|When your food has to remind you it's edible, that ought to be a warning sign.|
The fascination with insanely hot peppers (and the beer to wash them down with) continues. I thought the ghost pepper was the hottest in the world, and although my ghost pepper exploits haven't always been successful, I've got a pretty good handle on the hot stuff. Then I heard that a newly-discovered strain is even hotter. The ghost pepper tops out at about 1.1 million Scoville Heat Units, or the ounces of water it takes to displace the capsacin found in each pepper. That's roughly twice as hot as the habanero. As shown above, the Trinidad scorpion comes in at 1.4 million, or about 3/4 the heat of a star. Pop one of these peppers in your mouth, then stand under Niagra Falls for thirty seconds, and the heat just disappears!
The scorpion gets its name from the tip, which curls up like the stinger. I was told that Harry Singh's restaurant on Nicollet serves food with the Trinidad scorpion, but I've yet to muster the courage to try. Instead, I ordered both the peppers and a plant online. When they arrived, I let both sit for a while until I was burning with curiosity about what the scorpion tasted like.
So I cut off the tail of one pepper, placed it on the tip of my tongue...
|Oh, I forgot to mention, do NOT handle these with your bare hands.|
...and then I discovered what burning really is.
The Trinidad Scorpion is reminiscent of the heat of a thousand suns. I was able to let a tiny portion of it sit on my tongue for about a minute, during which I began to sweat profusely and see through time. I became incredibly focused on the instant before I put the pepper in my mouth, which then seemed like the most important moment of my entire life.
While the ghost pepper has almost a smoky flavor to it once you get past the heat, the Trinidad scorpion tastes like a Thai chili pepper on steroids. The heat is intense, and more importantly, it does not go away. Ever. To make matters worse, I self-conducted this experiment only after I was out of beer. My choices for alcohol-based relief were either the ghost pepper-infused vodka or Jameson's Irish whiskey. Not wanting to douse a fire with gasoline, I opted for the whiskey. Now I was seeing through time and yelling angrily at my visions. Terrific.
Obviously the next logical step would be to attempt cooking with the pepper. But just like with the ghost pepper, the internet is scant when it comes to providing recipes for the Trinidad scorpion. Plenty of hits come up for hot sauce, but nobody seems to have any hints on what to do with it. That ought to be a warning sign, but for me it's an invitation to forge ahead.
As a first attempt, I went with the basic hot pepper dish - chili.
This time around, I made sure to have a key ingredient on hand. The new Boom Island beer dedicated to locked-out orchestra musicians, "Lomomopalooza." I cannot overemphasize how crucial beer is to this particular recipe.
|Next time I'll have to eat this BEFORE Frodo comes along and throws Gollum and a ring into the bowl.|
|The cheese melts even when the chili is right out of the fridge.|
Again I must stress, the spice of the Trinidad scorpion stays with you for a very long time. If you can ride it out, the brain actually sends a pretty decent rush of endorphins to combat what it correctly perceives as searing pain. Until then, good luck. For anyone crazy enough to try, here is a step-by-step set of instructions for Trinidad Scorpion Chili:
1. Obtain the necessary hazardous waste disposal permits as required by the ordinance or statute of your local governing entity. This can range anywhere from twenty to several hundred dollars. Pick up a gas mask while you're at it.
2. Finely chop three Trinidad scorpion peppers, seven Thai chili peppers, two chipotle peppers, and since this is obviously going to kill you anyway, one ghost pepper for the hell of it. Simmer those peppers with two 15-oz. cans of dark red beans and two 15-oz. cans of kidney beans. Add 10 oz. of tomato sauce and 5-7 diced tomatoes. Did you put on the gas mask yet? Might want to do that already.
3. In a separate pan, add 4 red Fresno chili peppers, 2 Poblano peppers, 2 Anaheim peppers, one large red onion, one head of garlic, 2.5-3 lbs. ground beef, and cilantro, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice to taste. Remember that with the peppers in step two, "taste" is used loosely in this context. Simmer until the beef begins to brown. Drain the grease and add the meat and veggies to the beans.
4. Add in the contents of one package of Carroll Shelby's Chili Kit. (I realize that from a purist standpoint this is cheating. But I'm familiar with what the particular seasonings it contains and find it more convenient to just pick up that box as needed.) Add beef stock to thin out the chili or flour to thicken, as desired. Cook on low heat until the ground beef is done.
5. Serve up a bowl with cheese or sour cream. Have beer handy. Dial 9 and 1 on your phone so that emergency services can be called with only one more press of a button. Enjoy.
I had two bowls of my concoction, and washed those down with the full bottle of Boom Island. Six hours later--that is three hundred sixty minutes, and I know because I counted every single one of them--I could still feel a burning sensation in my mouth. But after I posted my Trinidad Scorpion Chili results on Facebook, I was invited to bring the dish to a chili cook-off at a nearby watering hole. I took third place at the T-Shoppe. My prize was the one thing I needed most: free beer.