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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Dateline Las Cruces, New Mexico.  For years, research done by New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute has helped promote New Mexico's State Vegetable (really a fruit).  Now, the Institute itself (and its chile peppers) is on the map, literally, as a "must-see" destination in Rand McNally's 2010 Road Atlas "Best of the Road" program.

"We are thrilled that Rand McNally recommends the Chile Pepper Institute in their atlas," said Paul Bosland, Institute director. "It's an honor to know that people traveling in New Mexico can see us on the map and enjoy our Institute along their way."

According to Rand McNally, the publication is America's No. 1 road atlas. It provides five Best of the Road trips along with trip-planning tools, from detailed maps to mileage charts. The 2010 atlas is now available in stores and from online retailers like Amazon, here.

"Every year, our editors seek out and drive some of the best, most scenic road trip routes in the nation to find our Best of the Road winners," said Rand McNally editorial director Laurie Borman. 

Part of the attraction of the Chile Pepper Institute is its Demonstration Garden, where some 150 varieties of chiles from around the world are grown each year to educate the public.  See our article, here.

The Chile Pepper Institute is one of a handful of stops identified in Rand McNally's trip through New Mexico. The 2010 Road Atlas provides five road trips in regions throughout states such as New York, Oregon and South Carolina. Each trip features photos, an inset map and other similar destinations that readers might enjoy.

The Institute gained fame for developing and promoting the 'Bhut Jolokia' chile variety, named by Guinness World Records as the Hottest Spice in the World.  Located in NMSU's Gerald Thomas Hall, the institute is part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.  See their website, here.

Full disclosure: Along with Dr. Paul Bosland, I was a founder of the Chile Pepper Institute.  My company is a sponsor of the New Mexico Chile Conference, hosted annually by the Institute.

On Saturday, June 27, 2009, the story made the front page of the Albuquerque Journal, and was featured in the Business section.

India Plans Jolokia Grenades

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Indian scientists will impregnate hand grenades with 'Bhut Jolokia' powder to immobilize but not kill people.  They say the devices will be used to control rioters and in counter-insurgency operations.  Scientists at India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are quoted as saying the potent chilli will be used as a food additive for troops operating in cold conditions.  And the powder will also be spread on the fences around army barracks in the hope the strong smell will keep out animals.  Other forms of pepper spray are commonly used for crowd control in many parts of the world.

Which pairs best with soft cheeses like brie and camembert: red or white wine? What about harder, more mature cheeses such as cheddar and parmesan? Which cheeses will please those who prefer a beer or cocktail to wine?

Now it's fast and easy for you to find drink matches for 219 cheeses, plus thousands  more pairings for appetizers, main courses and dessert in this comprehensive food and drink mobile application. The new Drinks Matcher from Nat Decants is available now for your smartphone. It's like having a personal sommelier and a bartender at your side. Natalie MacLean, creator of Nat Decants, the wine web site here, has teamed up with the software developer bitHeads to create an application that works on your iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry Bold and BlackBerry Curve.

"Wine and cheese is a classic for fall and holiday entertaining: delicious and simple to prepare," MacLean explains. "But we're all busy during the holiday season, so we don't have time to spend researching information online. We want to do a quick search while we browse in the liquor store, do our Christmas shopping or order from a restaurant menu."

You just choose a match on your mobile device and then you can find the top drink picks either in your local liquor store or on the restaurant menu. Unlike MacLean's popular pairing widget on her web site, this new tool doesn't require a connection to the Internet and so can be used in remote locations.

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

We Love 'Cue in NYC!

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

 Alexis Korman reports:  New Yorkers may be famous for a lot of things--bad attitudes, dazzling skylines, and high rents--but not necessarily the nation's best BBQ. But the Big Apple BBQ Block Party, set against the lush greenery of Madison Square Park, set out to prove that Manhattan can turn out mouthwatering barbeque to the masses.

What began in 2003 as a small-scale block party designed to introduce city dwellers to the nation's best regional ‘cue is today a barbeque festival on a super-sized scale-over 100,000 people turned out to taste juicy BBQ from some of the nation's top pit-masters over the weekend.

And taste they did. On June 13th and 14th, 15 grilling stations lined several blocks near Madison Avenue, and included tents from BBQ champions like Mike Mills (17th Street Bar & Grill, Murphysville, IL/Las Vegas, NV), Garry Roark (Ubon's ‘Champion's Choice', Yazoo City, MS), and Chris Lilly (Big Bob Gibson BBQ, Decatur, IL).

