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Experimenting with fresh ghost chili (naga bhut jolokia)

So I was lucky enough to trip over Marx Foods and Justin Marx a bit ago. And he’s been generous about letting me try the products he sells.

So I tossed my name in to try out their fresh ghost chilies. Yes, these were free and given to me by a company.

And they are hella intimidating. I’ve never had peppers tingle my nose before, and these could do it while whole and untouched.

Right, so I haven’t talked about hot peppers much here. I’ve frequently grown jalapenos, serranos, and habaneros. I think the flesh of a couple jalapenos are pretty decent substitute for green bell peppers in many dishes. Serranos are perfect for tingling up a summer sandwich of garden fresh tomatoes, white bread, mayonnaise, and salt. I rarely ever use the habaneros because they don’t add much in the way of flavor while they’re adding heat. My father’s the one who wants to plant them, and it’s mainly so he can talk about how he grows these really hot peppers. The most machismo I’ve had about peppers was eating a whole fresh bird’s eye chili on a dare in college – it hurt a lot, but I managed to surreptitiously drink a can of cola and that did a great job of cutting the burn and giving me style points.

In addition that background, it’s also worth noting that I usually can’t be bothered to wear gloves, even with habaneros. I just have one dirty hand (which touches the peppers) and one clean hand (which only touches the knife) – and then I try to remember which was which as the day wears on (okay, fine – my right hand is always the one with the knife). For these, however, I went to the sex supplies and pulled out the gloves.

Right, so the first recipe was just a private experiment to see just how impossible it was to eat one.

Ghost Chili bagel and egg breakfast

step one – fry half a slice of bacon. Once crispy, remove the bacon to a towel to dry.

Cut flesh of the chili from the seeds and membranes. Slice very thinly. Toss the slices of chili into the hot bacon fat and stir them around until they start to brown.

Put sliced bagel in the oven to toast.

Scrape the toasty pepper slices into a single thickness gathering, and crack an egg over the peppers. Continue to fry the peppery egg as you enjoy.

Gather your plate of toasted bagel (with cream cheese), bacon, and fried egg. Place the egg on top of one bagel and salt generously – but don’t make a sandwich in case you want unadulterated bagel to soothe your mouth later. Also slice some cheese for buffering, too.


End result of the breakfast was actually not bad! I might do it again. My nose ran a little and there was a little sweat on my scalp, but it ended up being an entirely delicious breakfast.

Oh – one more bit of background, I recently went to visit my ex, who has since become a rabbi, and while there we made candied etrog peel. I suggested we save the boiling liquid, so I came home with two jars of etrog syrup and my bags having been searched by TSA.

Right, so etrog syrup.

First things I made was citrus candied chilies.

Candied Chilies

First, I cut the flesh of two chilies away from the seeds and membranes – hold by the stem, and aim shallow. I managed to get one pepper into two pieces and the other into three.

Next I boiled the etrog syrup – already so supersaturated that crystals had formed, so I didn’t add more sugar. If you are starting without syrup, add equal quantities of water and sugar of sufficient quantity that the pieces float about and you aren’t worried the liquid will boil away.

Once it came to a boil, I carefully transferred each piece of pepper and let them boil for about three to five minutes.

I placed the pieces on some waved paper to dry, and I poured the (now insanely spicy) syrup into a clean jar.

Once the peppers were drier, I dredged them in sugar and put them in a jar.

So what do I do with candied peppers? Well, so far I’ve tried truffles

Candied Ghost Chili Truffles

ganache center
6oz República del Cacao° 75% Los Rios
4oz light cream (should have been heavy cream, but the store was out)
2 grams candied ghost chili, minced finely

70% Santander

But that just used up one of the five pieces, and the truffles are just on the slightly insane side of spicy, but tasty.

And I still have the etrog/pepper syrup. But I have a plan. Well, at least a plan for a little of it.

Chili-glazed Rosemary Roast Sweet Potatoes

Cut sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes, or larger chunks.

Roast them in oven, until just cooked through, with rosemary and ground allspice.

When cool enough to handle, toss the potatoes with the etrog/chili syrup and then put the potatoes back in the oven long enough to get some caramelization.

Finish with kosher salt for texture.

I tried roasting some of the peppers in the oven, but they are thin-skinned peppers and I chose some of the smaller ones, so I ended up with dried peppers, instead. From them, I made two seasoned butters.

