Yesterday, I tried to take chicken to the other side.
For decades, my Easter-dinner tradition has been to make a different deviled egg. It’s the first thing I do. I’ve taken the traditional route (mushy yolk in egg white), the non-traditional (pieces of egg white on top of a molded mound of yolk), topped them with nuts and raisins, and sprinkled throughout with shrimp and garlic. Everybody expects them.
But since traditional to me also means behaving non-traditionally, and since I am also hot – as in spicy – as in nothing can be too peppery, piquant or throat-closing for me (Make my nose run! Flood my eyes!), this year, I had to put my eggs aside, because I spent two days, and most of Easter morning, making, and ultimately, tweaking, Peaches Hothouse Extra Hot Chicken from the “notoriously spicy” Peaches Hothouse in Brooklyn.
The recipe is a hat trick for me. It has salt (homemade brine), crunch (it’s fried), and a challenge – smoked ghost chili powder. (Warning: DO NOT do what I did, and think, ooh brine! what a great martini this would make. It doesn’t.)
Ghost-chili powder is made from the Bhut Jolokia pepper which, until 2011, when it was trumped by the Trinidad Scorpion pepper, was the hottest pepper in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Pepper hotness is rated on Scoville Heat Units. Tabasco – 5,000 units. Jalapeno – 8,000 units. Habanero – 350,000 units. Ghost Chili – over 1 million units. (There’s a skull on the bottle.)
What’s not to love?
But ghost chili is as elusive as it is fiery. Apparently, I would have to head south – Nashville; east – Brooklyn; southeast – India; or to Amazon (.com) to find it.
So the Hothouse recipe, which was a secret until The New York Times ran it on March 19, has remained a secret in my house because, given my short, prep-window, I had to tweak.
I substituted a combo of smoked hot paprika (The Times recommended this) and extra cayenne. The cayenne and hot paprika throat-sizzle was not the skull-and-crossbones Easter Sunday dinner I had hoped for, but no doubt, some secret “Hallelujahs!” were whispered by my always-open-to-my-culinary-whims family, who range from 0 (my mom) to 1 million (my son, who douses all his food with hot sauce) on the hotness scale. Next year.
And I was tweaked by guilt. After the chicken, came some deviled eggs. I did a last-minute scramble and put together a tame, traditional, batch, which made for a superb, non-traditional, after-Easter, breakfast-parade of chicken and eggs.