Frugal Bulk Food Storage

Frugal Bulk Food Storage Ideas

Hey all,

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Okay, so we’ve been trying to pinch some pennies around the ol’ TeamPerk clubhouse. I may or may not have recently totaled our car, and the new one hit the savings account pretty hard. Ugh.

So, we’re tightening the belt on the budget…which was already pretty darn tight!

One way we’ve found to do so is to start buying a lot of out “staples” in bulk. (Usually on red-eye trips to Winco to avoid the horrible crowds…)

The only problem for me, as the cook, was that I ended up with a dozen plastic bags of stuff (rice, oatmeal, couscous, beans, etc.,) all piled together on a shelf.

NOT a fan!

Luckily, I also shop at Costco for a few items, milk being one of them. Now, to be honest, I hate the new milk containers when it comes to pouring milk. And usually end up grumbling as I wipe up spills at least half the time.

However, I also discovered that those new milk jugs happen to fit perfectly on the shelf that I keep the bulk foods on…

The following recycle project was born!

DIY Bulk Food Storage

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STEP ONE:

Wash the empty jug with soap and water. Allow it to air dry for a couple of days. (Btw, the label is very easy to remove when the jug is full of hot water.)

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STEP TWO:

Take the “recipe card” (these are usually in a rack on each bulk food aisle) and tape it securely to the front of the jug. I used packing tape and covered the whole label. That way it remains water, stain, and wear proof.

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As an added bonus, I’ve found that it’s REALLY easy to pour the contents into a measuring cup! (As demonstrated here by my lovely assistant.)

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That’s it!

All my bulk foods can be stacked side by side for easy access, and easily refilled. If you wanted to be REALLY picky, you could fill the container a cup at a time and make hash-marks on the side. That way, you’ll know how much you’re using on a weekly/monthly basis.

Also, I’ve got my recipe right there with the food and never have to go find it!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Plus, given the truckloads of milk my daughter goes through, I always have a ready supply. And a little more room in the recycle bin each week is nice, too.

NOTE: If you need smaller containers and need to optimize your space, the plastic ½ gallon milk containers are shaped just like this and take up a lot less room.

Now, if I can just figure out how to sell a totaled car…

~Chef P

PS ~ For more great tips on bulk foods, check out my post: “Confessions of a Grocery Ninja“, and my Oregonian article on shopping the bulk foods aisles!

Frugal Fine Cooking

 

Canned Mushroom Soup…The Root of all Evil?





Cream of Mushroom SoupHome Chef Andrea A. asks: Is using Cream of Mushroom Soup in a recipe really the height of bad cooking, as suggested by The Food Network?

Andrea,

First of all, keep in mind that Food Network will get awfully high-and-mighty about “fresh, organic” ingredients in their stand-and-stir shows, while playing ads for frozen pizza between episodes…so there’s that.

That doesn’t mean it can’t taste good. My mother made a classic green bean dish for Thanksgiving that involved this canned-soup shortcut. I was awesome! But then, holiday dishes like that are a kind of familiar comfort food, there’s the nostalgia factor. It was complimented by other holiday dishes that involved more kitchen expertise, made with fresh ingredients.

Contemporary Home Chefs and cooks have a much wider range of ingredients and methods at their disposal than a 1970s American housewife did.

Is it “bad cooking”? No, it’s just lazy cooking. The result is not unlike you’d get at a fast food restaurant that also depends on cheap canned and frozen-food shortcuts. In which case, why bother to cook at home?




For myself, I like making soups and soup stocks from scratch. The effort is rewarding. (it’s not that hard, it’s fun to do, and it makes the house smell good) But like most people, regardless of what overpaid Food TV “Celebrities” think, I’m not above using convenient shortcuts, guilt-free, when I have eight dishes on my menu, and it’s a quick alternative for a side dish.

So, I wouldn’t call it the “height of bad cooking”, but there are better natural options that are not only much lower in sodium, but have vastly better flavor.

