Can You Handle the Heat?

by Katie Faulkner

If not, you have to get out of the kitchen! All jokes aside, these locals know how to spice up their entrées. So, if your brow is beading, they’ve done their job. From sweet to smoky, Southern to international, these dishes are sure to serve up some spice in style.
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“This is pure comfort food and loaded with flavor. Plus, you can always add more Hoff Sauce to get your taste buds hopping.”

– Aaron Hoffman, Southside


Can You Handle the Heat Aaron Hoffman Aaron Hoffman’s Chicken Tikka Masala



For chicken tikka:

  • 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, grated or finely minced
  • 1/4 cup Hoff Sauce
  • 1 cup whole milk yogurt
  • 1 tsp. garam masala (Indian spice mix often found on the ethnic food aisle)
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 & 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken (I prefer boneless thighs, but breast meat works too) cut into 1-inch chunks

For masala sauce: 

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 6 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp. garam masala
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes 
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

For chicken tikka:

Whisk all ingredients except chicken together to make chicken tikka marinade. Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes and mix thoroughly into chicken tikka marinade. Let sit a minimum of 2 hours (marinating overnight works well). Put chicken on skewers and grill on high heat 3 minutes per side or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 160°. Serve with masala sauce and rice.

For masala sauce: 

Heat saucepan to medium heat, then add butter. Once melted, quickly add ginger, garlic, garam masala, and smoked paprika. Brown for about a minute, but don’t burn. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes with juice to deglaze the pan and scrape any brown bits off the bottom. Eventually it will boil. Once it’s brought to a boil, reduce to low heat and simmer for 10 minutes to let the flavors meld. Add lemon juice, sugar, heavy cream, and salt until fully mixed. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve over basmati rice with cilantro and extra Hoff Sauce for added heat and flavor. Serves 4-6.

(above) photos by Rich Smith

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“It’s important to us that heat be not only spicy but also flavorful. Anybody can burn your tongue off with enough heat. The trick is to make you enjoy it!”

– Lindsey and Robby Eskridge, Missionary Ridge


Can You Handle the Heat Lindsey and Robby EskridgeLindsey and Robby Eskridge’s Spicy Black Bean Burger



For burger:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, rough chopped
  • 1/2 onion, rough chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, 1/2 diced 1/2 rough chop
  • 2 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1-3 Tbsp. Hoff & Pepper Smoken Ghost (or favorite smoky hot sauce)
  • 2 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 buns (we used King’s Hawaiian buns)
  • Toppings (optional): jalapeño, cilantro, tomato, avocado, lettuce, cheese, and condiments

For avocado topping:

  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1-3 Tbsp. Hoff & Pepper Mean Green or favorite hot sauce
  • 1-3 Tbsp. lime juice, to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For burger:

Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a small pan over medium heat and sauté garlic, onion, and roughly chopped jalapeño until softened. Move cooked veggies to blender or food processor and pulse a few times until combined, but not mushy.

Place beans in a large bowl. Use a potato masher and/or fork to mash until roughly half the beans are mashed and half are not. Add processed veggie mixture and all other ingredients (corn, oats, bread crumbs, hot sauce, spicy mustard, soy sauce, cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper) to bowl of beans and stir to combine.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper and form 6 equal-size balls of mixture, placing them on lined baking sheet. Flatten each ball into a patty. Freeze for a minimum of 1-2 hours.

Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium/medium-high heat. Cook patties 6-8 minutes per side. (They should brown some.) If you’re adding cheese, place on patties about 3 minutes before done, pour a little water in the pan, and cover to steam/melt the cheese. Serves 6.

For avocado topping:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and top burger as desired.

(above) photos by Karen Culp

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“My family loves spicy food! This dish does not disappoint and is often requested as our grown children return home for family dinners. When inviting guests to join us, we ensure the heat of the dish is disclosed in advance. I usually finish the meal with a light sorbet to cool everyone’s palate. I love the ease of this recipe because it’s a quick, two-dish meal that allows me more time with my family.”  

– Becky Farmer, Hixson


Can You Handle the Heat Becky FarmerBecky Farmer’s Spicy Shrimp & Grits



For grits:

  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. Tabasco
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup stone-ground yellow grits (not instant), rinsed
  • 4 oz. cheddar cheese, grated

For shrimp: 

  • 1 bag (1 & 1/2 lb.), 16-21 count, peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 4 Tbsp. blackening seasoning spice
  • 1/3 lb. Spanish andouille sausage (hot)
  • 3 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, sliced
  • 4-5 canned piquillo peppers or roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp. ground, red, cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chives (or green onions, green part only), very finely sliced for garnish

For grits:

In a pot combine milk, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, Tabasco, and butter and bring to a gentle boil. Stir in grits then cover. Gently simmer on very low heat for 25-30 minutes, or until desired consistency. Stir a few times to prevent sticking. Fold in grated cheese, then cover to keep warm.

