Hot Chilies - Safe Handling
Hot chilies aren't used often in Cajun cooking, but they do make an appearance from time to time. Their oils are volatile and may make your skin tingle and your eyes burn if they're not handled safely. Although preparing fresh chilies is easy, I DO NOT recommend allowing your children to assist during this part of meal preparation.
Not everyone is sensitive to the oils and fumes of chilies. However, if this is your first time handling hot chilies, remember that old saying: it is better to be safe than sorry! Very hot chilies should always be handled with had protection.
Protect Your Hands! When working with hot chilies, always wear hand protection in the form of either disposable gloves (they look like baggies with fingers) or rubber gloves. The baggie style gloves, like the ones used by food handlers in many fast food restaurants, don't fit as well as rubber or latex, but they are inexpensive so you won't be tempted to reuse them!
Protect Your Eyes! If your eyes are sensitive, you can wear eye protectors* as well. Be careful not to touch your face or any part of your body (or your children's bodies) where the skin is sensitive. If you wear contact lenses, they might add enough protection.
To prepare chilies, rinse under cold running water. Hot water can cause fumes to rise up from dried chilies, and those fumes can irritate your nose and eyes.
If you plan to use the seeds, remove the stems with a knife. If you're going to seed the chilies, pull out the stem and the seeds with gloved fingers.
For chilies with thin ribs inside, simply scrape the ribs with the edge of a small sharp knife to remove. For chilies with thick, fleshy ribs, you can cut them out with a small, sharp knife.
Follow the instructions in the recipe you're using for slicing or chopping chilies.
After handling the chilies, it is essential that you wash your knives, cutting board, gloves and hands -- in that order -- thoroughly with soap and water. If your finger nails are long, scrub under them with a nail brush while washing your hands.
*Specialty shops carry goggles for protecting eyes from onion and chili fumes! You can also use swimmer's goggles.
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