Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Let's Chile Wrangle! (AKA Skinning Chiles)

Five Rules To Take the Heat Out of Handling Habaneros and Other Hot Chile, Chili, Chiles, Chilies,

Chiles and Peppers. Sheesh and you though potato and tomatoes where bad!

Even the thought of a habanero strikes fear into the hearts of brave men, near and far. I don’t blame ya.

They. Are. Hot.



Hey, I'm from Texas. I love hot food! But for many years, I agreed with the general consensus. Why on earth use a chile so hot, it ruins your palette for any other flavor?

I always think of blisteringly hot food as “heat bombs.” A heat bomb nukes your taste buds with a precision guided explosive, designed to do nothing more than create pain. It forcefully reminds you to spit out whatever is in your mouth – immediately. A chile heat bomb lingers and masks anything else following it so as to remind you to never eat it again.

So why do it? Why blister your tongue for a rush? Well, any true Chilehead knows why. Chiles play fast and loose with your brain chemistry, promising and delivering an endorphin rush similar to that found with cocaine and heroin.

Hey, wait a minute! I don’t use cocaine or heroin either. Are you tellin’ me I’m missin’ out on a secret here? Yes! Chileheads (those fool-hardy, fearless, take-no-prisoner personalities) eat hotter-n-hell chiles for the mad rush. And that rush is addictive. Period. The end.

And because my sweet Denny likes the heat and belongs to the Chilehead Tribe, I decided to bring it and represent. So I pulled up my Texas-sized, big girl panties and just plumb learned to wrangle this “wascally wabbit.” Now, I’ve been eatin' jalapenos and other chiles since God was a child. But I’ve always secretly feared the habanero – until Denny entered my life.

Thanks to Denny, we now have the Denny Scale in our house and although our amps may go up to eleven, the Denny Scale only goes up to four - four being, "Muy caliente! Call the paramedics, you're dying." If you're at 4 in Denny's House, you're off the chart on the Scoville Scale, the traditional scale designed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912 to measure chile heat in a convenient "heat unit."

If I Can Do It, You Can Do It You too can overcome your fear of the habanero and its spicy cousins the serrano, cayenne, jalapeno, and other heat-filled chile strains. You will even be surprised at how lovely and savory the humble habanero is, and will appreciate the nuances of flavor it packs: slightly sweet, fruity overtones, balanced by a light, grassy astringency. Oh yeah. And heat. But not heat bomb, killer, must-follow-with-ice-cream heat.

Never fear, my friend. If you follow these directions, you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed with heat. You should be able to enjoy the flavor components. (Please note the liberal use of “should.” Let this be a warning for all of you who are not card-carryin’ Texans…God rest you all.)

The First Rule of Chile Wranglin’
When in doubt, use gloves! I mean it. Really. Do as I say. Not as I do. Even the mildest jalapeno leaves my fingers tinglin’ something fierce – for hours! 
The Second Rule of Chile Wranglin’ The hotter a chile or pepper is on the Scoville Scale, the smaller you should chop it.

The Third Rule of Chile Wranglin’
If it’s soooo hot you can’t enjoy a chile chopped up in a dish, then leave it whole and remove the chile once your dish is cooked and ready to serve.

A great way to accomplish this and remind yourself you have a live grenade lurking somewhere within the guts of your precious love offering is to spear the chile with a toothpick before throwing it into the dish. When you stir the dish, the toothpick-pepper will rise to the surface now and again, announcing its presence.

The Fourth Rule of Chile Wranglin’
Remember. Friends don’t let friends eat chiles or peppers with toothpicks stuck through them – they’re too hard to swallow and will result in a trip to the emergency room.

The Fifth Rule of Chile Wranglin’
This technique can and should be used on any chile or pepper, anywhere on the face of the earth. Why? Cuz it’s a superior technique and a time saver! And they look so darned pretty cut this way. For milder chiles or sweet peppers, a julienne is often what you want. For hotter versions, you should probably go ahead and finely chop or mince them. I use both techniques. It just depends on the recipe!

OK! So go to the potty and let’s get started! Be sure to wash those hands! Oh WAIT A DERN MINUTE! I forgot the sixth rule of chile wranglin’ – now that I mentioned the potty…

The Sixth Rule of Chile Wranglin’
This is a bonus rule and supercedes all other rules! For the good Lord’s sake! Never, ever, ever, touch anything DT (down there) with hands that you just finished using for chile wranglin’! And! That goes for your eyes too! And guys? No nose pickin’! Just forget it. Forget about ever touching any of those areas again. For as long as you live.

Rule Number Six Disclaimer
...unless you’ve worn gloves while playing with the fire. That is all.

If you did wear gloves, then remove said gloves without touching the outside of them and wash your hands. Then and only then, touch someone else DT or touch someone else’s eyes or pick their nose - to see if they cry - before touching yourself anywhere considered to be remotely sensitive on your own body.

Now Let’s Wrangle Those Chiles!

First up. The Holy Hell Habanero!

The innocent looking Holy Hell Habanero!
This is a habanero. Pretty, right? Innocent looking, yes?


The best way to limit chile heat is to avoid tangling with the capsaicin primarily contained in cells located within the ribs of the chile. (Yes, chiles have ribs!)

Carefully slice down the face of the chile wall and remove the meat of the chile from the seed pod in one large "plane" or sheet.

Rotate the chile and continue to slice the meat off in sheets. I call this “skinning the chile.”

Notice the white veins on the inside of the chile? F-I-R-E. Think of them like jellyfish tentacles. Just don’t mess with them! Disturb them as little as possible! Try not to cut into the seed pod. That's why you "skin" the chile. You want to ignore them and try not to release the heat.

Carefully insert a knife tip between the meat of the chile and the rib. Run the knife along the rib, keeping the cutting edge horizontal to the plane of the chile meat. Discard that hot mama (the white, chile rib) in the trash!

Sheets of habanero chile meat with ribs removed.
Congrats! You've removed the capsaicin membranes (chile ribs) and although, the habanero will still be hot, the heat is now manageable.

Once you’ve sliced off all the sheets of chile meat, take one sheet or feel free to stack a few sheets on top of each other and carefully slice into thin slivers of chile. Keep those fingers out of the way!

Julienne of habanero.
Yay you! You just wrangled your first habanero! This is called a julienne cut.

Finely chopped or minced habanero.
 Now, I usually like to chop my habaneros pretty finely, or mince them (chop them super fine)! Turn your stack of julienne habanero slices and carefully cut them across the stack to create tiny dices of chile. Woohooo! You’ve just minced your first habanero. Don't worry, this goes fast!

Skinning chiles works great for all kinds of chiles and peppers.

Works great on poblanos.

Just slice down to remove the planes of poblano meat, then remove any white ribs, and julienne or chop as needed.

See? The seed pod just gets thrown away when you're done.

Serranos work great processed this way.

Slice off the serrano meat.

If you like your serranos hot, leave the ribs in place. If not, cut them off like we did with the habanero. (True confessions, I leave the seeds and ribs in my serranos cuz we like ‘em hot!)

Now thinly slice or julienne each plane of serrano meat.

TaDa! See? You’re done!

Skinning Chiles Is Versatile!
Four Chile Grilled Chicken ingredients prepped.

You can use this chile wranglin' technique (or knife skill) to slice paper thin slivers of onion and garlic too!

Want to build your skill as a chile wrangler? Come see how Fluffy Chix Cook Four Pepper Grilled Chicken. Oh my gosh. Drool worthy! Dang – I may have to make it again tonight! It’s that good. Promise.

And I only really like chicken in its non-chickular form (for obvious reasons…Duh! I'm a Fluffy Chix, not a cannibal!). Non-chickular form is a form of chicken not immediately identified as chicken - such as pounded, butterflied breasts concealed in veggies or cheese or smothered in some kind of Texalicious sauce. Or fried. If you fry the chicken with crusty, crispy coating, I will eat my grandmother in pure chicken form - screw the non-chickular crap. Nine-ways to Sunday.

This concludes our lesson on wranglin', no I mean, skinning chiles (sounds like a new sport), right?!

Return To Fluffy Chix Cook Website
Four Chile Grilled Chicken Recipe - coming soon (I promise!)

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