Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Problem With Chile Peppers

I ruined a perfectly good meal yesterday. I brought it right to the brink of inedible. And I mean, right there. It was so bad that out of sheer kindness, I made plain pasta for the kids. And I am not that kind of a person. It gave me a big ol' stomach ache and the InSinkErator ate the leftovers.

The problem was the chile peppers. You just never know with chiles. Sometimes I buy jalapenos and they blow my socks off. Other times, they don't even blip. What is up with the blip-less peppers?

I should have know better, though, because my friend Laura warned me. You see, I somehow missed Hatch Green Chiles when they came through last August. I don't know what I was doing, but it wasn't peeling chiles! By the time I figured it out, all I could find were roasted Red Hatch Green Chiles. I called up Laura and she made that sound, something between a moan and a hiss. Not good. Laura and her husband are from New Mexico, so she is the resident expert on Hatch Green Chiles. She says they have a deep freeze in their garage just for Hatch Chiles. That is respectable culinary real estate. I like Laura.

She mumbled something like "good luck with that" and did I want to borrow latex gloves for peeling my roasted Red-Green Chiles? Turns out that that Hatch Green Chiles left in the field turn red. Red Chiles are only good for road-side ristras and dried chili powder. "Too hot" she said.

But I had 10 pounds of them, and my hands didn't throb too badly from the peeling, so I persisted to bag and freeze the lot. Up till yesterday, I had only used my Red-Green Chiles for Tortilla Soup. I was pretty sure that Laura was wrong. All my batches of Tortilla Soup this winter were pretty anemic. I struggled with it, actually. My Red-Green Chiles were blip-less. Positive of it.

Sonoran Shrimp Scampi. Doesn't that sound good? Even the picture looks good. I am a sucker for a nice picture. On top of it, I had all the ingredients, except for Pablanos. I am not scared, I substitute with wild abandon! And anyway, I had all these anemic roasted Red-Green Chiles wasting away in the freezer. I sub in 3 chiles, switch out the red bell pepper for yellow and get on with it.

Fast forward to the 'taste for seasoning' part of the recipe. Wowzers! Hot hot hot! Not "this is good" hot or nuanced hot. I'm talking about one-note, hot. Covers up the taste of everything else, hot. Even smothering it with cheese doesn't help, hot. I never want to tell Laura about this, hot.

What is the adventurous cook to do? I do my best to plan meals a couple days in advance, but sometimes I like to try new hour before dinner. I might be adventurous in the kitchen, but am risk-adverse to taking the kids to the supermarket at 5pm. So, there are substitutions. I figure that "nothing risked, nothing gained" applies in this instance. Total failures like last night happen, but far less then you might think. I would rather find myself sweating out a bad meal once in a while, then suffer from dinner boredom. Don't you agree?

In other news, I am toying with the idea of blogging every day what we are eating for dinner. Seems a little scary, but I might give it a try for a while to see what sticks to the wall. Let me know if you want recipes.

Tonight for dinner: Grilled Sockeye Salmon, Brown Rice and Green Beans. The kids ate all of it with the addition of Blueberries. Two thumbs up!


  1. Ah yes, we must respect the chiles. As for the ones you already have, have you considered drying them, or even smoking them? They may be more manageable. Nice of you not to torture my sweet little cousins with painful produce though. I would read what you have for dinner, but I am something of a voyeur. It would be even better if you could deliver dinner every night....

    By the way, we rely on frozen blueberries as a fool-proof way to get super food into the kids, regardless of what goes on their plate. Thank goodness for healthy staples. I don't know what I would do if we ran out of them, or yogurt.

  2. I you on the yogurt and blueberries! I buy at least 30 yogurts a week! Lately, greek ones... which are great for the protien, but cost more! Why is that?

  3. Cottage Cheese is our back up when dinner doesn't appeal to everyone. Oh, and hard boiled eggs come in handy. I love the idea of recipes. I have made many of your recipes in the past and to be able to find them all at one web address is very appealing. Although, I agree with Suzanne; dinner delivered is even better.