In a related question, I asked about plating with bread for sampling chili. Here I need to find a cooling, as in take the heat off the capsaicin with fats, garnish.

For this question I would like to know how to garnish. I am making a bacon and pulled pork chili, and need a smooth, subtle garnish to take the edge off the peppers. First off, I will be dusting the top with a mixture of nutritional yeast and a smidge of dround coffee and ground, dried orange rind.

Initially I was inspired by the idea of a bacon flavored ice cream, served to the side of the bread with a hal strip of maple-smoked bacon candied in the oven with light brown sugar. The idea of being able to have a whole spoon of chili and then a nibble of the garnish is very appealing.

I pitched the idea at a friend and added, "but I don't want it to be frozen, or to melt." The cold would be impossible with the heavy texture of the chili, and melting would disturb the dusted topping.

We came up with a mixture of sour cream and cream cheese, with a bit of arrow root as a coagulant (since it will be semi-cold, I want it to retain some stiffness on the surface of the chili). Basically, blend it all up with some of the bits of candied bacon and some spices, then chill it over night in the fridge to marry the flavors until competition time.

  • What ratio would the above mixture need to be relative to arrow root (I haven't used it before)? By the teaspoon, tablespoon, fraction of a cup per cup of dairy?
    • Is there a better coagulant for the purpose
    • Are there any flavor/textural issues with arrow root that I should be aware of to begin with, and specifically in the context of sour cream / cream cheese?
  • Is there a better solution to fit the problem; that is, what other kind of ice cream like garnish could I use that would resist melting for a bit of time and would have a smooth texture and be able to nibble on with little scoops from the spoon?
  • Is this going to be put on the plate, put in some kind of contestant box, and then given to a judge to eat sometime in the next 20 minutes - or like served to (semi-)personally and judged almost immediately? – rfusca Aug 27 '11 at 2:18
  • @rfu I wish I knew, hopefully plated within 3-5 minutes of consuming – mfg Aug 27 '11 at 3:34

I'd avoid a coagulant if you can, it will likely keep this dense on whats already a rather dense sounding dish.

Personally, I'd beat loads of air into your sour cream/cream cheese mixture and serve a small whipped dollop of it. It will keep it light and still offset your spiciness a little. If the pork chili is the star, keep it complimented but not complicated.

  • Basically, you are 100% right with, "If the pork chili is the star, keep it complimented but not complicated." – mfg Aug 29 '11 at 1:59

I saw something on TV on Coldstone Creamery, and their secret was that their mix was actually frozen pudding ... so as it melts, it goes to pudding, not to cream.

I don't know if they were using starch for their pudding, or if it was more custard-like with eggs, though. I'd also agree with rfusca about whipping air into it, but not to keep it light -- the air should act as an insulator to slow down the melting.

  • Intriguing but im thinking it would go to pudding a bit too quick – mfg Aug 26 '11 at 22:42

I have a favorite snack that might fit the bill. It is a mixture of Cream Cheese, Butter, Sugar, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Cinnamon and All Spice, served on a graham cracker. Whip the CC & Butter and then add the spices and continue to whip until well blended. Refrigerate over night and spread over the graham crackers. It is best served cool, and will have a cooling effect but will not 'melt down'. I might add some chocolate chips to complement the coffee and orange.

  • Will it melt down if there's sour cream in it? – mfg Aug 26 '11 at 22:40
  • Sour Cream is a "more loose" dairy, so I would think the risk is higher, but not an 'absolute'. What kind of temp is it going to be exposed to, for how long... maybe if you sub some sour cream for some of the butter. A lot of variables there. – Cos Callis Aug 26 '11 at 23:08
  • A dollop of the mix on chili hot; small bowls maybe five minutes? – mfg Aug 26 '11 at 23:48
  • When you said "garnish" I thought "side". To go on top I would ease back on the sweet and blend the cream cheese with butter and maybe some of @rikons goat cheese with a little cinnamon sugar. – Cos Callis Aug 27 '11 at 0:05

It might break some sort of unwritten rule of chili, but mascarpone may do the trick. It will melt (really, spread) eventually, but not too quickly. The dairy will provide a cooling effect (to mitigate capsaicin). It's a similar texture to ice cream in some respects.

You can add embedded flavors as well in the style of a compound butter; I've used candied ginger in dessert applications; bits of crisped bacon might work well, too.

  • Im sure to try that some other time, but im just not familiar enough with the stuff to experiment this late. Any third opinions on mascarpone? – mfg Aug 26 '11 at 22:39
  • So I tried some mascarpone and I think it would have the same issue as sour cream but I think the texture might also work with a less thick chili really well. This stuff makes it feel initially like someone poured concrete in your skull – mfg Aug 27 '11 at 3:38

Did you want it to be sweet? I LOVE spreading goat cheese on crispy flat bread and using it to scoop the chili. The goat cheese is thick and creamy and gives that protection against the heat. If you wanted sweet though, you could potentially take plain goat cheese and add flavors.

  • I like the idea but if I go sweet it would need to be a very dense sugar. Based on the other sweet elements, honey and brown sugar especially, I think it would need to be a very sharp spike rather than a dispersed one – mfg Aug 27 '11 at 3:41

What about panna cotta?

It's not something frozen, but it's best cold and it won't melt (rapidly). It is smooth and you can nibble on with little bits.


The answer that struck me once I had gotten to the competition was that I should have blended bacon fat into the mixture.

One contestant was talking about having used it in his bread, and I upcycled mine into every other component; I just didn't think to beat it into submission into the fats of cream cheese and sour cream.

(Did I mention this was a Bacon Recipe Creation competition? Stupid me)

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