What do pulled pork, spicy slaw and candy- covered cupcakes all have in common?
How about a single potent ingredient: Pickles.
Spurred by a love for Rick’s Picks, a pickled product company in New York, a couple of employees of the Park Avenue Bakery won an online contest by creating a three-course concoction using the East Coast company’s famed Hotties pickles.
Last week, Helena’s Claire Bischoff and Sarah Mohrmann, with Sarah Gregson lending a hand, received word that they had won a year’s free supply of the cool cucumbers for their efforts.
“I honestly would rather have that than any money,” said Mohrmann, who was the first to suggest she and her friends should enter the contest.
The Helena native with nomadic tendencies (she’s lived in Seattle and San Francisco as well as New York) fell in love with the pickle producer during an eight-month stay in Brooklyn. Mohrmann and a friend first tried Rick’s Picks during the annual International Pickle Day festival in Manhattan.
“We’re both really familiar with the company. She actually was on their mailing list and emailed me and asked me if I had any ideas for a recipe,” Mohrmann said.
Mohrmann proposed the project to Bischoff, and the culinary compatriots immediately set out for the challenge.
Before they could, they realized they had a problem: a complete lack of supply.
Rick’s Picks were created just seven years ago when famed New York television producer Rick Field of “NOW with Bill Moyers” turned his hobby into a growing business. Though it is slowly spreading across the United States, the pickler’s prized pieces were still a ways off from making it to Montana.
The young women realized it would cost nearly $20 to purchase and ship a jar to Helena. Instead, Mohrmann made sure that a friend who came visiting from the Empire State brought one with her.
“We had one jar with maybe 60 pickles,” Bischoff said. “We thought of five recipes and had to serve eight people and had to stretch this one jar over this whole meal.”
“We didn’t let it go to waste,” Mohrmann said. “We tried one pickle when we opened it. I didn’t even want to open it early just in case somebody got into it.”
After decisively divvying up the delicious dills, they set upon creating the perfect presentation. With the sriracha-habanero pickles on hand, they concentrated on keeping the spicy flavor for each morsel in the meal, which would be tested later by a third party.
“I started doing these dinners in Helena, where I do a themed menu and it’s an invite thing,” Mohrmann said. “I thought that would be a good venue for trying out the recipes.”
Bischoff and Mohrmann concentrated on creating the recipes with Gregson on hand to help out.
The result was an award-winning effort that included a Skewered Chicken Satay with Hottie Peanut Sauce, Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Spicy Slaw and Chocolate Cupcakes with Candied Hotties.
“I think it started with the pulled pork — sometimes things just pop into my head and I thought that would be an awesome recipe,” said Bischoff, a culinary school graduate.
She incorporated the Hotties juice in the barbecue sauce and added deep-fried pickles to the sandwich with bread fresh from the Park Avenue Bakery.
Inspired by an Asian-style slaw with peanuts she had tried in the past, Mohrmann developed one of the favorites of the feast to side with the sandwich.
“That was one of the top things at the dinner, the slaw,” Bischoff said.
Their chicken satay — marinated overnight in a mix of coconut milk, soy sauce and hottie juice (with some added cilantro and sriracha) — certainly prodded participants’ palettes, but it was the addition of the dessert that likely delivered the deciding determination.
Bischoff, who confessed she loves baking, made sure to create the chocolate cupcakes into a prized piece. Knowing that the textures and tastes needed to tango together, she looked at other cupcake recipes, including a friend’s which used sauerkraut.
Unlike the other recipe, however, Bischoff didn’t want to completely remove the strong flavor of the interesting ingredient. In fact, after the first taste test, the ladies realized the taste of the Hotties was not present enough and had to add more.
“Chocolate and spice goes so well together anyway, you don’t really get a huge pickle flavor, it’s just kind of a crunchiness,” Bischoff said. “And then we added the candied pickles on top; they’re really sweet but spicy and sour. It’s a great combination.”
The women turned in the three recipes for the contest though they had also created deviled eggs and a pickled martini for the guests.
The finished product, which was the only one to provide an entire meal and included photos for viewing, immediately caught the eye of Rick’s Picks employees.
“The recipes incorporate the Hotties in several different ways with appetizers, main course and dessert,” said Rick’s Picks partner and Vice President of Marketing and Sales Jina Kim, who credited Bischoff and her team with the win. “We were amazed she was able to have this kind of creativity around one product.
“She wrapped her whole being around this project. She obviously deserved the prize.”
Roast garlic until soft. Sauté with onion in saucepan. Toast chilies. Add chilies and rest of ingredients. Cook until heated through. Puree in blender or with an immersion blender.
Chicken Skewers½ cup coconut milk
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons cilantro
¼ cup Rick’s Picks Hottie Juice
1 tablespoon Sriracha
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Combine ingredients and pour over chicken breasts in a shallow baking dish. Let sit overnight. Slice chicken into strips. Skewer chicken onto soaked wooden skewers and grill until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with room temperature peanut sauce.
Barbecued Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Deep Fried Hotties and Spicy Slaw1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
2 1/2 cup tomato sauce
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Rick’s Picks Hottie juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 1/2 chipotles in adobo
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
white pepper — to taste
salt — to taste
2 lbs. Pork roast
Small dice the onions and sauté with garlic in olive oil until they are translucent. Add remaining ingredients. Combine and heat through. Blend with immersion blender.
Add ¾ of the BBQ sauce to a slow cooker with the pork roast. Turn on Low and let simmer for 8-12 hours, occasionally pulling meat apart and adding more sauce if needed.
Deep Fried Hotties1 quart canola oil
32 Rick’s Picks Hottie slices
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
Heat oil to 375 degrees. Pat pickle slices dry. Mix cornmeal and salt. Dip pickles in buttermilk then cornmeal mixture, repeat. Fry until golden brown, about two minutes.
Spicy Slaw½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 ½ tablespoons fresh ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon Rick’s Picks Hottie juice
1 tablespoon Sriracha
6 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
6 green onions cut on a diagonal
6 ounces snow peas thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper thinly sliced
½ cup toasted peanuts
Whisk together first seven ingredients. Toss with vegetables until coated. Top with crushed peanuts. Season with salt and pepper. Cut eight ciabatta rolls in half. Broil until lightly toasted. Top with a generous portion of pulled pork and four to five deep fried Hotties. Serve with Spicy Slaw on side.
Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes with Candied Hotties Cupcakes1 cup butter
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup Rick’s Picks Hottie Juice
12 oz Rick’s Picks Hotties, patted dry and chopped fine
Cream butter and sugar until combined and light in color. Add eggs and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together. Add alternately to butter mixture with Hottie Juice. Stir in pickles. Fill paper lined muffin tins 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes clean.
Spicy Ganache4 ounces heavy cream
4 ounces dark chocolate
1 teaspoon Sriracha
Heat heavy cream in a saucepan until it just starts to boil. Take off heat and add chocolate and Sriracha. Let sit two minutes and whisk together.
Candied Pickles24 Ricks Pick’s Hottie slices
8 ounces sugar
8 ounces water
Extra water for blanching
Combine sugar and first quantity of water and bring to a simmer. Boil about 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Add pickle slices and boil for three minutes. Transfer to simmering sugar water. Keep at a simmer and let pickles cook for two hours, let drain on a cooling rack. Dip cupcakes in warm ganache and top with a candied pickle slice.