For shrimp:

Leave the tails on the shrimp or remove if desired. Use a paper towel to completely dry the shrimp on both sides. Place the dried shrimp in a bowl, then toss in 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil to lightly coat. Add the blackening seasoning mix. Toss to coat and set aside.

Using a medium pan, heat 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil until hot. Remove the casing from the andouille sausage, crumble into very small pieces, then add to the olive oil. The pan should be hot enough to cause the sausage to sizzle. Continue to crumble the sausage as it renders its fat and spicy flavors into the pan while cooking. Add the garlic, stirring continuously to keep the garlic from scorching. As soon as the garlic is aromatic (about 30 seconds), add the shrimp and 3 Tbsp. of butter. Sauté (stirring constantly) until shrimp is cooked through (about 3 minutes). Stir in the piquillo peppers or roasted red peppers, cayenne, and red pepper flakes. Add the wine (the pan should still be very hot). Then let the wine boil to reduce and enhance flavor for 3- 4 minutes. Add the parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Place a scoop of grits in a shallow bowl and top with shrimp mixture. Garnish with chives or scallions. This dish pairs well with pinot noir.  Serves 4.

(above) photos by Karen Culp

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“This is my spicy twist on the traditional pork tenderloin. After some experimentation, I was able to get that smoked spicy hot taste I had been looking for without overpowering the meat. It’s great as a main dish or sliced up for sliders. I guarantee it will be a hit at your next get-together!”

– Mike Gamble, East Brainerd


Can You Handle the Heat Mike GambleMike Gamble’s Triple Pepper Pork Tenderloin


  • 1 medium pork tenderloin
  • Extra virgin olive oil for cooking preparation
  • 1 (5 oz.) bottle of Smokey Boys Grilling Smokey Dust Hawg BBQ Rub
  • 1 small can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce  
  • 1 lb. thick cut pepper bacon 
  • Black pepper to taste 
  • 1 bottle apple and brown sugar habanero finishing sauce 

Set smoker up for an indirect cook at 275-300°. Use a combination of cherry and apple woods for your smoke flavor. 

Remove all silver skin and unwanted fat from the pork tenderloin. Apply a very thin coat of extra virgin olive oil to the entire tenderloin and sprinkle a very light coat of Smokey Dust Hawg BBQ Rub to all sides; pat in. Next, brush on chipotle pepper sauce, covering all sides. Wrap tenderloin with pepper bacon overlapping each piece; make sure pepper side of bacon is all in the same direction. Lightly dust all the bacon with Smokey Dust Hawg Rub and just a pinch of pepper. 

Place the bacon-wrapped tenderloin in the smoker and cook at 275-300° indirect until internal temperature reaches at least 135°.
Then brush on or drizzle the apple and brown sugar habanero finishing sauce. Continue cooking tenderloin until internal temperature reaches 145° and the finishing sauce has caramelized.

Let the tenderloin rest lightly covered with foil for 10-15 minutes. Slice into 1-inch servings and enjoy! (To add additional heat, dice up the chipotle peppers and top the tenderloin before serving.) Serves 6.

(above) photos by Rich Smith

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“Turn up the heat, forget the frying pan, get out of the kitchen, and smoke the perfect breakfast all rolled into one dish.”

– Harold Stockburger, East Brainerd


Can You Handle the Heat Harold StockburgerHarold Stockburger’s Sweet Heat Breakfast Fatty


  • 1 lb. thick sliced bacon
  • 1 lb. hot breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño (remove seeds and veins for less heat)
  • 4 large eggs scrambled in butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • Lane’s Sweet Heat BBQ Rub
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Use a smoker for indirect cooking. Choose applewood for the smoking and bring temperature to 250-275°.

Using uncooked bacon slices, create a 6 slice x 6 slice basket weave on a large piece of butcher paper. Spread uncooked breakfast sausage on top of the basket weave. Sauté onions and peppers and mix into scrambled eggs. Spread the onion, pepper, and egg mixture on top of the sausage. Layer cheddar and pepper jack cheeses over the egg mixture. Lightly sprinkle Lane’s Sweet Heat BBQ Rub, salt, and pepper over the eggs and cheese.

Roll to form breakfast fatty until wrapped together, and tuck in the ends of the bacon slices on both sides. Sprinkle the entire outer surface with the Lane’s Sweet Heat BBQ Rub.

Place in smoker and cook until internal temperature reaches 160°. Let the breakfast fatty rest for 10 to 15 minutes, then slice and serve. Serves 4-6.

(above) photos by Karen Culp

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