Tag Archives: Chiles

The Cult of the Hot Sauce

I don’t pretend to understand everything surrounding the food world. People who have to have every happy meal toy? I don’t have any idea what their motivations happen to be. Those who folks who save beer cans? I have no clue what’s on their mind. People who let food magazines sit around for months on end?

Okay, I understand that.

But there is a group of folks out there who I can appreciate, but I certainly cannot understand their level of passion. I speak of those who love hot sauces.

You may think you love hot sauces. But trust me, the fire that motivates these folks is a step beyond. They have their own blogs, their own secret society, and they hold special festivals.

I want to fully understand, I truly do. But the names of these products make it difficult for me to take them too serious. Take a gander at some of the names I found for some sauces:

  • Colon Blow “A Red Habanero Enema”
  • Show Your Tits Hot Sauce
  • Ass Blaster Hot Sauce
  • Rectum Ripper XXX1/2 Hot Sauce

I don’t think myself a prude, but I am going to think twice before I pick up a bottle that says “Rectum Ripper” anywhere upon the bottle, hot sauce or no.

But hey, that’s just me.

I understand that a great many of these similarly named hot sauces are novelty items, and not really produced with…ahem… good taste in mind. Some folks out there are keen to simply mix up some seeds with a vinegar sauce and call it “Oh-my-god-your-intestines-are-going-to-fall-into-the-septic-tank brand Hot Sauce”® and send it off to Spencer’s gifts. The question for me is: How do you find a good hot sauce without dealing with the fakes and hacks of the hot sauce world?

The trick, as with any produced product out there, is to look at the label and see what tastes intrigue you and go from there. A recent trip to a Kitchen store produced these two products:

D.L Jardine’s Blazin’ Saddle: Made with Habenero Peppers, Carrots, onions, Lime juice, vinegar, Garlic and Salt.

Scorned Woman Hot Sauce: Vinegar, water, peppers, lemon juice concentrate, salt, black peppers and Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, and Sodium Benzoate.

The winner of the two? From where I was sitting it was The Blazin Saddle by a long shot. But that’s strictly my own opinion.

There are at least two things that are at play within the Cult of the Hot Sauce, taste being one. The other is how hot the sauces can get. This all comes back to the capsacin we talked about previously, When that capsacin hits your tongue, it sends pain signals your brain. Your body, in order to deal with said pain, releases endorphins which then causes a mild euphoria. Mix good flavor with a bit of eurphoria and you have a decent Friday night going for you.

My point here is that there’s a bunch of silliness out there in the hot sauce world, but there’s a fair amount of great stuff out there, if you look for it. The cult can be your friend. In fact, one can say that theyve already blazed the trail.

Technorati Tags: Food & Drink, Hot Sauce, Chiles


Chile Rellenos

Chile Rellenos

There are times when I simply amaze myself. No, no, it’s not those times when I’m particularly humble. I mean those times when I “get” a recipe and can recreate it without looking at a recipe. It’s akin to trying to play guitar and singing at the same time. One moment you can’t do it, then something clicks. Your mind goes “a-HA!” and suddenly you realize that your skill set for a particular task has increased +1.

Yes, that was a Dungeons and Dragons reference. I may be amazing, but I’m also a geek with a long history of geek activities.

Where was I? Oh, yes, Chile Rellenos. I love Mexican food, but it’s not my forte in the kitchen. Not because the food is any more difficult to prepare, but rather because it’s a different set of ingredients and different set of preparation skills that I don’t use all that often.

In researching this recipe, I found hundreds of different variations. In my mind, it clicked that I had a great deal of leeway in preparing this recipe, as long as I stuck to a few basic ground rules: I had to stuff a chile with a filling of some sort. I had to use roughly Southwest American or Mexican Ingredients. I had to cook the chile. The following is my result.

Warning: This recipe calls for you using hot oil on your stove top. For goodness sake, be careful!

Chiles and Filling

  • 12 Anaheim Chiles, or other similarly large chiles
  • 1 lb Chorizo Sausage, ground
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

Batter

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Turn on the broiler of your oven. Place the chile peppers evenly on a cookie tray and place under the broiler heating element. Cook for 5 minutes, turn over, and cook for another 5 minutes. You should have a blackened skin on your pepper that looks as if it’s about to fall off. Remove the skin or not, as there’s benefits for either choice. I chose to remove the falling skin which made it holding the filling in more difficult. Set aside and allow to cool.

