Christy and I married in New Orleans back in October of 2014. We vacationed in Turks & Caicos for our honeymoon the following spring, then made a weekend pit stop at the New Orleans Jazz & Hertiage Festival on our way back to New York City.
Turks & Caicos Islands are located just southeast of The Bahamas and consist of two groups of tropical islands in the northern West Indies. During our trip, we hit a popular open-air spot called called “da Conch Shack & Rum Bar” where conch is harvested right in front of you and served every way possible. The locals have many aphrodisiacs, and they consider eating conch right out of the shell to be one of them. Diving straight into some Conch is akin to gnawing on raw gristle, so I reached for the only bottle of hot sauce I could find — PeppaJoy, the Heat of Turks and Caicos.
I was immediately blown away by the exotic island flavors featuring Scotch Bonnet peppers and guava. Being a native of New Orleans, my understanding of hot sauce at this time consisted of two categories: Crystal® and Tabasco®. Peppajoy opened a new world of hot sauce possibility for me — my first step into a much larger world.
As our honeymoon phased into the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, I began to think about the city’s heritage as the “Caribbean’s northern-most city” and how its evolution of Mardi Gras owes much to its tropic influences. As a kid growing up in New Orleans, my favorite among these traditions has always been the flambeau carriers.
Long before the electrical spectacle of modern Mardi Gras parades, generations of torchbearers have lit the way for revelers lost in the dark. Many of today’s flambeaux are descended from long lines of carriers, some going back to the days of slavery. Today it is viewed as performance art due to the furious strutting and wild gyrations common to experienced flambeau carriers.
As reverence to the flambeaux and a homage to my hometown’s deep ties to the Caribbean, I crafted a show-stopping recipe that captures the essence and tropical traditions of New Orleans — a Caribbean Creole hot sauce featuring Scotch Bonnet and Cayenne peppers — paired with guava, yellow bell peppers, turmeric, ginger, orange, lemon and lime juice, garlic, cinnamon, and coriander.