Thursday, March 20, 2008

Didn't your mother ever tell you not to play with strange peppers?

Last week, I cooked a vegetarian chili that was so bad I didn't even bother posting it. The recipe, it turns out, made a mediocre, slightly spicy lentils dish. Now, in keeping with my unwillingness to not modify a recipe when I cook it, I decided to make use of fresh peppers rather than using only crushed red pepper flakes for the spicing.

I am always excited about a culinary adventure, so if you put two different kinds of peppers in front of me I will, almost always, select the pepper I don't know. Up until now that has not caused me any significant problems, because the grocery stores around us don't actually sell any peppers that are truly spicy. I have tried all of the options available at our local Giant, and a reasonable assortment of those available from Whole Foods. They are all moderately spicy peppers with slightly different kinds of spice, but roughly the same intensity. Last week, however, I did my shopping at the local grocery store (it is in a predominantly Latino neighborhood) and discovered Jamaican hot-peppers.

Cooking with them was almost comedically painful. It reminded me of those jokes, "you know a pepper is spicy when..."
1. Smelling them from close range results in a burning sensation that runs through your nostrils like wild-fire and doesn't leave for half-an-hour.
2. Their juice irritates the skin of your hands while you are cutting them.
3. After three attempts, you still cannot clean your hands of their oils. Resulting in you being unable to touch your eyes for the remainder of the night.
4. You can still taste their spice on your fingers the next day when eating a sandwich.

Well, I take it you get the picture. It was unbelievable. I have never handled anything quiet so dangerous in a kitchen setting. The next time I cooked with them - the night before last - I used a plastic bag to cover the hand I touched them with.

But man, did they ever add a nice kick to the dish!


katiez said...

Mon mari has a very bad habit of nibbling in the supermarkets... a bit of a lettuce leaf here, a few nuts there...
He broke off the tiny tip of a pepper hanging (a ristra ?) I knew what was going to happen - and thought it served him right. It was so hot: red in face, tears streaming...and not a thing he could do about it...Yup, I laughed!

Jen said...

That reminds me of the first time I cooked with fresh chiles. I had my glasses on but the next morning when I went to put in my contacts it was like I had been maced (which I guess is what mace spray was originally made of).

jokergirl@wererabbits said...

Is it bad that I want to have some of those peppers to sample now?
Hmm... one of the mystery peppers I planted on my windowsill this spring looked similar. I wonder if it will ever bloom so I can try...


Do said...

Bad, Jokergirl, why would that be bad? I love hot peppers. I admit, I tend to cook with them rather than eat them straight, but to each their own!