In a medium skillet, cook your sausage until browned, but not overly so. There should be no pink meat remaining, but you don’t want to cook the sausage like it’s breakfast time either. Drain any fat and put the sausage in a mixing bowl. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Combine the sausage with apricots, raisins, cheese and cumin.

Set up your frying process. In one bowl, whisk together the egg whites from six eggs until you get firm peaks. In another bowl, mix together the six egg yolks. Combine the egg yolks and whites and fold them carefully together. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but one should try not to remove the fluffiness of the egg whites either.

In another bowl, mix your flour, cornmeal, baking powder and cayenne pepper.

In a large skillet (preferably cast iron), fill with corn or canola oil up 3/4 the side of the skillet. Bring up to medium high heat.

Now, back to the chiles. Place a 1/2″ to 3/4″ slice at the thickest part of the pepper. You can choose to remove the seeds if you wish, but you may be inviting disaster if you do so. Add the filling to the pepper. Repeat the process until you’ve filled all your chile peppers. If the chile has difficulty staying together, toothpicks can be used to hold them.

By this time, your oil should be up to temperature. Roll your pepper in the egg mixture and then coat with the flour mixture. Place carefully into the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, flipping them over with tongs if necessary. Fry until a nice golden crust has developed. Remove from oil with tongs and allow to drain on a paper towel. Repeat as needed, cooking between 2-3 peppers at a time.

Plate and top with Salsa, or other tomato-type sauce, and a bit of cheese.

Serves 6

Technorati Tags: Food & Drink, Recipes, Mexican Food, Chile


Tips and Hints Surrounding the Chile

It’s that time of the research process where I list all of the best information I can find in regard to purchasing the good, better and best chiles when in your local market.

  • Chiles, although available nearly year round, are best in the late summer.
  • The best chiles are the firm ones with the shiny skins.
  • The better chiles will smell more “fresh and peppery” than those of lesser quality.
  • If choosing between two chiles of equal length and width, choose the heavier one. It will have more flesh.
  • If you wish to retain the heat of your chiles, avoid washing them before using them.
  • A general rule of thumb: The smaller the chile, the hotter it will be.
  • Use rubber gloves in preparing your chiles, as the oil can last on surfaces for several hours afterwards.
  • Stems should always be removed. The seeds and inner fibers are up to you.
  • A fair amount of the capsaicin is located in the inner fibers and seeds. If you leave them in, your dish will be hotter.
  • The seeds are not the hottest part of peppers. It is at the point where the seed is attached to the white membrane inside the pepper that the highest concentration of capsaicin is found.
  • Do not touch your eyes after you’ve cut chile peppers! Wash your hands first!
  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water after done preparing the chiles, to remove any residual oils. Vinegar is also recommended.
  • Store your chiles in a paper bag in your refrigerator for up to one week.
  • Some Flavors that go with chile peppers: Chocolate, Cilantro, Coconut milk, fish sauce, ginger, lemons, lime, new world beans, peanuts, baked winter squash seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce tomitillas, tomatoes
  • The best way to reduce the heat from a chile you’ve recently bitten into? Eat either a banana, yogurt, milk, and soft/mild cheeses. Alcohol and carbonation will make the heat worse. Water does little against the heat.

Technorati Tags: Food, food tips, chile, food trivia


Chile Verde (Chile Stew)

Chile Verde

This looked better on paper than in reality. That’s the way it goes from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good recipe. Just not a great one. Being a stew, I expect it to be better over the next few days as the broth mingles with the spices and meat.

You can easily replace the lamb with pork. Both will work equally well.

Also, in order to roast the chiles, place them under a hot broiler, 5 minutes per side. Remove the skin and they should be ready to use.

  • 5 Medium Poblano Chiles, roasted
  • 3 lb Lamb, Boneless Shoulder
  • 1 Large Onion, Chopped, 1 Large
  • 4 Cloves Garlic,Finely Chopped
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 cup Chicken Broth
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Juniper Berries,Crushed, Dry
  • 3/4 tsp black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Unbleached Flour
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice

Take 2 of the 5 chiles and mince well. You should remove the seeds, but it won’t kill you to have them in the mix. The remaining chiles you can chop into 1/2″ strips.