Among the best dishes on offer were the tangy pulled pork shoulder topped with crunchy coleslaw from Blackjack BBQ (Charleston, NC), juicy beef brisket with sausage from The Salt Lick BBQ (Driftwood, TX), and expertly spiced Kansas City-style ribs and pickles from local favorite, Blue Smoke (New York, NY).

Other New York-area BBQ restaurants also represented their skills on the grill, including Hill Country, Rack & Soul, and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which had a line stretching half-way around the block.

Making the wait for lip-smacking barbeque worthwhile were several excellent performances by toe-tapping blues, rock and soul artists, including SaRon Crenshaw, Howard Tate, and Junior Brown.

Despite insanely long lines and overcast skies the city's biggest barbeque event was nothing less than smokin'hot.

Alexis Korman is a NYC-based freelance food and wine writer. You can visit her website here.


For quite a while I've wanted to offer manufacturers of spicy and BBQ products a way to test to see if their new products can compete successfully in the Scovie Awards and in the marketplace, but I didn't really have the time to devote to the project.  To the rescue comes James Beck of Houston, who has launched a site devoted to that very subject.  James, a hard-working young entrepreneur who was formerly a business and financial consultant, has decided to focus his life on the fiery foods and barbecue industries--sounds like me 25 years ago!  So we have teamed up for New Product Reviews, a for-now free service that judges the latest products according to the same criteria as the Scovie Awards, and James will publish the results on his EatMoreEat.com site. Welcome aboard, James!


Our European editor, Harald Zoschke, reports from southwest Germany: We drove to the Swiss border south of the other end of Lake Constance (Bodensee).  German BBQ smoker manufacturer "Farmergrill" threw a huge Grilling & BBQ Fest. Not only do they manufacure a wide line of quality smokers, they also run one of Germany's largest BBQ retail stores--we saw most likely more than 100 different grills and smokers there. Reps from various manufacturers were present, and the "Barbecue Academy" smoked excellent brisket (they publish a German BBQ magazine and hold hands-on BBQ classes right here at Lake Constance). Good food, entertainment including electric bull riding (not HZ), chile pepper eating contest, the BBQ Train, at left, with twin smokers, and more.  Great fun!  Here are more pix:




The Big Green Egg arrives in Deutschland!

The showroom at FarmerGrill, complete with a
friendly Burnese Mountain Dog!

I just received the July, 2009 issue of Saveur, my favorite food magazine, and it's a special Texas issue which is really a fun read with great recipes.  I was delighted to spot friends of mine as contributors, including Sharon Hudgins and Robb Walsh.  Sharon and Robb were two of the three great writers ("The Triumvirate," I used to call them) who I depended on for quality content when I was editor of the original Chile Pepper magazine from 1987 to 1996. (The third member of that group was Richard Sterling, who lives in Berkeley and Vietnam and isn't a Texan.)  In this Texas issue, Sharon writes about chuck wagon cooking and Robb covers chicken-fried steak, oysters, mesquite, and vaquero (Mexican cowboy) cooking.  To see them in this issue brought back fond memories of all the fun we had in the "old days" (remember the first Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, Robb?)  Also making appearances are three New Mexicans I know and like, Deborah Madison, probably the most accomplished writer on vegetarian subjects, and Cheryl and Bill Jamison, who were kind enough to write a cover blurb for my upcoming (September) book with Paul Bosland, The Complete Chile Pepper Book.  Congrats to all of you for a wonderful special issue of Saveur.


SuperSite Survey #1

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: SuperSite news

The last time we conducted a survey of our readers and visitors was in November, 2004. Things were a lot different then--we had the old SuperSite and our options for improving it were limited. In September, 2008, we switched to the SuperSite you see now, with many ways to improve it. To that end, I have devised a survey that will give us a good idea of who our visitors are and what they are looking for. The survey is only 12 questions long and will take less than five minutes to fill out. All questions are optional. I have limited the number of responses to 500 so that we are not overwhelmed with information. At some point in time, we will publish the survey results. Thanks in advance for taking the survey, which is located here.

Chipotle Flavors

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

I'm pleased to announce the publication of a five-part series devoted to chipotles--those many varieties of smoked chiles.   You can go here to start reading about--and cooking with--chipotles of all kinds.

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