That this is not one of those custom publishing jobs -- despite its highly suspicious glove box size, often an advertorial favorite -- is clear enough on the first page that reads, in very fine print: "This book is not associated with or endorsed by Huy Fong Foods, Inc."
That statement puts local author Clemens' first book in The MoonPie Handbook realm of dedicated culinary adoration. Or some might say, unsettling obsession. It all depends on how you like your Sriracha pesto (Clemens' recipes is an arugula-spinach-basil hybrid with a generous one-fourth cup of Sriracha stirred into the mix). That's a heck of a lot of the spicy rooster sauce.Which for die hard Sriracha fans, is exactly the sort of recipes one would expect. Whether the cookbook will appeal to those who don't always have Sriracha on the mind breakfast, lunch and dinner, well, that depends on how hot you like your slaw. Consider yourself forewarned, Clemens likes his slaw hot. Very hot.
In fact, one-fourth cup seems to be his magic number. It's the amount of Sriracha called for in several recipes, from that arugula-spinach pesto to a cheddar swirl bread and veggie frittata. A few recipes, such as a peach sorbet and spiced chocolate truffles (the only desserts), are subjected to mere teaspoons of the 2,200 Scoville units sauce (a jalapeño straight up runs 2,500 to 5,000 units). Others, including a bacon cornbread and three-cheese grits, are amped up with one-third cup of sauce, and that fire-roasted fresh corn chowder gets a generous one-half cup of Sriracha. The deep fried honey-glazed buffalo wings? Two-thirds cup. Divide that by six servings, and you're at more than 5 teaspoons of Sriracha per person. Not for the weak tongued.
Which gets us to that slaw. Clemens' version is a Napa and red cabbage blend with red bell peppers, green onions, one whole minced jalapeño, fresh cilantro and mint that has been doused with a very good - and very hot - peanut butter-lime-Sriracha dressing with fish sauce and fresh ginger. That there is no oil in that dressing may be part of the reason it tastes more spicy that the recipe appears, something that we resolved by using only half the dressing (it was more than enough for the slaw). Though we are personally charmed by the idea of fresh jalapeños in coleslaw, our dinner guests did not find it to be a wise move with so much Sriracha already in the mix. "Wow, now that is HOT," was the general response, followed by the suggestion that this slaw would be stellar in small doses on a sandwich (it was). Or perhaps reserved as a palate cleanser at one of those hot sauce conventions where folks start their day with hot sauce spiked coffee.
But as this is a book for die hard Sriracha fans, that extra heat was probably a wise move lest Clemens become known as a weak coleslaw sort of guy. Our one complaint for a book that falls into the "product devotional" category is that we wish that Clemens had done exactly that -- written more than five pages on the history of the sauce and about the family who makes it. Without that, this is simply a "fun" book, the sort of cookbook someone hands over as a thank you gift with a $3 bottle of Sriracha. You flip through the book, try a recipe or three, then forget about it until someone spells "Sriracha" in Scrabble. And then you remember those buffalo wings that you really did want to try. Edible Sriracha Scrabble. Now that would be an interesting party idea.