Cut the lamb into 1-inch cubes. Cook and stir lamb, onion and garlic in oil in 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat until lamb is no longer pink. Drain the oil and water from the pot. Add the broth, salt, minced chiles, juniper berries and pepper to the pot. Heat to boiling; and then reduce heat to a simmer, cooking for an hour or so.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour with warm water; stir into lamb stew. Raise the heat to medium. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in sliced chiles and lemon juice.

Serves 4

Technorati Tags: Food, Recipe, Chile, Chile Verde, stew


Chile Pepper Varieties

Here’s a compiled list of different chile peppers you may come across in your own travels. The number next to the name is the pepper’s Scoville rating. The hotter the pepper equates to a higher number.

Sweet bell pepper: 0 : Yes, this is indeed a chile, although we don’t typically believe it to be so. Ubiquitous in the states, they’re typically green and about the size of a large fist.

Pimento: 100 – 500 : Also a chile. I actually did not know this about pimentos, thinking them only as olive stuffing. Pimiento is the Spanish word for “pepper”, which shows you how well I know the spanish language.

Pepperoncini pepper: 100-500 : Also known as Tuscan Peppers, this pepper is found in Italy and Greece. It’s the Grecian crop that we typically find in pizzerias and Italian eateries here in the states, as they tend to be more sweet than those grown in Italy.

Paprika: 250 – 1000 : It’s not a spice, but actually a chili pepper from which the spice is made. Think of it as a large sweet pepper, conical in shape.

Santa Fe Grande pepper: 500 – 700 : Also known as the yellow hot chile and the guero chile, I’ve seen this pepper in the grocery store from time to time. They’re about 5″ long and ripen from greenish-yellow, to orange-yellow to red.

Poblano pepper: 1,000 – 2,000 : Probably Mexico’s most popular variety of chile. It has a big interior which is perfect for stuffing. It’s 4″ long and its coloring is a dark blackish green maturing to red or brown. An Ancho pepper is dried form of the poblano chile.

Jalapeño: 2,500 – 8,000: Rightly or wrongly, when an American thinks of Mexican cuisine, the jalapeño is most likely thought of. A chipotle is a jalapeño that has been smoked. It is often found in adobo sauce. They are harvested when they are green or red if allowed to ripen. You can find them between 4″-6″ long.

Serrano pepper: 5,000 Р23,000 : Generally 1 to 2 inches long, 1/2 inch wide and similarly colored to the jalape̱o, dark green to red. This chile is often used in salsas and as a flavoring for stews, casseroles and egg dishes.

Tabasco pepper: 30,000 – 50,000 : The chile they use to make Tabasco sauce. The fruit is tapered and small (under 2″ in length). The color is often a creamy yellow to red.

Cayenne pepper: 30,000 – 50,000 : A very thin chile pepper, green to red in coloring, and about 2 to 3 inches in length. It is often used in a ground form as a spice, hence – Cayenne Pepper.

Tien Tsin Pepper: 50,000 – 75,000 : Traditional for Asian cooking. Very hot, bright red, 1-2″ Chinese pods. These are the peppers found in your Kung Pao chicken. I recall many of my knowledgable friends daring anyone gullible enough to eat these dried delicacies.

Rocoto Pepper: 50,000 – 100,000 : Also called the Manzano pepper, this chile is typically found in South America. It is among the oldest of domesticated peppers, and was grown up to as much as 5000 years ago. It is probably related to undomesticated peppers that still grow in South America.

Thai pepper: 50,000 – 100,000 : These chiles are small, seldom growing larger than 1 to 3 inches long. They are usually less than 1/2 inch wide, but provide plenty of heat. These slightly curvy, potent peppers are typically bright red or deep green, and end in a sharp point. Finely sliced Thai peppers can be mixed with the hot oil in a stir-fry or used to heat up coconut soups and noodle dishes.

Scotch bonnet: 100,000 – 325,000 : Probably the cultivar of chile that Columbus sampled. Serves the bastard right. They are tam-shaped and found in Caribbean. They are also called booney peppers, bonney peppers, and goat peppers on various islands. They are usually red or yellow at maturity

Habanero chile: 100,000 – 350,000 : Sibling to the Scotch Bonnet, it’s widely recognized as the hottest chile cultivar. Grown mainly on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, its coloring is yellow-orange, orange or bright red, depending upon when it’s harvested. Average Size 1 – 2 1/2″ long, 1 – 2″ diameter and tam-shaped.

