Friday, September 07, 2012

Roast Peppers For Maximum Flavor

Whether you call them peppers, chilis or chiles, there is something magical about these fruits of the capsicum plant and, in my opinion, they are at their very best when roasted over an open flame. Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood explains how and what to do with them.

While it may be the end of summer everywhere else, ours runs through September (and into October if we’re really lucky). Sunny afternoons, cool evenings and a cornucopia of great produce. Especially peppers.

Now’s the time when the smell of peppers roasting wafts through the farmers' market or even the grocery store parking lot. You can usually buy roasted peppers, but it’s easy to do yourself. My first published food story was about roasting peppers, and back in the 1980s I did it with the propane torch I used for waxing my cross country skis (just knowing that skis were once waxed really dates me).

These days I usually roast peppers in the oven or over coals on the Weber. But a hot-burning torch has advantages, especially when you want to make something like chile rellenos. The hot torch (or even the gas flame on your stovetop) blisters the skins quickly and the pepper doesn’t cook as much as it does in the oven. The firm chiles hold their shape better for rellenos, but for chile verde it’s not so important.

Chile Verde

My version is inspired by the green chile ubiquitous in the American southwest, but I won’t claim it’s authentically anything except really tasty. Use mild chiles like Anaheims if you can’t take the heat; poblanos are usually a bit hotter, but always taste any chile first. It’s a good idea to wear gloves, and a note that you can see from your work area reminding you not to touch your eyes or other sensitive body parts isn’t a bad idea.

Roast several chiles (45 minutes in a 350 oven or hold with fork over a gas flame until the skin is blistered and blackened) or use pre-roasted chiles. Scrape most of the blackened outer skin off , but don’t worry if some is still clinging. Pull out the seed core and as much of the seeds as you can (run under cold water if you like). Chop them up coarsely.

Chop an onion and maybe a few garlic cloves; cook in extra virgin olive oil (or pork fat, or any other animal fat) for a few minutes. Sprinkle in a bit of ground cumin and a good pinch of oregano; add some salt. Stir in the chiles, sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of flour and cook for a few minutes. Add about a half cup of water, bring to a boil and let simmer for a few minutes more.

Serve over eggs, on a cheeseburger, alongside tamales or with almost anything.

Pork Option

Cut pork shoulder (country style “ribs”) into chunks. Brown a little, add water, and simmer for a couple of hours (add more water if necessary). When the pork is very tender, break it apart with a fork and add some chile verde. Serve over Koda Farms brown rice.

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