Cyde Weys Chili recipe (warning: HOT)

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

I’ve been experimenting with very spicy foods, and I’ve come up with a chili recipe that I like so much that I can’t help but share. Just a heads-up: this isn’t for the faint of heart. The chili gets its spiciness from no less than four different sources. It’s going to be impossible to eat if you aren’t used to really spicy foods and it’ll be a pretty good challenge even if you are. Sweating profusely, drinking copious amounts of water, and feeling light-headed are just part of the fun and challenge of eating this chili. Not only is it really spicy, it’s also really flavorful, as it’s filled to the brim with a wide variety of tasty spices. Do note that the habanero chile is the spiciest pepper that is regularly commercially available. Cayenne, jalapeno, and serrano peppers don’t even come close. Although this chili is very spicy, it won’t lead to gastrointestinal difficulties (that’s a euphemism), as problems frequently associated with spicy foods are actually caused by the typically oily nature of spicy foods, whereas this recipe uses no oil.

Cyde Weys Chili

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 1 40 oz. can of dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (Or canned or fresh diced tomatoes, if you prefer)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 habanero chile peppers (If fresh, diced into fine pieces. If dried, crushed into fine pieces)
  • 1 tbsp habanero chile pepper-based hot sauce (I use one called “Floyd’s Famous HotLime” Key Lime Habanero Pepper Sauce. If you can’t find it or something similar, just add another pepper)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into small chunks
  • 1 cup water (More can be added later during cooking to achieve the correct consistency)
  • 8 oz. frozen corn
  • chili powder
  • cinnamon sugar (The sweetness balances out the hotness somewhat, but if you don’t want this, use a smaller amount of pure ground cinnamon)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ground cumin
  • curry powder
  • crushed red peppers
  • oxtail seasoning
  • paprika
  • garlic powder (Or 1 clove of garlic, squeezed)
  • a dash of black pepper
  • a dash of salt

Directions
Brown beef in the bottom of a large pot. Make sure to break up the larger chunks. Drain beef using the pot lid and add the rest of the ingredients. The spices should be added in generous, equal amounts to taste, except the chili powder and cinnamon sugar, which should be added in larger quantities. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of these spices; you don’t need every single one to get the gist of it. Cook on high until boiling, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 3-4 hours. Stir regularly; if chili begins to get too thick, add water; if it is too thin after 3-4 hours, remove lid and continue cooking for a bit. Serve with a tall glass of chilled water.

Special preparation note: After handling habanero chile peppers, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. The capsaicin in the pepper is bound to the pepper’s oils, so washing with just water will not get it off. If you touch your eyes or, God forbid, go to the bathroom without first washing your hands, you are in for a world of hurt. I speak from personal experience here.

Challenging eating

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

Eating is all too often a boring activity. Where’s the excitement? Yet eating is pretty mandatory, so you might as well have try to have some fun with it. I like turning eating into a challenge. The most natural challenge would just be to eat as much as possible, but of course, that’s a really bad idea. The next best thing is to try eating really spicy foods, which is what I’ve been doing. This isn’t nearly as bad as you think. Capsaicin, the chemical in peppers that makes them spicy, interacts with neurons to produce a burning sensation but has no other effects. So spicy foods don’t give you heartburn or the runs, despite the common misconceptions.

Two months ago I was overjoyed to discover that my local supermarket sells fresh habanero peppers by the pound (thank you, large Latino community). I’ve been buying a lot of them ever since and using progressively more and more in my cooking. Today I made chicken stir fry with spicy szechuan sauce and two whole fresh habanero peppers, diced into small bits. Needless to say, it was insanely spicy. Habaneros are the spiciest peppers commonly available; they are rated at 100,000-350,000 Scoville units (the Scoville scale is used to measure spiciness of peppers). JalapeƱo peppers, in comparison, come in at a wimpy 2,500-8,000 Scoville units, so low that I can eat them raw without even coughing. Just cooking the habanero-laced stir fry is risky. Some of the capsaicin vaporizes in the wok and escapes as steam. Accidentally inhale some of that and you’ll have a hacking/coughing/sneezing fit. You’ll also experience what it feels like to have burning lungs. Nevermind how badly your tears will tear it.

Eating insanely spicy foods is a challenge, but it is exhilarating. I can’t really explain it, but it’s almost like I get a habanero high from eating really spicy food. I get light-headed, my heart starts racing, I’m panting heavily, and my mouth is screaming out in agony, saying no more, no more — but the overall experience is pleasurable. I suppose you have to be a fellow enjoyer of really spicy foods to understand what I’m describing.

The upside of eating really spicy food at home is that I never, ever wimp out when I’m eating out. No one running a food establishment is insane enough to make foods as spicy as what I make for myself, so I can always eat any spicy food that I might run across in restaurants and at social functions. You can definitely build up a tolerance to capsaicin, a training regimen which I would highly advise. You don’t want to be like my sister — even dishes at Chinese restaurants labeled on the menu with one red pepper are too spicy for her, and as a result, she can’t eat a good chunk of the menu at any typical restaurant. It’s a shame, and she has no idea what she’s missing. I, on the other hand, can go to a restaurant and order anything of the menu regardless of spiciness, and that is truly liberating.