2 Ghost Chili Seasoned Butters – sweet and savory

4-5 Tablespoons of softened butter
pinch powdered ghost pepper (about a pinch’s worth, if from a jar)
3-4 Tablespoons of buckwheat honey
sprinkle of powdered mace

4-5 Tablespoons of softened butter
pinch powdered ghost pepper (about a pinch’s worth, if from a jar)
1/16th teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon paprika

And that still leaves me with quite a few peppers to work with!

Chickpeas with Browned Butter and Thai Basil

Even though it’s still a time of bountiful farmers’ markets, I’ve been shopping shopping from my pantry in an effort to save money.

Now I’ve always claimed that I could hold of a siege army for 2 months with careful use of my pantry, but even I am impressed with my food budget for this month:

personal food: $146.26
social food: $210.13

I’m defining personal food as groceries and dining out alone and personal food as dining with other people and groceries bought explicitly for food I share with other people.

That’s just extraordinary. We’ll see how well that holds out.

So, I cobbled together something delicious today – a co-worker had brought in massive quantities of thai basil from her garden and all the rest was from my pantry.

Chickpeas with browned butter and thai basil

So I’ve never made a browned butter sauce before, so I looked in my fridge and decided that the ghee was going to waste and was just like butter. So I scooped out some of that, melted it on medium heat, and waited for it to brown. Which it didn’t because the whole reason it’s clarified is so it’ll have a higher cooking temperature.

Right, so I tipped some of it out (I didn’t measure the ghee going in or coming out – it had been slightly more than the minimum to complete cover the bottom of a twelve inch skillet) and replaced that with 3 Tablespoons of butter. It started browning almost immediately and was a lovely sauce base in a minute or so.

I sprinkled in some asafoetida to fry, and then I also sprinkled in some galangal.

To this tasty brown butter I added 1 yellow onion, sliced radially to a medium thickness.

Once the onions had fried enough to be soft, I added chickpeas (drained from a can). I stirred them about and let them cook for about 5 minutes while I stripped the leaves from the basil plant, stacked them, and then sliced roughly through the stack about 4 times. I also grated the zest of one lemon with the leaves.

Once I figured the chickpeas were as soft and cooked as I wanted them, poured in 1 teaspoon of fish sauce (I happened to be using Phu Quoc fish sauce) to give it some saltiness. Just a few stirs, and then I tossed in the leaves and zest.

I’d been planning to also squeeze the lemon’s juice into the dish, but the zest made it lemony enough. So once the leaves had become bright and wilted, I splashed in about an eighth of a cup of apple cider vinegar. I let it cook just until it quit smelling so strongly of vinegar, and then I dished it up.

Moot – rabbit – Darfur talk – University City Dining Days

*a little background*
So you all know Lord of the Rings, right? And you know that gatherings of Ents were called ent moots, of course. Well, so, some friends of mine (all fans of the movies (books too, but we met on account of the movies) made by Peter Jackson. Those sure were some beautiful movies) used to have monthly gatherings so that they could cook for friends and have lively fannish dinner conversations. This is a post about one of those gatherings.


I love moot so much. I ended up sneaking into this month’s moot just because I couldn’t stay away (and needed to procrastinate a paper, but we won’t talk about that). And I love the hosts: [redacted], [redacted], and Molly (Cause, hah!, you live there, now!).

Okay… so the decision making process involved in going down there was a wee bit insane, but the great part of being there Friday night was going to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. I tell yah – next time I might bring a cooler. I have butter! Butter that has flavour and taste and infinite sexiness. I was lusting over the heavy cream, but it would never have survived the 2 1/2 hour drive in the baking sun. I did almost leave my butter behind, but I remembered before I got on the highway and before the other evil people stole it and turned it into sammiches.

So here’s where I brag about the awesome cookliness of [redacted-host] –

Lunch was around 2:30ish. Two kinds of pasta – carbonara and an awesome meaty & mushroomy sauce. OMG, I need the carbonara recipe – so good. With bread! A huge loaf of bread! And some of the butter of joy – and butter of garlic – and oil. but not all at the same time.

The ever-excellent mushroom schtuff in a pastry thingy
dill pancakes with lemon creme fraiche and lox
Savoury shortbread with feta and pesto
Shrimps on skewers (kinda scampi-ish)


And then there was dinner – which we all kind of looked at with only marginal interest because we had been slightly indiscreet at lunch, but still – so good!

