Monday, September 22, 2014

Gettin' my char on- Roasting peppers

What is it about a roasted pepper? The smoky undertones, vibrant color, and juicy pepper flavors make it a special treat for all kinds of dishes. Roasting peppers helps bring out the sweetness that's often hidden by a pepper's heat, or in the case of bell peppers, sharpness. Much like the caramelizing of onions, roasting peppers brings a whole new flavor profile to a vegetable that is often lost in the salad bowl, forgotten as a garnish, or piled onto a veggie tray and drowned in ranch dip.  

Fresh Hatch chilies ready to be roasted. The Hatch chili is one of the tougher
skinned peppers and is almost always roasted before using in dishes.

Gypsy peppers are very similar to bell pepper in size, thickness
and flavor and make a great pepper for use in salsa and any
roasted pepper dish. The red Gypsies are especially sweet.

With a table full of tomatoes to play with, I thought I'd get some salsa going, and instead of just throwing in some raw peppers, this time I would roast them first. I have a bowl of Hatch chilies to use up and they do have a thicker, tougher skin so removing that makes a much more enjoyable experience.

So how do you roast peppers anyway? It's easy- and there are a couple ways to do it. If you've got a grill, fire it up and throw them on the grill and turn often until charred all over. If you don't have a grill, you can roast them under the broiler, also turning all over until charred and blistered all over. Either way you go, once the peppers are charred and blistered and smelling wonderful, place them in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let them cool and they will steam and wrinkle and the skins are so easy to remove when cool. What you're left with is a delicious pepper to use in just about any recipe.

What kind of pepper can you roast? Well, pretty much any pepper. You will get better results with thicker peppers- ones with more "meat" and thicker skin than you will thin-walled peppers like habaneros, although you CAN still roast them and use them with a new smoky depth of flavor. Red bell peppers are often roasted and used in spreads, dips, and on antipasti platters. Some of the spicier peppers, such as poblanos, also benefit from a trip over the fire, and are big enough to handle easily.

Let's roast some peppers-

Since I am using the broiler to roast mine, I am preheating the broiler to high. Get your peppers ready by placing on a sheet tray. Remove any leaves but you can leave the stems on so you'll have something to grasp when peeling. Go ahead and set out a bowl to place the roasted peppers in too, and grab the plastic wrap.

Watch the peppers carefully while charring. I think the broiler takes longer than the grill. When you have evenly blistered skin and charred areas (the entire peppers doesn't need to be black) remove the peppers from the oven and place in a bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow them to steam as they cool.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, place on a cutting board. Using a knife, scrape and peel the charred and loosened skin off the pepper. 

It should come off quite easily. Cut off the stem and remove any seeds (I left the jalapeno seeds in my jalapenos but removed from the Hatch chilies) and place in a bowl. Doesn't that look beautiful? 

I've roasted my peppers, and removed the skins. Now what? You have a world of culinary options available to you at this point! Strips of roasted red pepper, marinated in a little olive oil and Italian herbs makes a fantastic addition to your antipasti. Add some to a homemade pizza with mushrooms and garlic. Add to sub sandwiches, crunchy panini or puree and create a smoky red pepper soup or dip. Add to hummus before processing. Chop up and add to tapenade when making a muffaletta for a crowd. Replace the tomatoes in a caprese salad and you get an entirely new flavor! