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Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> recipe

Here's an excerpt from my new book with Dr. Paul Bosland, The Complete Chile Pepper Book. The book is hardcover, 336 pages, 250 full-color photos, 85 recipes (with food shots).  Is is organized like this:
--About Chiles
--Top 100 (or so) Chiles for the Garden
--Capsicum Cultivation
--Processing and Preservation
--Cooking with Chiles

If you want a signed copy, buy the book here then send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope along with your name and dedication, and I will sign a faceplate for you that you can stick into the front of the book.
Dave DeWitt
P.O. Box 4980
Albuquerque, NM 87196


With the publication of my new book with Paul Bosland, The Complete Chile Pepper Book, imminent, it makes sense to start featuring some recipes from it.  This one will help you use up some of those excess poblanos in your garden.

(Photo by Norman Johnson; food styling by Denice Skrepcinski)

Poblano Pepper Rings
Since poblanos make some of the tastiest chiles rellenos, it makes sense that they fry up deliciously. Why not dip these rings in guacamole?

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
3 cups vegetable oil
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeds and stems removed, cut into 1/4-inch rings
1 cup buttermilk

Combine the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a plate.

Heat the oil in a large pan until it just begins to smoke, then lower the heat slightly. Take the poblano rings 4 at a time, dip them in the flour, shake off any excess, then dip them in the buttermilk and back into the flour. Drop them into the hot oil and fry until lightly browned.

Repeat with the rest of the rings and then drain on paper towels. Serve them warm.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

How Restaurants Lose Customers

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: restaurants , recipe , lunch , fiery foods

July 30, 2009

I went to one of my favorite Albuquerque restaurants, St. Clair Winery & Bistro, for lunch and because of what happened, and how I was treated, I will never return.  Before I explain the details, let me say that I am a huge supporter of local restaurants.  For example, I have eaten lunch at The Quarters on Yale about once a week for 35 years.  More about that later.

Today, at the other restaurant, I ordered the soup of the day and a salad.  The salad was wonderful but I had a problem with the soup.  It wasn't the server's fault, so I asked to speak to the manager.  He came over to the table and I introduced myself as the producer of the National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show and the author of more than thirty cookbooks.  He knew who I was.

“I like your restaurant and eat here often,” I told him,  “and I also visit your other restaurant in the southern part of the state.  But when I go to a restaurant, I don't expect to be served soup out of a can.”

His face fell.  Busted!  “What do you mean?”  he asked.

“This soup is Wolfgang Puck's Italian Wedding Soup.  I know because I've eaten it more than a dozen times, and we can buy it for a dollar a can at Big Lots.”

He blushed beet red.  “Uh, sometimes we don't make everything from scratch,” he stammered.  “But we do add stuff to it like wine.”

“Food service products are one thing because the consumer can't buy them,” I explained.  “But a famous chef's soup from a can, heated up for four times the price, is not acceptable.”

“Sorry about that,” he said, backing away.  When I got the check, the soup was still on it.  I paid the bill, thanked and tipped the server and left, never to go back.

What should the manager have done?  At the very least, taken the offending soup off the bill.  At the most, comped the meal, given me a certificate for another lunch, and agreed to take canned soup off their menu.  But he didn't do any of these—obviously an incompetent manager.

Now why have I eaten at The Quarters more than 1,700 times?  Because Connie Nellos knows how to run a restaurant.  The food is good, with substantial portions.  They pour a generous drink.  The servers are well-trained and very nice people.  My wife was a bartender there in the '70s, working her way through graduate school and she made good money.  And Connie takes care of his customers.

One time at lunch at the Quarters, my wife reached for her coat and a splinter from the rough, wooden wall got embedded painfully under her fingernail.  Connie came over, apologized, and said he would take care of all the medical expenses, which was essentially a trip to the emergency room at Presbyterian.  He was a man of his word and paid the bill I gave him later.

That's just one example of what keeps customers coming back.  Food made from scratch is another.

So, how hard is it to make Italian Wedding Soup from scratch?  You decide, from the following recipe, which, of course, I have spiced up.

Spicy Italian Wedding Soup

This Italian-American dish is popular in Ohio and Pennsylvania.  The term “wedding soup” is a mistranslation of the Italian language, minestra maritata (“married soup”), which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together.

1/2 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup minced Italian parsley
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
Garlic hot sauce, such as Tabasco®, to taste

In bowl, combine the meat, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, basil and onion powder; shape into 1/2 inch balls.

In large saucepan, heat the broth to boiling; stir in parsley, orzo pasta, chopped carrot, and the meatballs. Return to boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook at slow boil for 10 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.  Add the hot sauce, stir, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Varies

I went to the South Valley Farmer's Market looking for lettuce, since ours had peaked a month or so ago, and found some beautiful leeks.  But what to do with them?  But then I found a corn chowder recipe in the latest Saveur magazine and realized that I could adapt it and substitute the leeks for the onions, use fresh green chile and corn, which I also purchased there, and make a lunch feast.  Combined with a fresh tomato and cheddar cheese sandwich on gourmet buns, the meal was outstanding and only took an hour to fix, with most of that time spent in cooking the chowder. I know that purists will scold me for cooking a chowder in the summer, but I don't care!


4 ears fresh corn, shucked
4 strips bacon, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek (white part only), chopped fine
1 rub celery, chopped fine
1 bay leaf
6 cups milk
2 small red potatoes, quartered
¾ cup chopped New Mexican green chile that has been roasted and peeled, seeds and stems removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 cup chopped fresh basil for garnish

Cut the kernels off the corn and cut the cobs in half.  Reserve.

Heat the bacon in a large pot and fry, stirring occasionally, until it's crisp.  Reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish and leave the remaining bacon in the pot.  Add the butter, thyme, garlic, leek, celery, and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes.

Add the reserved corn kernels and cobs, milk, and potatoes, cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are cooked, about 25 minutes.

Skim any foam off the top, add the green chile, and cook for 2 minutes.  Discard the cobs and the bay leaf.  Transfer 1 cup of the mixture to the blender and puree.  Stir the puree back into the pot, season with salt and pepper, and serve garnished with the basil and reserved bacon.

Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Medium

I've been grilling since I was eight years old, when my father taught how to do it on an old, rusty, kettle-style barbecue unit using lump charcoal because briquets hadn't been invented yet.  It was very difficult to control the heat of the fire, so cooking chicken required constant attention or the result would be a blackened, unsavory mess.  So I learned how to constantly move the pieces of chicken around on the grill, turning them constantly because the fat from the chicken would cause the fire to flare up.
These days, with sophisticated gas grills, the process is a lot easier because the heat of the fire remains much more even.  You hear a lot of talk about how cooking over charcoal or charcoal with wood chips is a lot more flavorful than gas, but the truth is that most of the "barbecue flavor" results from the fat and juices of the meat that are vaporized upon contact with the flames or coals.  This is why grilled meats cooked in restaurants taste great, and restaurant cooks rarely, if ever, use charcoal or wood chips to flavor any kind of meat.  I've grilled and smoked foods outdoors using many different kinds of barbecue units, but in my opinion gas grills are the quickest and easiest of them all.
Back in the old days we didn't know much about marinating or using rubs to further flavor the meats we were grilling.  As outdoor cooking has evolved over the decades, we now, fortunately, have a wide variety of products and techniques to add both flavor and spice to our outdoor cooking.  Since I'm nicknamed "The Pope of Peppers," you can probably figure out that I like my grilled foods spiced up.  I'm not talking killer heat here, but just enough chiles to make the food a lot more interesting.  Here are two of my favorite summertime grilling recipes, and they prove that you don't have to be Bobby Flay to make some great barbecue!

Citrus-Marinated Grilled Chicken

The concept of marinating chicken in a spicy fruit juice and then grilling it originated in Mexico and is quite popular throughout the American Southwest. The chicken is served with warm corn tortillas, salsa, and a side of pinto beans. The chicken can be cut off the bones and eaten topped with the salsa, or rolled up in up in the tortilla with salsa, like a soft taco.  Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tomatillos, husks removed, chopped
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder or New Mexican red chile powder
2 small chickens, cut in half lengthwise or cut up into pieces
Bottled salsa of choice, or make your own pico de gallo
Corn tortillas

In a saucepan, saute the onion, garlic, and tomatillos in the oil until soft. Add the remaining ingredients, except the chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Place in a blender and puree to form a sauce.
Marinate the chicken in the sauce in a non-reactive bowl in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 3 hours.
Grill the chicken until done, basting frequently with the sauce.  Chicken is done when the internal temperature is 160 degrees F.

Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Medium

Grilled Corn with Spiced Butter

Why bother to heat up the kitchen and boil corn on the cob when you can use the grill and get even tastier results?  Spiced butters, also called compound butters, give corn a unique flavor dimension.  This one is based on Nitir kebe, an Ethiopian spiced butter that is an ingredient in many that country's dishes.  It certainly gives an exotic twist to a summertime favorite.  Be sure to buy ears with some of the stalk attached for a great handle.  The spiced butter freezes easily.  It's a good idea to have a spray bottle with water handy in case the husks start to burn. Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

Spiced Butter

1/2 pound unsalted butter
1 teaspoon crushed chiltepins or pequins, or use ground cayenne chile
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

4 ears corn, husks and stalks attached

Allow the butter to soften at room temperature in a bowl and mix in all the ingredients for the spiced butter. Let sit for an hour to blend the flavors.

Remove any dried, brownish husks from the corn.  Pull back the husks, but don't remove completely,  and remove the silk. Soak the ears in cold water for 30 minutes to prevent the husks from burning.

Brush some of the butter on each of the ears and pull the husks back up over the ears and secure with string or a strip of corn husk.

Place on grill over a low fire, fairly far from the heat, and grill, turning often, for about 15 minutes.  
Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Hot 

New Tabasco® Tequila

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: recipe , fiery foods , beverages

Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., the nation’s largest independent family-owned spirits supplier, has announced a licensing agreement with McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, Louisiana, creator of Tabasco® brand Pepper Sauce, to produce Tabasco™ brand Spicy Tequila and has launched it in select markets.  It is now available in Dallas, Houston, Georgia, Indiana and North Carolina. They sent me a sample and I tried it straight up, licking salt off my hand, taking a sip, and licking a sliced lime.  I thought it was excellent, and the heat level is only about a one on a one-to-ten scale."We are tremendously excited about the prospects of Tabasco brand Spicy Tequila and this licensing agreement with McIlhenny Company," stated Heaven Hill Distilleries president Max L. Shapira. "Like our company, McIlhenny is family-owned and independent, so this is a partnership built on commonalities and mutual benefits." Paul McIlhenny,  who I interviewed for my video documentary, "Heat Up Your Life," added: "Tabasco brand Pepper Sauce and Tequila have been served together for a long time…it's a complementary taste combination that has been enjoyed all over the world."  Paul took really good care of the film crew when we stayed in one of his plantation mansions on Avery Island.  He personally made a crawfish boil for us, spiced up with guess what.


2 oz. TABASCO™ Spicy Tequila
1 oz. Orange Liqueur
2 oz. Lime Juice
Shake over ice and strain into salt-rimmed Margarita glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Bloody Maria

1 oz. TABASCO™ Spicy Tequila
2 oz. Tomato Juice
1 Dash Lemon Juice
1 Dash Celery Salt

Shake all ingredients with cracked ice and strain into an old-fashioned glass over ice cubes. Garnish with a lemon slice. For extra-hot Bloody Maria, substitute TABASCO® Bloody Mary Mix for tomato juice.

My Instant Curry Fiasco

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: recipe , fiery foods

After I posted my new 12-part series, "A World of Curries" to the Fiery Foods & Barbecue SuperSite, here, I had an obsessive craving to taste some of them.  But making curries from scratch is almost as challenging as preparing mole sauces, so I had second thoughts about spending that much time.  Our friend Geetha had given us a jar of Eswatini Curry Sauce Hot, made in Swaziland, a tiny country literally surrounded by South Africa.  So I thought, why not experiment with that and two other prepared curries?

So I went to Ta Lin Market and wandered the aisles until I found Shan Chicken Curry Mix (made in Pakistan), a dried mix to be added to cooked chicken and yogurt and Madam Pum Instant Green Curry with Coconut Milk (made in Thailand).  I bought an eggplant, carrots, and some inexpensive lamb and came home ready for some fun cooking.

I browned the lamb in olive oil and added it to the Green Curry sauce with a little more coconut milk, covered it and started simmering it, knowing that this curry would take the most amount of time because even very small lamb chunks take time to get tender.  The Chicken Curry was easy because Mary Jane had cooked chicken left over from making chicken stock.  I sliced the carrots thinly and the eggplant in little cubes and sauteed them with garlic paste in olive oil, then added the Eswatini Curry sauce (made with tomatoes, peaches, apples, oil, vinegar, and spices).  While the curries cooked I made a Coconut Rice Pilaf to serve them over.

