Monday, February 1, 2010

The Sting

Although my conversation has been lacking, my appetite for things that "sting" has not.

{Image courtesy and imdb}

For my longtime readers, you may remember that several months ago I started exploring the world of the chile pepper. It's high time I start sharing this project with you again.

Recently I've gravitated towards recipes using the anaheim chile pepper. The anaheim is your standard "mild green chile." I love the milder green chiles because you are able to use a larger quantity before the heat overpowers a dish. I love the flavor of green chiles, so for me this is a big advantage.

In my research on chile peppers I have learned that not all peppers are created equal. Knowing the relative intensity of a pepper variety is important for gaging its heat. But this is merely a starting point. Even mild chiles, on occasion, can be unpredictably hot. If you're not careful, the unwitting use of a chile pepper just might result in a sting. This has been ever-present on my mind as I've explored chile-infused dishes, but I have STILL been caught off guard.

Last week I made a bean soup with anaheims. I used a spoon to scoop out the insides of the pepper before chopping them. Later on I grabbed the spoon, gave it a good rinse, and then used it to taste something. Wow ~ did that ever sting! Whatever remnant of the mild anaheim that was still on that spoon really burned my lip. I could still feel it hours later! I was afraid that this was the "one" ~ the one insanely hot anaheim pepper out there. Nevertheless the soup turned out fine, and not at all spicier than I would expect. I just can't explain it.

I have also noticed that the steam from food containing chile peppers has the potential to sting. When I stirred a corn chowder with anaheims in it a few weeks ago, my hands became raw from the chile sauna alone.

In case it's not already clear, my message here is that the juice of a chile pepper ~ any chile pepper ~ can really be caustic stuff. Do you have your own stories? I'd love to hear. . .

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