Surviving Jalapeño Poppers Burn Is Not That Simple

Putting together the list of the top 10 Test Kitchen recipes of 2012 certainly was a walk down memory lane. I got to re-live moments like the Really Hot Wait For Peanut Brittle To Set In The Summer When There's No Room In The Freezer, and of course the beer can chicken outtakes — which really got out of hand once everyone left but myself and our photographer. Then I came upon our cache of jalapeño popper recipes and remembered what happened to Assistant Contributing Editor Laila Gohar, then editorial and test kitchen intern. I hope for everyone's sake (but especially hers) that this never happens to you.

We started football practice a month before the season started. Right, food. Not drills and running and pushing blocking pads around. Naturally, along with the chorizo potato bites and Baja fish nachos, I included three recipes for the essential deep-fried spicy snack:

Sometimes test kitchen helpers face risks nobody can anticipate. Like the time we had to send our other Assistant Contributing Editor George out, like, three times in a row. He came back, we sent him out. He came back, we sent him out. Poor dude. But I couldn't have predicted that asking Laila to hollow out 24 of Fresh Direct's apparently most skin-meltingly potent jalapeños would result in the worst case of capsaicin burn I've ever witnessed. About 18 peppers deep, she calmly announced that her hands were basically on fire, and did anyone know how to put them out?

We all proceeded to suggest old wives' remedies willy-nilly: when the yogurt didn't work (a trick of Laila's grandmother's, by the way), we tried sour cream, then butter just to be sure. Then we tried aloe vera gel, a bucket of ice, hand lotion and vodka (hey, we were desperate — she was in a ton of pain). And here's what's messed up. Nothing worked. Not a thing. I felt so bad. And most of the poppers themselves ended up being too spicy to eat with as much gusto as one might have saved their appetite for. Moi, for instance.

So, morals of the story: obtain jalapeño poppers for lunch today because nobody actually starts their short-lived healthy eating kick until the week after New Year's and always test a pepper from a batch you'll be stuffing to ensure you don't just have a beautiful pile of cheese-stuffed fried food everyone's too afraid to eat and which burns the dickens out of your test kitchen assistant's hands. Oh, and gloves help*.

*Editorial Director Richard Martin has had similar problems with capsaicin burns while chopping spicy peppers, and recommends at least using a paper towel to handle the little suckers if no gloves are available. And washing hands with soap and warm water immediately after contact with any spicy peppers.

More fried food encouragement for lunch on Food Republic: