BUZZCOOK'S PEPPER-ROASTING METHODS AND PEPPER RECIPES
Over the last couple years, fresh hot peppers have been available in Grocery stores across America. Once a specialty item, the Chile Pepper is now available to a much wider audience. I thought I'd share how I use these wonderful treats.
While I use various peppers fresh, I've been roasting peppers for the last two years just for the heck of it. This is especially true of Jalapeno Peppers, which are plentiful and inexpensive, with prices as low as 50 cents per pound. And the Jalapeno is a perfect choice for roasting.
Peppers fall into either thick-walled or thin-walled types. Examples of the thick are Bells, Pasilla, and Jalapeno. The thin include the Habanera, Goat, and Tabasco. It is much easier to roast the thick-walled variety, as the thin-walled type tends to burn the pepper's flesh before the skin is properly blackened.
If you get the urge to roast your own, the best method I've found is to use a large gas broiler. If you haven't got one of those hanging about, use an out door gas or charcoal grill. If you have a gas cook top in your kitchen, you can hold the peppers over the flame. Still ain't got it? Then try using the electric broiler in your oven, or place a heavy dry skillet on an electric cook top.
The goal of roasting is to blacken the skin of the pepper to the point where it blisters and chars. Pay close attention when roasting those thin-walled peppers or all you will have is a pile of ash.
Roast the peppers whole. Whichever method you use, it will take from 4 to 8 minutes. Rotate the peppers as the side nearest the heat begins to blister. Trial and error should give you a good idea of how much is enough. For a nice sweet ripe pepper you might want to stop before it blisters and blackens and eat it just like that.
After you roast them, pop the peppers into a plastic or paper bag or airtight container, and place them in the refrigerator and let them steam to separate the charred skin from the flesh. (At this point you may leave the peppers in the fridge for a week or so, or they may be frozen without affecting their flavor.)
This is a controversial point. When you next use the peppers, some people advocate peeling off the blackened skin of the pepper, some don't. The pros of peeling are that most of the bitterness and a fair amount of the heat, goes with the skin. The cons are that if you've used a charcoal broiler, you lose some of the smoky flavor, and some people actually like the burned flavor in certain dishes. My own preference is to peel the peppers, but not to be too fastidious.
Peeling the peppers also has controversies of its own. I place the peppers in a bowl of water or hold then under running faucet and rub the skin off. If you've roasted them right the skin comes off real easily. Others eschew the water because it might wash away the peppers flavor. So if you're of that school, just rub the peppers and use a sharp knife to scrape off the burned skin. (You don't have to peel the whole bunch; just enough to use in the dish you're making.) With that done, lop off the stem and split the pepper in half. The seeds and membrane should rinse (pull) out without much trouble, which is why we roast them whole.
Remember the seeds and membrane contain most of a peppers heat and the membrane is very bitter. If you want extra heat leave some seeds in the pepper, but get rid of that membrane.
Before I go onto a couple of recipes, let me give an obligatory warning. Even a relatively mild pepper like the Pasilla will irritate the skin with prolonged contact. Latex gloves should be used when you're peeling and cleaning these peppers. If you're using one of the truly hot peppers, such as the Habanera, you should avoid getting the steam from the roasting peppers in you eyes. You might consider protective goggles.
For example, my own hands are used to handling all sorts of caustic goop, especially Chiles. I thought that I wouldn't need gloves to peel a 5-pound batch of Jalapenos, as I had not been burned by smaller batches of 1 to 2 pounds. That was a mistake that took repeated hand washing to cure.
In another case, handling only one Habanera caused a great deal of discomfort when I subsequently had to use the rest room. This happened even after I had washed my hands four times. So be careful out there. (In a dire emergency use whole milk or cream to rinse off the pepper oil. The pepper oil combines with the milk fat, making it less active.)
OK, so what can you do with these things once you've gone to the trouble? That is if I haven't scared you off with my caustic stories.
One thing that I've done is to whip up a basic Pesto Sauce. I substitute Pistachios for the pine nuts and add chopped peppers and chopped bacon. Toss the Pesto with some al dente angel hair pasta, top with cooked chicken or shrimp, and you have a nice dish. For you vegetarians, remove the bacon from the Pesto and throw in some firm Tofu. I like to use ripe red peppers for this because of the color contrast.
Another use for your roasted pepper is to add ½ teaspoon ground Cumin to a thin pancake batter following your own recipe. Put 1 or 2 roasted Jalapenos in the batter as you cook the pancake. Roll some cheddar cheese in the completed pepper pancake. Top the pancake with your choice of salsa, sour cream, and chopped onions, tomatoes, and black olives.
Finally, you can make your own pepper sauce:
Combine 12 roasted Jalapenos with one cup of red wine vinegar. Add 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon ground Cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 clove of garlic (peeled and chopped) and the juice of 1 lime. Liquefy the mixture in a blender. Let the sauce sit for a week in the fridge before use, to let the vinegar mellow. The sauce will keep at least six months in the refrigerator. I use the sauce as a condiment and to spice up my stir-fries.
Well, give it a try; just remember about the gloves.
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