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  • iStock

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You've set the table, put on your favorite playlist, and opened a bottle of wine. Your friends will be over any minute. You give your dish a final taste to make sure it's good to go and suddenly your mouth is on fire.

The dish you've slaved over is waaaaay too spicy. You think, "Oh no, I've gone too far! I shouldn't have added that last dash of cayenne! I've rendered my dish inedible! Possibly lethal!" In a panic you consider tossing the whole thing in the trash and pulling out a frozen pizza.

Not to worry, we've got a few ways to salvage your dinner (and maybe even make it better).

  • 1. Cool down with dairy.

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    The capsaicin in chiles is what gives the peppers their burn. One of the best ways to counteract this chemical compound is by adding a dairy product: whole fat milk, heavy cream, yogurt, cheese, or sour cream. Even rich coconut milk can do the trick.

  • 2. Sweet salvation.

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    Sugars help to neutralize the heat of chile peppers. So try adding a little sugar or honey to balance out too-hot flavors.

  • 3. Bulk up the other ingredients.

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    Diffuse the heat by adding more of the major components of the dish. That might mean more broth, meat, or vegetables, depending on what you are making. Or improvise and add grated carrots, squash, or potatoes to soak up some of the spice.

  • 4. Serve with a side of starch.

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    Offer something neutral in flavor to temper the spiciness of your meal. Pasta, rice, bread, couscous, or grains are all good choices to serve with a spicy main.

    Check out more ways to put out food fires-- and what to do next time.

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