To make your own, use my recipe for Garlic Mushroom Cream Sauce, using whole milk instead of the heavy whipping cream:

Real Cream of Mushroom Soup recipe

Garlic Mushroom Cream Sauce

  • 2 strips apple-wood bacon, chopped
  • 8 oz white mushrooms, freshly sliced
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 lg cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. coarse black pepper
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Real Cream of Mushroom Soup recipeMix all ingredients, except cream, and roast at 350F until mushrooms are dark and leathery. Combine these ingredients with cream in a blender and puree until smooth.

Garlic Mushroom Cream SauceFrom: Pan-Seared Filet Mignon with Garlic-Mushroom Cream sauce

Enjoy!

~Chef Perry

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Home Chef Cookbooks

 



Super Simple Chicken Stock with Wing Tips

Chicken Wing Stock

I go through a LOT of chicken stock in my kitchen, so I like to make my own, and this simple chicken stock is my go to.

I discovered a few years back the those chicken wing-tips that I usually cut off the wings before cooking, have a near perfect ratio of skin to bone for making a rich, delicious stock.

I keep a zip-bag in the freezer and toss my wing tips in it whenever I cook a chicken, or chicken wings. About once a month, I’m usually ready to make a half-gallon batch of stock.

Note: If you don’t have the wing-tips, you can use the leftover carcass of a rotisserie or roasted chicken, instead.

Here’s the recipe…

Enjoy!

Chef Perry
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Simple Chicken Stock

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 lb chicken wing tips
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs salt
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 tsp. black pepper

Note: You can customize your stock based on the recipe you plan to use it for, I made my last batch specifically for some roasted mushroom udon soup, so I also added 2 Tbs of Thai fish sauce, 1 cup of roasted mushrooms, star anise, and fresh cilantro to the stock.

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Heat butter in a pan over medium heat, and sauteed thawed wing tips (sprinkle with 1/2 of the salt) until browned. Transfer to a stock pot with water.

Wing tip chicken stock recipe

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a low simmer, and cook until liquid is reduce by half (about 2 hours).

Strain the stock into a bowl to remove solids. Taste and add additional salt, if needed.

Wing tip chicken stock recipe

Refrigerate overnight, and then remove the solid fat that rises to the top.

Wing tip chicken stock recipe

You can throw this away, or (better) save to to fry with as you would butter. Jewish cooking calls this fat “schmaltz” and it makes the best scrambled eggs ever!

Wing tip chicken stock recipe

Stock will keep 2-3 days in the fridge, or several months in the freezer. I like to freeze it in ice-cube trays, so it’s ready in pre-portioned cubes when I need it.

Wing tip chicken stock recipe

Want to turn this lovely, simple chicken stock into the perfect chicken gravy? Start with a Roux! Here’s how…

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UmtN0NDZUQ%5B/embedyt%5D

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Home Chef Cookbooks

A Chef’s Tips for Reheating IN-N-OUT Burgers

Tips for reheating a IN N OUT Burger

Had the good fortune to stop at the Medford, Oregon IN-N-OUT Burger on my way home from the International Food Blogger Conference in Sacramento. I, of course, grabbed a half dozen extras to bring home for the family.

When I finally rolled in around 1am, I was too exhausted to eat, so the whole box went into the fridge for later, and I collapsed into bed.

The next morning, I posted a picture of my treasure on Facebook, and a friend of mine replied, Hamburgers taste horrible after being refrigerated. To which I replied, “Not if you know how to reheat them, they don’t.

In retrospect, I realized (as  I often do…) that my knee-jerk response, while correct, was a little snarky and not particularly helpful. Also that, while perhaps a bit of a buzz-kill, my friend was technically correct ~ a cold, congealed burger is a pretty awful thing.

God doesn’t want is to eat like that.

So, in the sincere hope that nothing as glorious as a Double Double Animal Style is ever eaten chilled, or even worse, microwaved, I give you…

Tips for reheating a IN-N-OUT Burger

How to reheat an IN-N-OUT Burger

First of all…never, EVER, reheat a burger fully assembled!

Microwaving is about the worst thing you can to to both ground-beef, and lettuce. The way the microwave works in by causing water molecules to vibrate at high speeds until they get hot. This is an instant method for draining all the good juices out of a burger patty, as well as rupturing the water-holding cells in your lettuce, turning it into limp, gray, sludge.

  1. Take the veggies off and put them back in the fridge. If you can’t replace them with fresh, shock them in a little ice water just before serving (be sure to pat them dry.) This will crisp them back up…some.

Reheating IN N Out Burger

 

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  1. Seal the buns, single layer, in a zip bag, and set aside at room temp.

Reheating IN N Out Burger

3.  Heat 1/4 inch of chicken stock or water in a microwave-safe container (with a lid) big enough to lay   the burger/cheese patties in a single layer. Heat the liquid until steaming, then set the patties in (liquid should not cover, just be on the bottom). Set the bagged buns on top. Place the lid on and set aside for 2-3 minutes.

Reheating IN N Out Burger

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  1. If the buns are soggy out of the fridge, you can toast them, cut sides down, in a dry pan first (optional), or if they’re just plain cheap burger buns, use fresh one (they’re like 8 for a dollar, you cheap bastard…)
  1. When meat has heated through, and the cheese is soft, drain the patty on a paper towel, reassemble and enjoy!

Reheating IN N Out Burger

You can do the same in a liddled skillet. Just make sure it’s off the heat (move to a cold burner) before adding the meat.

Reheating IN N Out Burger

Personal opinion: ANY hot sandwich, once assembled, should be wrapped fully in foil and allowed to “rest” at least 5 minutes.

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Just can’t get an In N’ Out in your neck of the woods? Here’s my favorite to make at home, the “Dungeon Burger!”

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp9E6gukWOU%5B/embedyt%5D

-Chef Perry


For more tips on grilling the ultimate burger, from grinding your own beef blend, to seasonings, sauces, and styles, check out my new Home Chef guidebook: Grilling!

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Did you Know? – Why eggs are harder to peel than they used to be.

badly peeled eggs

I overheard two older ladies talking about making deviled eggs, the other day, and one of them commented: “Hard-boiled eggs were so much easier to peel when I was young, I don’t know what’s happened to them!”

It was one of those wonderful, if rare, moments where I actually know the answer to something, in this case due to some inane piece of cooking trivia I learned growing up in restaurant kitchens.

There are a zillion tips out there for how to make a hard-boiled egg easier to peel (and I’m sure I’ll get most of them in the comments to this post), but far fewer on why eggs are so hard to peel in the first place, or why it’s become more difficult.

You can blame those rage-enducing egg-peeling moments (is it just me?) on advances in food processing and delivery time in the last four decades. The store-bought eggs you ate growing up, could take up to two weeks to get from chicken-butt to shelf.

These days, that same egg could be less than 36 hours old.

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(Side note: I spoke to an employee at my local Winco, who informed me that all SIX floor-to-ceiling coolers of fresh eggs have to be completely re-stocked every 8 hours!)

Now, in most fresh foods, this is great news, and it’s great news if you’re preparing your eggs in any other fashion. For easy-peel eggs, however, it’s a huge disadvantage.

In fresh eggs (used within a week from laying), the albumen (egg white) tends to stick to the inner shell membrane due to the less acidic environment of the egg.

As an egg sits in the cooler for several days, the pH of the white albumen increases and the hard cooked eggs become much easier to peel. The egg white also shrinks slightly, so the air space between the eggshell and the membrane grows larger, resulting in boiled eggs that are easier to peel.

That whole pH thing, btw, is why the old yarn about using a half-teaspoon of baking soda really does work. Adding baking soda to the water to raise its pH level, effectively dissolving the gorilla-glue that God uses to attach the white to the shell.

BTW, you probably won’t hear phrases like “the pH of the white albumen” or “less acidic environment” in the commercial kitchen…

Someone just yells, “Hey a**-hole, use the eggs at the back of the f’in’ walk-in next time!”

Welcome to my childhood. 😉

For ideal peeling, use eggs that are 7-10 days old. To be safe, buy your eggs a week before you plan to boil them, label the carton “For Boiling”, and stick them in the back of the fridge.

Using a (clean) needle to poke a tiny hole in the fat end of the egg also helps, allowing a small amount of steam between the egg and shell, separating the two. That’s how our grandma’s did it.

So…there you go!

~Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

 

Peanut Butter Cookie Secrets

Peanut Butter Cookie Tips

Awesome Reader Elizabeth M. asks:

Hey Chef, How do you make peanut butter cookies more peanut-buttery?

——–

Thank you for asking, Elizabeth!

The problem: The simplest way, adding more peanut-butter, throws off your fat-to-flour ratio, and you end up with cookie pancakes with no backbone. I’ve tried adding powdered peanut butter in the past, but the aftertaste of the preservatives was off-putting.

Okay, so I’ve never told ANYONE my PB Cookie secret, but what the heck… 😉

“De La Rosa Marzipan Peanut Candy” (Amazon Link)

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I first found these uber-peanut-buttery confections on a trip to Mexico City in my teens.

Replace 1/4th of the flour in your cookie recipe with an equal amount (by volume) of this amazing powdery candy, and you will find peanut-butter nirvana! It will also make them sweeter, so if that’s a problem, try cutting back on the sugar in your recipe until you reach a balance that’s right for you.

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They’re FANTASTIC in a smoothie, too!

Spanish Peanuts for Peanut-Butter CookiesAlso, I like to add a couple of handfuls of whole, salted Spanish peanuts (hulls removed) to my dough.

Let me know how it goes!

~Chef Perry

PS: The link above us to buy them on Amazon, but if you have an Latino market nearby, they’re almost sure to carry them.


Home Chef Cookbooks

 

The difference between soup, stew, bisque, and chowder.

The difference between soup stew and chowder

HomeChef Kerry asks:

“What’s the difference between soup, stew, bisque, and chowder?”

Soups vs. Stews
In theory, a soup is a combination of vegetables, meat or fish cooked briefly in liquid, so the ingredients are cooked just enough to be palatable, but retain their texture.

A stew is any dish that’s prepared by stewing – meaning that the food is barely covered with liquid and simmered for a long time in a covered pot. Chili Stew is an example of a dish cooked in this manner, whose name has been shorted to just “chili” over the years.

Bisques vs. Chowders
Bisques and chowders are both thickened soups; bisque is generally smooth (pureed) while chowder is chunky, both are usually made with lots of cream and butter, and often start with a roux (see below).

Typically associated with seafood (the word “chowder” derives from the French term for the type of cauldron fishermen used to make these dishes), both words can describe non-seafood dishes as well.

Making a Basic Roux

Roux (“roo“) is a cooking mixture of flour and fat (usually butter), used as a thickener for soups and sauces, with roots dating back more than 300 years in French cuisine.

Made by combining and cooking a flour and oil paste until the raw flavor of the flour cooks out and the roux has achieved the desired color, a properly cooked roux imparts silky-smooth body and a nutty flavor while thickening soups, sauces, and gravies.

Cornstarch mixed with water (slurry), arrowroot, and other ingredients can be used in place of roux, but they don’t add any flavor to the dish, and are only used for their thickening properties.

Making gravies, sauces, and roux-based stews can be intimidating at first, but building a roux is actually a remarkably simple process that leads to many wonderful dishes, including most Cajun and Southern chowders and casseroles, often combined with a Cajun version of a mirepoix known as the “holy trinity.”

The first few steps could be used for basically any thickened sauce or gravy.

  • In a large kettle, sauté onions over medium heat, in butter until tender.
  • Add flour, salt, pepper (and any other spices); stir to make a crumbled paste. By the way, if you’re not working off a recipe, a good rule of thumb is to start with equal parts fat (butter, drippings, etc.,) to flour.
  • Cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes until roux begins to turn golden and gives off a nutty aroma (this step is KEY to cooking off the “flour-y” taste, and creating a deep, rich flavor.)
  • Gradually add water, broth, meat drippings, or milk/cream (I recommend one of the latter), starting very slowly (1/4 cup at a time) stirring constantly to keep smooth.
  • Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute.

One trick Dad taught me, while working with him at one of the restaurants, was to warm whatever liquid you’re using to just steaming. This keeps the roux from cooling (stopping the cooking process) each time you add liquid to it. Some folks disagree, but it’s never failed me.

Depending on the broth/drippings, you now have an awesome gravy. Flavor check for salt, herbs, and/or spices, and it’s ready to serve.

For stews, or chowders, this is where you’d start adding all the goodies, and more liquid (usually stock) to thin.

To watch this process, see my YouTube video, “How to make a Roux, Bechamel, & Cheese Sauce” at www.homechefvideos.com


Looking for more great holiday recipes? Check out the new guidebook, “Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef’s Guide.” NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!

Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef's Guide

 

 

No Crock-Pot? No Problem…Use the oven!

Ratatouille Recipe
Chef Perry’s Redneck Ratatouille

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Just got a very nice email from Ashley L., who is a little concerned with the slow-cooker beef recipe this week. To quote, “HELP! I don’t have a crock-pot, and I can’t afford to go out and buy one…am I going to ruin this roast is I cook it in the over? Can I use a cast-iron dutch cooker, instead?”

Great news…you can, absolutely, cook your crock-pot recipes in the oven, using a dutch oven, cassoulet pan, or even a cast-iron skillet and some heavy foil*.

Here’s one of our favorites, Braised Lamb Shank Tacos…

Braised Lamb Shank Taco Recipe

Another of our most popular dishes is typically cooked in a smoker, or in the crock-pot, but can be done deliciously by slow-roasting in the oven.

Check out The Best Dang Pulled Pork Sliders for several fantastic methods…

Oven Roasted Pulled Pork

By the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to my newsletter!

You’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

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Lastly, here’s another favorite, “Low & Slow Southern Baked Beans.”

Now, lot’s of folks make stews and bean dishes in the crock-pot, and they taste pretty good.

What makes oven-roasting better? One word: REDUCTION.

There’s very little reduction in a crock-pot, as the whole idea is to seal moisture IN. Slow roasting allows the liquids to slowly evaporate, thickening and intensifying the flavors.

Crockpot time – Oven time

  • 12 hours/Low – 3 hours/325° F
  • 10 hours/Low – 2 1/2 hours/325° F
  • 8 hours/Low – 2 hours/325° F
  • 6 hours/Low – 1 1/2 hours/325° F
  • 5 hours/Low – 1 hour, 15 min./325° F
  • 4 hours/Low – 1 hour/325° F
  • 4 hours/High – 2 hours/325° F
  • 3 hours/Low – 45 min./325° F
  • 3 hours/High – 1 1/2 hours/325° F

*To use a cast iron skillet, follow the same instructions, but (once the food is in it) wrap the entire skillet in 2-3 layers of heavy foil, before putting it in the oven.

Good luck, let us know if you have any questions!

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– Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

Home Chef Cookbooks

Garlic-Mushroom Burger Baste

basting-burgers

This is my secret tip when I’m grilling burgers…

Note: Grilling vs. frying burgers is an existential dilemma for me. I love the smokey flavor from the grill, but I also know that a pan-seared burger is going to be juicier, and have more beef flavor.

That’s a decision that each of us must make for ourselves. 😉

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Garlic-Mushroom Burger Baste

  • 1 lb white mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. porcini mushroom powder (opt)
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Chop mushrooms, garlic, and shallots.

Saute in 1/4 cup of butter in a large pan over medium heat, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until onions are soft and garlic had just begun to color.

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Add remaining butter, and reduce heat to medium low. Keep on a low simmer for 1 hour.

For normal people:

Grill or fry burgers on one side, flip and brush cooked side with baste.

pork-belly-confit-3For the rest of us:

I like to brush one side, as shown above, and then, just before the burger is done on both sides, use a pair of tongs to dip it, completely submersing, in baste.

