Re-posted here in an effort to gather my recipes from the far reaches of the intertubes and to save the stew for human consumption!
The company had arrived. I’d spent too much on the seafood. The first taste of the broth was about to occur. Mr-why-are-you-bothering-me-I-don’t-know-how-to-cook did the honors. Have you ever seen that twisted up Calvin face on an adult? Mr-I-love-it-spicy-ignore-the-face-sweats ran for the vodka. At least that was what he grabbed. I’m not sure he could see straight enough to know which bottle was in his hand. If you wanted to say that the broth was too hot you would be close to correct.
What to do? What to do?
Better living through chemistry. Capsaicin is a molecule that is fat and alcohol soluble. I could add more wine or the rest of that bottle of vodka, but it would not be able to separate the alcohol and the capsaicin.
So… I started with the bottle of olive oil. I added about half a cup of it to the soup and stirred it through. I let it simmer for a bit and stirred some more. Once it settled out, the olive oil floated to the top and was easily skimmed off.
I was now left with two dishes. A small amount of fiery red oil and a big pot of broth. Now capsaicin is colorless, odorless, and flavorless. So the red in the oil came from some pigments in the peppers or tomatoes. A tiny taste of the oil revealed that it was about as fiery hot as the color advertised it to be. Even in the oil, it hit the back of the throat and burned.
The soup was a different story. It still retained some heat but it was compatible with the seafood added at the last minute. A couple of the spice-heads at the table added ancho powder, but the main pot was salvaged from certain disaster.
Much as I hate to say it what I learned in chemistry does apply to real life. Thanks Dr. B wherever you are.
Want to know more? Learn about the scovill test. A beautiful picture guide to peppers. How it affects nerve cells. (Student work so read skeptically.) What you need to know about topical application of capsaicin. Get the T-shirt.