TCP Kitchen
Some Like It Hot
If you’ve never met a pepper you didn’t like, keep reading

La Nueva Fresh & Hot Guisado Verde Tacos
Marco Torres | Courtesy UT Press

Tame The Flame

A few years ago, I did an early-morning TV cooking demo about making salsa. As I was slicing serrano peppers for the camera, I urged viewers to wear rubber gloves to protect their skin, even though I wasn’t following my own advice. Later that day, when it was time to take out my contact lenses … well, you get the idea.

 

There’s nothing complicated about working with chile peppers, but attention to a few key details will help you enjoy their heat—without suffering from it.

 

Wear rubber gloves

The chemical that gives peppers their thrilling heat is capsaicin, an oil that can stick to your skin.

 

To avoid its sting, wear rubber gloves when slicing and chopping chile peppers, and avoid rubbing your eyes (and other sensitive areas) after handling.

 

Remove seeds to diffuse the fire

Most of a pepper’s capsaicin resides in the seeds and the whitish membrane that holds them. Trimming these out reduces the heat level and lets you enjoy the nuanced flavor of the pepper’s flesh. —PD

Kicking up the heat in everything from chili to burgers is a point of pride for Texans. Our readers’ blistering recipes will be welcome additions to any chile lover’s repertoire. Heat enthusiasts also will love recipes from The Tacos of Texas, a regional taco tour cookbook by Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece that features tacos filled with guisado verde from La Nueva Fresh & Hot taqueria in Dallas and salsa de chile de árbol from Veracruz All Natural food truck in Austin.

La Nueva Fresh & Hot Guisado Verde Tacos


Salsa Verde
1 pound whole jalapeño peppers, stemmed
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husks peeled and rinsed
4 cloves garlic
Pinch cumin
Pinch black pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
6 cloves (optional)
Salt
1 cup water (or less as desired for consistency)

Guisado
4 pounds pork (such as shoulder), diced
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped, divided use

1. Salsa Verde: Place jalapeños in a pot with enough water to mostly cover the peppers and simmer 15 minutes. Add tomatillos and cook another 10 minutes, then drain.

2. Place peppers and tomatillos in a blender with the rest of the ingredients and blend until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

3. Guisado: Place diced pork in a pot with oil. Cook on medium heat, stirring every 2–3 minutes, until liquid from the meat is almost evaporated. Add half the diced onion and cook until transparent.

4. When the meat is tender and liquid gone, add the salsa verde and bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat.

5. Serve on warm corn tortillas with rest of sliced onions, cilantro and a slice of avocado, if desired.

Makes 10 tacos.


Veracruz All Natural Salsa de Chile de Árbol


5 Roma tomatoes
Handful of dried chile de árbol peppers, stemmed
3 teaspoons canola oil
2 cloves garlic
Salt to taste

1. Boil tomatoes 20–30 minutes, then drain.

2. Sauté dried chiles with oil until they turn dark red.

3. Blend tomatoes and chiles with garlic and add salt. Consistency must be thick. ¡Listo!

Serves 4–6.