Deb Klein makes Beef Bourguignon

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International travel stirred Deb Klein's interest in cooking, especially when it came to fiery foods. The hotter the better.


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Down & Dirty Beef Bourguignon by Deb Klein for P1 cut out.


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Deb Klein tones things down for her version of beef bourguignon.


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Deb Klein makes Beef Bourguignon

Like 500 degrees of flavor? It's no sweat for this cook

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print story Published: 11/10/2009 10:30 PM

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When the pizza is spicy enough to "about blow our heads off," and the stir-fry makes her sneeze, cough or momentarily unable to breath, Deb Klein knows "I've got it right."

If some like it hot, Deb and her husband, Kurt, like it hotter.

"We don't even break a sweat anymore," she says. "We've really adapted well."

Instead of adding salt to food Deb builds flavor with homegrown habaneros, jalapenos and "squiggly" red and green Thai peppers.

Kurt grows them in their Winfield garden, Deb cooks them fresh or dries them in a dehydrator, filling a shaker with a fiery combination of flakes.

"It tides us through the winter," she says.

Deb's latent interest in food caught fire five or six years ago when she changed careers and started traveling internationally. A former prosecuting attorney in Idaho, she moved back to the Midwest and became a professor of criminal justice at the College of DuPage.

"I had more time to put toward cooking, but what sparked everything was the travel," she says.

From restaurant meals and a couple of hands-on cooking classes she learned to love blazing hot Asian and Indian foods in Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and London.

"The best way to experience another culture is through their food," she says.

Deb came home with recipes, new flavors and cooking techniques that "rekindle memories that satisfy all the senses, rather than simply looking at photos."

With a flexible teaching schedule Deb cooks dinner every night, moving from recipe to recipe like a woman with too many new things to taste and too little time. Dinner parties for a dozen are routine affairs despite a "teeny tiny" kitchen and cramped dining space. The couple converts the living room to a dining room for those occasions.

Deb shares those memories this week with a trio of recipes from her travels, one hot, two not.

Her authentic New York City chicken salad is cool and creamy, with a cucumber accent.

"Oh my god, you can't go to New York without experiencing deli food, and my favorite thing is chicken salad," says Deb, who has been perfecting her own version for years.

She fans the flames with her own version of an English pub classic: Shepherd's pie, and then mellows out with a simplified version of a French classic, beef bourguignon.

Apparently even those with iron taste buds enjoy a reprieve now and then.

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