(Hey, I’m a cook, not a your cardiologist! Your health is not my primary concern.) 😉 

Then, return it to the grill for just a few seconds on both sides.

Lastly, if you want to really take these burgers to the next level, chill the compound butter to near freezing, stirring several time to get the mushrooms and onions off the bottom.

Butter-Burgers_4_Photo-Oct-19-11-21-52-AM_600x400Shave the frozen butter with a cheese grater, and mix (quickly) into the ground beef (1oz of butter for a 1/3rdlb burger).

You can add a little shredded asiago cheese, or crumbled bleu cheese at this point as well, if you like.

Form your patties and freeze before grilling.

Enjoy!

~Chef Perry

Best Butter Burger Recipes
A little double-smoked bacon and Gruyère cheese can’t hurt, either!

For more tips on grilling the ultimate burger, from grinding your own beef blend, to seasonings, sauces, and styles, check out my new Home Chef guidebook: Grilling!

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How to Take the Heat Out of Jalapenos (or Any Chile Pepper)

Jalepeno Pepper Bombs

I absolutely LOVE stuffed and grilled jalapenos, but due to the cruelties of time, my old gut has started rebelling at overy spicy foods. However, as I’m not willing to give up one of my favorite flavors, just because my stomach has turned traitor on me!

Naga Jolokia chili pepper
The Naga Jolokia

Jalepeno Peppers averages 2,500 – 8,000 Scoville Heat Units* (SHU), putting them somewhere between Anaheim peppers (500 ~ 2,500 SHU) and Hidalgos (6,000 ~ 17,000 SHU).

To get an idea of the scale, the average sweet bell pepper comes in at 0, and at the top of the Scoville scale: the fearsome Naga Jolokia peppers are 800,000 to over One Million  SHU’s!

Yes, that was the sound of your esophageal sphincter melting.

What Makes Chili Peppers Hot

The heat-inducing chemical in peppers is called “hydrophopic capsasium“, or what my friend Melanie would call C18H27NO3. Capsaicin and several related compounds are called capsaicinoids and are produced as secondary metabolites by chili peppers, and other vegetables as deterrents against certain mammals and fungi.

AAvH7Kn.imgHigh levels of capsasium can produce a pain-stimulated release of endorphins, causing pleasurable and even euphoric effects (You freakin’ junkies!) 😉

For spice-lovers and pepper-heads, jalapeno’s are the “hot food” equivalent of eating gummy bears, but for NORMAL people, they pack some heat.

Grilling or roasting peppers make them even hotter as you’re cooking moisture out of them, which concentrates the percentage of capsasium.

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Here are some tips we used in restaurants to make jalapenos dishes a bit more “customer friendly.”

Tips for Tongue-Friendly Jalapenos

1. Remove the seeds and membranes from the interior of the pepper. They contain the majority of the capsasium (the hot stuff). An old fashioned potato peeler, the point-end kind, works great for this.

Cleaning Jalepenos

2. Soak the cleaned peppers in an ice-water bath for 1/2 hour. This soaking method will reduce the finished heat by about 50%. To take ALL the fire out, use lemon-lime soda (not diet) instead of water, for 30-45 minutes. Really! Drain, rinse in fresh water, and pat dry.

(Chef’s note: Pour the soda you soaked the peppers in over a tall glass of ice and add a healthy shot of your favorite tequila. You’re welcome!)

Soaking Jalepenos

3. If that doesn’t tame the beast enough for you, blanch the rinsed peppers in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then place them in a (fresh) ice bath to chill, and stop the cooking process. Rinse and pat dry.

Remember, ALWAYS wear disposable gloves when working with hot peppers, and try to avoid touching your face or eyes.

Oh, and…guys? Try to remember to use the bathroom BEFORE you start your prep! 😉

~Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com

*The Scoville unit was named for Wilbur Scoville in 1912. At the time, he worked for the pharmaceutical company, Parke-Davis, where he developed a test called the “Scoville Organoleptic Test” which is still used to measure a chili pepper’s heat.



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