All of this took about an hour, plus 45 minutes for baking the rice, so it wasn't actually instant.  But hey, I argued to myself, I'm making three curries and enough rice for at least six servings and the leftovers will be great.

Not so fast, Emeril-face.  The kitchen was filled with the wonderful aromas of the curries and it was time to serve them.  I made an attractive presentation of the rice garnished with a leaf of Italian parsley, surrounded by the curries. 

First, the chicken curry (center):  inedible because of an incredible salt level.  Next, the lamb with green curry (right): even more salty and impossible to eat--my mouth felt like it had sodium burns.  Finally, the Eswatini vegetable curry (left): delicious, so at least we had one curry for a full meal.

"Did you read the labels before you bought those curry mixes?" asked Mary Jane.

Of course I hadn't.  I couldn't have imagined in my wildest culinary nightmares that the Shan Chicken Curry Mix would have 27 percent of my daily sodium needs and the Madame Pum Green Curry would have 42 percent!  What were Mr. Shan and Madame Pum thinking?  The net weight of the Chicken Curry Mix was 50 grams.  The salt in it weighed .65 grams, so the salt constituted a mere 1.3 percent of the mix.  That doesn't seem like all that much, but our tongues don't lie.  The Green Curry sauce had a net weight of 200 grams with .528 grams of salt, or way less than one percent.  The Eswatini Curry Sauce's net weight was 300 grams with half a gram of salt, or about half what the Green Curry contained.  And it didn't taste salty at all despite providing about 20 percent of my daily sodium requirement.  Or maybe after all the salt in the first two curries, we couldn't detect the salt in it.

Anyway, I've learned my lesson: read the labels before buying unfamiliar products.  Here's a suggestion: make your favorite curry from scratch from"A World of Curries,"  then serve it over this wonderful rice, which can also be baked as a pilaf if you brown the rice first in butter or ghee.

Coconut Milk Rice
(Nasi Lemak)

Here is the most popular rice dish on the east coast of Malaysia.  It is served in coffee shops and roadside stands, wrapped in a banana leaf and garnished with a sambal, peanuts, egg, and cucumber slices.  It is a perfect side dish with any of the curries in this series.  Thin the coconut milk with an equal amount of water for a less pronounced coconut flavor in the rice.

2 cups long grain rice, washed and drained
3 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter
2 whole cloves
2 pandan leaves (screwpine), tied in a knot (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and cook until the rice is done and fluffy, about 35 to40 minutes. 

Remove the cloves and screwpine leaves before serving.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

My Perfect Breakfast

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: recipe , fiery foods , bacon

When I lived in Richmond (VA), April was the time of the shad run up the James River, and my friends and I would be on the banks casting weighted jigs into the rapids to catch them.  It was amazing how long it took to land a large shad--three pounds or more--in the swirling current.  Sometimes, 20 minutes!  I had to be very careful because the shad have very delicate mouths and trying to muscle them to shore would rip out the lures.  We kept only the gravid females (see the bulging one in the pic) who had the roes we were looking for.  Then we took the roes home and made breakfast.  Now that I live in New Mexico, if I had the roes, I would fix them like this:

Hot Sauced Shad Roes with Green Chile & Cheese Eggs

Be the first to Tweet this blog post, here.


MJ's Easy Tostada Lunch

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: recipe , lunch , fiery foods

 After a visit to Pro's Ranch Market, which is the closest food experience of Mexico in Albuquerque, Mary Jane pondered what to do with the ultra-crisp, giant tostadas I had bought on a whim tinged with curiosity. She came up with this combo, which is quick, spicy, and utterly delicious. Eat these with your fingers and a dark beer.


4 crisp 4-inch tostadas, or whole corn tortillas fried in vegetable oil or baked until crisp
1 cup cooked black beans, mashed
3/4 cup hot bottled salsa, drained
1 1/2 cups chopped leftover brisket, or substitute any cooked meat, chicken, or fish
1 cup grated Mexican manchego cheese, or substitute pepper jack cheese
1 ripe avocado, diced
Shredded romaine lettuce for garnish

Start the broiler in the oven.
Place the tostadas on a baking sheet. Spread the mashed black beans over the tostadas, going to the very edge of each one. In a small pot, combine the salsa and the brisket and heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Cover the black beans with the salsa-brisket mix and spread. Add the cheese and place under the broiler until all the cheese melts and bubbles.
Remove from the oven and top with the avocado and lettuce.
Yield: 4 tostadas
Heat Scale: Medium

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