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September 3, 2013

Sugar and Fire: Habanero Pralines

by Michael Langlois

Being a gentleman (that word should probably be in quotes) of both Korean and Cajun descent, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I’m a fan of spicy food.  I’ve also been known to delicately nibble on the occasional confection while adjusting my top hat and monocle.

Feel free to replace that image with me sitting in a big tub of chocolate while my handlers pour buckets of Milk Duds over my head.  I’m not saying that one of those images is more truthful than the other, but I may not actually own a monocle.

Disturbing imagery aside, what I’m trying to say is that I have a particular weakness for spicy candy, the hotter the better.  Knowing this, my wife brought me a box of these little bundles of joy:

The link shows a box of two, while my box clearly contains nine. That’s because my wife totally loves me. Also because it slows the inevitable moment when I start waving the empty husk around in the air and crying.

The first thing you notice when you tear open the box with your teeth is the fruity bouquet of the habanero peppers.  This is an exceedingly good sign.  Habaneros have a distinct and delightful aroma and you can tell instantly that you’re not dealing with artificial ‘habanero flavorings’ here.

The pralines themselves are individually wrapped and about the size of your palm.  They also have a pleasant heft to them, as a good praline should.

Can a mere plastic wrapper contain all this chile and praline goodness? Duh. That’s what it’s for.

The wrapper opens easily, with no fussy peeling or undignified tearing with your teeth.  The first thing that happens when you unwrap one of these gems is that the sharp smell of the chile is joined by the rich scent of the praline itself.  If you’re not familiar with pralines, they’re a delicious mix of sugar, butter, cream, and nuts.  Also, what’s wrong with you?  Go eat some pralines already, sheesh.

Mmm, nuts. Well, I guess it’s true that you are what you eat. Which makes me sweet, spicy, and sticky. Don’t ask.

The first bite proves that the praline part of the equation is spot on: chewy and smoothly rich, like a cross between a dense nougat and a caramel.  The nuts provide an excellent textural addition while at the same time giving the sweetness a bit of nutty earthiness to contrast against.  After the initial sweetness hits you, then the habanero notes come through with a spicy finish, making you want to take that next bite right away to offset the heat with more sweetness.

If you’re a fan of fresh chiles in general or habaneros in particular, then you’ll love these.  If those flavors aren’t your thing, then you’ll probably want to steer clear.  This isn’t a praline that just happens to be spicy, it’s a confection that fully embraces and celebrates the unique flavor of the habenero.

Personally, I’ll eat fresh habanero in pretty much anything, so these are a real delight for me.  I urge any of you that are fellow chile-heads to give them a shot.

Read more from Blog Posts, Food

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