Easy handling needed for hot chili peppers

Fresh hot chilies add a wonderful zest to many foods, but if they are not handled carefully the released oils can be unpleasant. The secret to easy handling is to avoid direct contact when you peel them.

The easiest way to peel them is to place them right onto the flame of a gas burner or under a broiler, turning them almost constantly so they blister and burn slightly all over.

If broiling them, place on the broiler tray 2 inches from the heat for about 15 minutes, turning with a fork until completely blistered.

Remove from the oven or flame and place in a plastic bag or wrap in a damp cloth and let them rest for about 15 minutes. Close the bag and let peppers stand until they're cool enough to handle. The steam contained in the bag cooks the peppers slightly.

The oven is not good for this process because it is not hot enough and the flesh will get too soft. Besides, the charring of the direct flame enhances the flavor.

The easiest way to skin the chilies after blistering is to put a strainer of them into the sink under the faucet, then wash the blackened skins off under the running water. If you have sensitive skin wear gloves.

Cut the stalk and base from the chilies and remove all seeds and veins which are the hottest parts. Chilies vary in strength. If they appear to be very picante or hot, soak in salted water for an hour or so. If you don't wear gloves, try to remember not to rub your eyes or touch your skin until you have scrubbed your hands, especially under the nails, in hot soapy water.

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