So, last night I managed to give myself a wicked burn on my hands. No, I didn’t pick up a hot pan from the stove with my bare hands… and I didn’t accidentally splatter hot oil all over the place… and I didn’t graze the oven rack while taking something out of the oven.
I chopped 3 peppers. Not jalapeños, not serranos, not habaneros – they were (traditionally) mild, timid Poblano peppers. And those bad boys gave me a nasty case of Chili Pepper Burn.
Has this ever happened to you? I mean, I AM a Mexican, so you would think I would be immune to the powers of the oils from a chili… but you would be wrong. The first time I experienced a chili pepper burn was probably 4 years ago. I had seen the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for bacon-wrapped jalapeños, and I decided I was going to make a bunch of them for a New Year’s Eve party. So, I bought about 30 peppers, and got to slicing them in half and seeding them. Now, lest you think I am a total moron, I was quite aware that the oil from a chili pepper’s insides can burn like hell (if you were not aware before, consider this your warning: CHILI PEPPERS WILL BURN YOU, REAL BAD)… but, I foolishly thought that I could skip wearing gloves, and just wash my hands frequently and thoroughly while I was working with the peppers, and I would be fine.
Yeah, I was wrong. Reeeeeeeeeal wrong. I felt fine after chopping and seeding all my peppers. No burning on my hands at all. I went to bed, and about 2 in the morning, I woke up suddenly – and I swear to you, I thought my arms were on fire. If I had not witnessed the lack of flames for myself, I would have ASSURED you that my arms and hands had burst into flames – IT WAS THAT BAD. I ran to the kitchen and threw my hands under cold running water to ease some of the pain. It worked, but only while the water was running… and surely, sleeping with my hands in a sink full of cold water wasn’t an option. I spent three hours, alternating between keeping my hands and arms under cold water, and googling the hell out of the phrase “CHILI PEPPER BURNS AM DYING HELP MEEEEEE”. Or something like that. I tried many, many things that night – cold compresses! Soaking my hands in heavy cream! A heavy coat of A&D Ointment! – and absolutely nothing worked. I think I finally exhausted myself enough that I was able to go back to sleep… but the burning didn’t go away for days. It was okay as long as my hands weren’t hot or cold – but the second I came into contact with anything that was not room temperature, I was in agony. So, showering, walking past a vent blowing warm air, grabbing ice from the freezer – all set off a flurry of pain.
Thankfully, this incident is not nearly that bad. The real kicker is that Poblano peppers are MILD. Like, one step above a bell pepper… which means, NOT AT ALL HOT. I use them frequently, and I have never once worn gloves while chopping one, and I’ve never even experienced mild burning from them. Apparently, in the batch I had last night, I either had the hottest Poblano pepper on the planet, or the world’s largest serrano, masquerading as a Poblano pepper. All I know is that within 3 minutes of reaching my hand into the peppers to clean out the ribs and seeds (where the heat lives), my hands were ON FIRE. They turned red, and splotchy, and just burned like the devil. Of course, prior to the burning starting up, I touched my lips (HAHAHAHAH OOPS), so those also started burning like the sun, turned bright red, and swelled to twice their normal size. This morning, I am about 70% back to normal – my lips are still bright red, but the swelling has gone down, and my hands are less red, and only hurt when something hot or cold comes into contact with them. Progress, people.
ALL of that to say – I made spicy tortilla soup last night. And it was good.
(Also: please wear gloves when you work with chili peppers. Learn from my stupidity.)
Despite the searing pain in my hands and face last night, this soup is not super hot – it’s a little spicy, but certainly nothing crazy. I first made it a couple years ago, and it has become a staple in our house. I make it a couple times a month in the winter – partially because it’s SO GOOD, and partially because it’s super easy (and mostly contains items I always have in my fridge or pantry – and is super adaptable, if I’m missing an ingredient). As usual, I will post the recipe as I make it, and link back to the original recipe.
And so, I present to you:
Smoky Chipotle Tortilla Soup
Makes 6 servings
Adapted from here
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces
1 large sweet onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Poblano peppers, seeded and diced
2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced (less, if you’re not a fan of heat)
3 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with juice
4 cups chicken stock
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 T heavy cream
salt and pepper
Whatever garnish you like: shredded cheese, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, diced avocado, etc
1.) Place your chopped bacon into a (cold) dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot on the stove. Turn the heat on to medium. Let your bacon render its fat, and cook until just crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
2.) Add your diced onion and poblano peppers to the bacon grease. Saute until soft and starting to brown, then add your garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper, about 1/2 teaspoon of each.
3.) This is where you would add your diced chipotle peppers – unless you’re me, and you thought you had some in the pantry, but you didn’t. In that case, you’d add 1 T each of chipotle chili pepper and smoked paprika, stir to coat your vegetables, and let the spices cook for a couple minutes.
4.) Add your diced tomatoes, beans, and chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, reduce to a simmer. Season again – about 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
5.) Let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes, then add your heavy cream (it’s optional, but I like the richness it adds to the soup). Let that heat through, and you’re done!
My husband and I generally top our soup with the reserved bacon, some grated cheese and sour cream (or, if you were at our house last night, we used plain greek yogurt in place of sour cream, because I didn’t have any – Dear Tina, get thee to a grocery store, stat!). It’s also good with some crushed tortilla chips, or diced avocado, or all by itself. We also occasionally make this soup with diced chicken in place of the black beans (as the original recipe does), but let’s be honest – on most weeknights, the thought of dealing with cooking and dicing chicken makes me weep with exhaustion, so beans are a great substitute. And my husband doesn’t mind eating non-meat-based meals about half the time, so it works (much to Crist’s horror – she thinks the lack of meat I serve in my house amounts to spousal abuse. Hey, at least there’s bacon in this soup!)
So there you have it. Delicious, easy, and perfect for the first genuinely frigid evening of the year!
Does anyone have a cold compress I could borrow?