It is a world of darkness, a landscape of pain and suffering. The sky is orange, wisps of smoke plume from the craters of volcanoes. There is a floor of sand that seems to stretch for miles and scorpions dart between the brilliant red foliage. In daytime, temperatures are extreme. Geysers spew scalding water high into the air and rivers eddy into hot springs.
It is my pepper garden and welcome, if you dare, into my world of scathing hot peppers. The Devil’s Garden.
It is pepper season again, and the plants, so green and innocent looking are sprouting flowers, an omen that these buds are about to become lethal. This year, as in years past, I have sown the same seeds. My standard population of peppers to enhance my kitchen adventures.
There is the Jalapeno, Tabasco and Habanero peppers. All three make their presence known to the unsuspecting taste buds. Tabasco peppers make the perfect pepper sauce, a biting blend of whole peppers, cider vinegar, garlic and fresh thyme. A must have for raw oysters and wilted greens. The Habanero until recently was the hottest pepper in the world. I don’t hold that against this beautiful orange pepper, I use it in my Caribbean BBQ sauce recipe, and dried, it is an important ingredient in my spice rub.
The Jalapeno is the flagship in the fleet of peppers, not too hot, but it will still clear a sinus problem. They are also natural for making poppers, one of my favorite bar foods.
10 Jalapeno Peppers, Halved and Seeded
8 Oz. Cream Cheese. Room Temperature
8 Oz. Mexican Cheese Blend, Shredded
1 Roasted Red Pepper, Seeded
2 Tbs. Tony Chachere Seasoning
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Cup Flour
1 Egg, Beaten
2 Tbs. Beer
2 Tbs. Buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Throw the cream cheese, cheese and roasted red pepper in a food processor and pulse until creamy. Season with Tony Chachere’s and mix well.
In a bowl combine the egg, beer and buttermilk and whisk until frothy.
Roll the Jalapenos in flour and dip Jalapenos in the egg mixture, then roll in breadcrumbs. Spoon cheese mixture on to each Jalapeno half and sprinkle top with more breadcrumbs.
Arrange a baking sheet and bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
My menagerie of heat also includes the Poblano and my personal favorite the Hungarian Hot Pepper. The Hungarian or Hot Banana Pepper is great chopped up on a hot dog, sliced in half and seeded with a sandwich or just plain eaten raw with a little salt.
The Poblano is an underdog in the pepper universe. I use it like a green pepper, same characteristics only with a little heat. Substitute any recipe calling for Green Bell Pepper with a Poblano and you will be surprised at the results. Tasty.
Classic Chile Rellenos
4 Lrg. Poblano Peppers, Roasted, Peeled with Stems still on.
2 Cups Queso Blanco Cheese, Cut into Strips
2 Eggs, Separated
2 Tbs. Flour
1 Cup Masa Harina
Make a slit halfway down into each pepper and stuff with cheese strips.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Whisk egg yolks with flour and fold into egg whites. Dip the peppers in the egg mixture, and then dredge the peppers in Masa Harina.
Deep-fry until golden brown. Serve with salsa and enchilada sauce.
Besides my usual array of Red Bell Peppers, Cayenne and Hot Cherry Peppers, this year I have invited three new guests to my harvest of horrors, and in Part II of this journey into hell, we will see what these newcomers have to offer.