Red Savina Habanero: 350,000 – 580,000 : Reportedly the hottest chile pepper on record.

Technorati Tags: Food, Chile, chile peppers


The Heat in Chiles – Scoville and Capsaicin

Get it? Heat? Chile? *taps microphone* Hullo, is this thing on?

If you’ll pardon my attempt at lame puns, I want address the issue about what makes chiles, y’know, so hot.

The substances that give chile peppers their heat are the alkaloid capsaicin, and other related chemicals. These substances are collectively called capsaicinoids. For the record, the other capsaicinoids are:

  • dihydrocapsaicin
  • nordihydrocapsaicin
  • homodihydrocapsaicin
  • homocapsaicin

Say them aloud at a party, and you’ll be sure to leave others either impressed or befuddled.

Speaking of impressing people, I could let you know how capsaicinoids interact with your body, creating the sensation of pain and heat. For instance, I could write “The sensations associated with capsaicin result from capsaicin’s chemical interaction with your sensory neurons. Capsaicin binds to a receptor called the vanilloid receptor subtype 1. This binding allows positively-charged ions to pass through the cell membrane and into the cell. This results in a “depolarization” of the neuron, causing the neuron to signal your brain with, what medical professionals call, an ‘owie’”.

I could write that, but you’d probably fall asleep as soon as I mentioned the phrase “vanilloid receptor subtype 1″. I base this assumption only on the fact that I slightly nodded off myself, and I typed out the darn thing.

Different chiles have different levels of capsaicinoids found within their fruits. This is why you can eat a bell pepper without any fuss, yet cry like Halle Berry winning an Oscar when taking a bite out of a scotch bonnet. The Scoville scale is a measure of the amount on capsaicinoids found in a chile pepper. Coincidentally named after it’s developer, William Scoville, the scale is set by measuring a dilution of pepper extract in sugar water until the ‘heat’ of a pepper is no longer detectable. As Wikipedia explains:

…a sweet pepper, containing no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero, meaning no heat detectable even undiluted. Conversely, the hottest chiles, such as habaneros, have a rating of 300,000 or more, indicating that their extract has to be diluted 300,000-fold before the capsaicin present is undetectable.

The Scoville scale now uses high pressure liquid chromatography in order to get a precise number. As it turns out, 15 Scoville units is roughly equivalent to one part capsaicin per million.

That’s only some of the science behind chile peppers. Later, I’ll post a list of varieties of chiles and each of their Scoville level. It promises to be fun interesting in a trivial sort of way.

Technorati Tags: food, chile, chile pepper, food trivia


O’ Capsicum, my Capsicum – Chiles

I’ve completed three recipes for squash and it’s time to move along (I know, I know, Ipromised one more pumkpin pie recipe. It’s on the way). Checking the Food Timeline, I see that next on the research mill is a topic to which I’ve been looking forward: Chiles.

Chiles are a food that draws a great deal of passion from people. Finding sites that deal with the little peppers was no problem at all. It’s quite difficult to imagine people working a similar obsession over, say, cucumbers.

Chiles are members of the nightshade family, and are the fruits of the plant Solanaceae Capsicum. There are literally hundreds of species that fall under this classification, and there’s no way I’m going to be able to try them all. Lucky for us, there’s an obsessive pepper fan who has created the chile pepper database to document the different varieties. I’m continually amazed at the things one can find on the internet.

The peppers have been around for quite some time. Evidence of their existance has been dated back to around 7000 BC, while proof of domestication of the plant has been noted to be around 5200 BC. This took place over on this side of the world in the Western Hemisphere. Capsicum was domesticated at least five times by prehistoric peoples in different parts of South and Middle America.

It was Columbus who introduced the plant to the rest of the world, where it quickly took off in popularity. Today you can find variations of the plant being grown in New Mexico, Central and South American, Italy, Thailand, China, and dozens of other locations worldwide.

Chiles also are mired in a tiny bit of a controversy as well. Currently there are 5 tastes that are generally recognized – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory (umami). The question is: where does the taste of peppers fit in to these categories, specifically those varieties that carry a bit of heat in them? It’s a good question. The pungency of the plants are produced by capsaicinoids, alkaloid compounds that are found only in Capsicums.

But it is not my place to answer such questions of yet. It is my place to find out as much as I can about these plants and how they fit into food culture. Color me one happy person.

Technorati Tags: food, chile, food history, chile facts