Lil nut crusted goat cheese circles, salad-ish goodness, and more bread!

Poached salmon with an incredibly rich and orgasmic sauce (orange and saffron sabayon).

Then we voted to skip the chicken course.

Ices – it was a lemon ginger ice that started to burn after about four spoonfuls.

Dessert was mostly the marvelous fresh strawberries from the farmers market with fresh whipped cream and chocolate sauce (which [redacted-living with hosts] made to just the perfect consistency. But there was also bread pudding with caramelly nut sauce and a raisin sauce.

Wow… so full.


And then I came home and called up [redacted-ex] so that I could twist her arm into trying the “rabbit” I had thawed. Turns out that it most likely really is rabbit… an easier guess to make when I realized that the meat still had bones (argh!). The back legs were longer and more muscled than the front legs. If it were a dog, it would have had to be some kind of wee little thing like a Maltese or some such. Instead of trying to do anything civilized like cutting all the meat off, I just took it apart, grabbed the meat off the ribcage and then pitched those bones because they looked like they would have been awkward, and then split the spine in a couple points to make for smaller pieces. Then I made this recipe, Rabbit with Mustard Sauce, and I think it turned out quite well. My food aesthetics tell me that I probably should have made rice to put it on, but otherwise, all went well.

Cooking tip of the day: When you have to mix cornstarch with water, don’t fiddle around with a bowl and a whisk – just put the water and cornstarch in a small jar and shake.

So I saved the extra sauce because it was so tasty. What am I going to do with this rich mustard sauce (rich, wow, it tasted like there were egg yolks in it!)? My only idea so far is putting it over/in a mushroom rissotto.


Food for people in the area –

There is a dinner with speakers on Darfur

Will We Let Darfur Be the Next Rwanda?

The White Dog Cafe
June 20, 2005
Table Talk Dinner 6 PM

3420 Sansom Street
Call 215-386-9224 for Reservations

Honor U.N. World Refugee Day
Presenting speakers from The Darfur Alert! Coalition:

Dr. Jerry Ehrlich, a local pediatrician, who treated children in refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan with Doctors Without Borders will show slides and discuss life in the camps and children’s drawings depicting the brutality they survived.

Dr. Ibrahim Imam, a medical doctor, an immigrant from northern Darfur and a member of the Western Sudanese Association will provide historical context for understanding the genocide in Darfur and also discuss his experience as a medical examiner of massacre sites in Darfur .

Stephanie Nyombayire, a Rwandan and a student at Swarthmore College and an active member of Swarthmore Sudan and the Genocide Intervention Fund, recently traveled to the eastern border of Chad where 200,000 Darfurians have taken refuge. She will speak about genocide in Rwanda, what she witnessed in the refugee camps in Chad and Swarthmore’s 100 Days of Action Campaign. www.genocideinterventionfund.org

Rev. Isaac Miller, the rector of The Church of the Advocate and a founding member of The Darfur Alert! Coalition will describe the necessity of taking action now and specify what we can do to stop the killing in Darfur and get relief for the refugees.

Table Talks at 6 PM include a three course dinner, followed by the speakers and discussion from 7:30 – 9 PM. $38/person includes tax and gratuity. Reservations with advance payment required by giving a credit card number over the phone or by sending a check.
Senior citizens (over 65) and full time students: $30 with advanced notification. Student stand-by: Call between 4 – 5:30pm the day of the event for $20 dinner at 6pm.

Call 215-386-9224 for Reservations

Darfur Alert! a Philadelphia area coalition, focuses on the tragedy of the Darfur people, and alerts the community to act on their behalf.


Anyone want to join me for the University City Dining Days? There are several places on the $20 and $25 lists that appeal:

University City restaurants will participate in a special dining extravaganza Wednesday, June 23- Thursday, June 30, 2005. The promotion will offer three-course special dinners at the lower-than-usual prix-fixe prices of $20, $25 and $30 at various University City restaurants. Participating restaurants include:

Smokey Joes

Bubble House
Ecco Qui
Vientiane Cafe
World Cafe Live
Restaurant School
Zocalo Restaurant

New Deck (two dine)
Penne Restaurant and Wine Bar
Strikes Bowling Lounge (two dine)
White Dog Cafe

Prices are for dinner only and do not include tax, gratuity or alcohol. Reservations are recommended and should be made directly through the participating restaurant. For more information, visit http://www.ucityphila.org.