Some say the taste of St. Louis is Provel. Some say it is frozen custard.
But I disagree. I think the true taste of St. Louis is the flavor of Red Hot Riplets.
Made by Old Vienna — and nothing says St. Louis like the words “Old Vienna” — Red Hot Riplets are ridged potato chips coated in an unusually hot blend of spices tempered by a little sweetness and the familiar flavor of barbecue sauce.
If you don’t mind the heat, they are marvelous. And you essentially cannot buy them anywhere except in this area (besides online).
We can cook with Red Hot Riplets. It may sound crazy, but it really works.
I began with an appetizer, because appetizers are a good place to begin. I started with the premise that if deviled eggs are good, and they are, then deviled eggs with pulverized Riplets in them would be even better.
To pulverize the chips, I put a bunch of them in the blender, turned it on low, and then watched helplessly as only the very bottom layer of Riplets were chopped. I tried mashing the chips into smaller pieces, but that did not make a significant difference.
So I turned to the food processor. That did an excellent job of chopping them, but they never did become the fine powder I was hoping for. Though semi-pulverized, they still had a fair amount of crunch. It turns out that is exactly what you want when you’re cooking with Red Hot Riplets — a nice, satisfying crunch.
When the ground Riplets were added to the mashed yolk and mayonnaise of deviled eggs, they made the dish even better. You might think that you could not improve plain deviled eggs, but mashed Red Hot Riplets do the trick. I don’t want to say the deviled eggs were superb, because that would be boastful, but if you want to say they are superb you will not get an argument from me.
With that success under my belt, I tried what I guess is another appetizer. Or something.
First, I cooked bacon nice and crispy. Then I simmered some real maple syrup until it was reduced by half, and I got the bacon temptingly sticky with it. And if there is one thing sticky sweet maple-flavored bacon needs, it’s the spice from Red Hot Riplets sprinkled over it.
It’s the kind of appetizer, or something, that condemned prisoners would want for their last meal.
My next idea was to use crushed Red Hot Riplets to thicken a soup. I thought a cream soup would work best, because the cream would cool down the fiery spice of the chips.
But once I made the soup, I did not want to ruin it by pouring in a jeroboam of Red Hot Riplets. So I merely crushed a few and sprinkled them on top, as a garnish. That gave the soup (I made cream of potato) just the right jolt of Red Hot flavor and crunch, like a consummate crouton.
I thought the chips might taste good on top of a sandwich, and in fact I piled a few on top of a hamburger (it’s good. Try it!). But I wanted to do more than simply add potato chips to a sandwich, so I decided to use them to make a new all-purpose condiment.
Uncle Dan’s Secret Sauce mixes mayonnaise and mustard and then spices it up with pulverized Red Hot Riplets. I tried it with a turkey sandwich, which it greatly improved, but it would also go well with ham, chicken and roast beef sandwiches. You may even want to try it on a hamburger.
For a side dish, I went back to the 1950s and ‘60s before remembering that the iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese dressing is actually making a bit of a comeback these days.
All I did was make an iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, sprinkled with crushed Red Hot Riplets. Brilliant, right?
My main course, almost inevitably, was Riplet-Coated Oven-Baked Chicken.
If you’ve ever had chicken baked with Corn Flakes, you’ll know what I’m talking about — only this is much better. The Riplets enliven the chicken with that inimitable Red Hot taste that plays beautifully off the bland chicken, and they also give the meal a delightfully satisfying crunch.
Finally, for dessert I decided to combine two local favorites to create the most iconic St. Louis dish ever: Ted Drewes frozen custard topped with crushed Red Hot Riplets.
The thing is, you have to go easy on the crushed chips. Too much, and you wind up with Riplet-flavored ice cream — and there’s a reason no one sells Riplet-flavored ice cream.
But a light sprinkling of the spicy chips turns out to be the perfect foil for the smooth, sweet creaminess of frozen custard.
The slight crunch you get with each bite only makes it better.