Sometimes chili peppers are unpredictable. Jalapeños can range from bell pepper sweet to inferno hot, with subtle variations depending on the climate where they were grown and the ripeness of the fruit when it was picked.
You can make a recipe, finding it perfect the first time and inedible the next. Or maybe you just have a heavy hand with the cayenne. In any case, what do you do when you’ve prepared a meal that’s painfully hot to eat?
1. Add Dairy.
Capsaicin, the molecule responsible for the burn, is fat-soluble, so water alone won’t wash it away. Your best bet is to incorporate a rich, creamy dairy product. Casein, a protein found in dairy, has a neutralizing effect on capsaicin, so doctor up your your curry with cream, your chili with sour cream, or offer a cooling cucumber-yogurt salad alongside too-spicy meats.
2. Try Texture.
Another trick, offered by the acclaimed food science writer Harold McGee, is to use a rough-textured food to distract your nerves with a different sensation. Try mixing your dish with rice or quinoa, or serving it alongside a particularly tongue-scratchy food, like dry crackers or toasted baguette.
Jennifer Pallian is a Vancouver-based food writer and photographer, who shares vibrant recipes on her blog Foodess.