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Monday, September 28, 2015

Holy Scotch Bonnet Pepper (Batman)!

I'm not one of those macho dudes who loves chili peppers.

You know those people, I'm sure you've been out to a restaurant, or over for dinner somewhere, and there's that one (secretly insecure) guy or girl who makes it his or her mission to make sure everyone in the room knows that they can handle any capsaicinoidal heat.


That said, however, I do like a chili pepper now and then.

Particularly with dishes that might otherwise be a little bland.  Like lentils or beans.  Or even pasta.

But the trick, and what I always try to do, is to complement the dish with heat, rather than overpower it.

Anyway... I bought a HUGE bag of little Serrano peppers a very long time ago, and have kept them in freezer to bring one or two out now and then as needed.  They have kept surprisingly well.  Oh sure, I'm not under any delusions that they are 'fresh', but they are considerably tastier than dried chilies... and they have the added bonus of being on-hand ALL the time.

I'm still working my way through that bag.  ;)

At least once a month though, I'll buy a fresh pepper or two, and cook up something deliciously fresh.

My go-to is just plain old jalapeño chili peppers, because the wife doesn't love spicy chilies... and contrary to what most people believe, the jalapeño is actually quite LOW on the spiciness.

We're talking the SCOVILLE scale here.  A handy, fairly-accurate and representational, listing of peppers from low to high in terms of capsacin-causing spicy spicy heat.

Anyway, you can see that jalapeños are not all that hot.  In fact, I always love them for the fact that you get a little bit of heat, PLUS a little bit of the acrid bitter pungency of a bell pepper, all in one package.  It's like a half-and-half pepper, or at least that's how I like to think of them.

So, for the spicy heat of death, I tend to go for something much hotter.  Like I said, I have a fair penchant for Serrano peppers, but my favourite are Habaneros.  I love Habenero chili peppers. They're always so colourful and delicious, and can turn any dish into a feisty fiesta of flavours!

One thing I'd never tried before though (at least, myself, at home) is a Scotch Bonnet.  They are supposed to be really really hot... but looking at the Scoville scale, it seems they are still only somewhere in the middle (of the naturally-occurring sources anyway... chemically extracting the capsaicinoids can yield some ridiculously hot substances...) probably wouldn't even want to have that pure chemical stuff come into contact with your skin...

Anyway...  here's a lovely little bitty Scotch Bonnet pepper I picked up the other day:

I think part of why I love chilies so much is they're always so beautiful !  I mean, doesn't that just look like CANDY?  And that's an organic pepper too!  So no artificial waxes or industrial cosmetic tricks at work there.  Nature made that.  YUM!

Anyway, I chopped it up, and only used HALF of this in one dish, saving the other half in a ziploc baggie in the crisper.

The dish that got blessed with a half a scotch bonnet?

Just a lowly legume casserole... a couple different kinds of beans, some onion and garlic and cumin... not a whole heckuva lot going on there.

Until the pepper, of course!


So freaking good.

The thing I love about cooking with peppers is that I really can taste the difference between an artificially added heat (like from a hot sauce or something), or an 'after-the-fact' heat added later, compared to stewing it right up in the pan together.  The flavours combine so much better.

It's much... warmer... for lack of a better word.  Cooking it in there literally makes it seem mellow, as opposed to sharp and bold and in-your-face.

Sometimes you want that... like putting some freshly cut jalapeños on a grilled panini or something... but for the most part--especially in sauces and stews and such--I prefer the mellow, warm, pleasantness of a subtle spiciness.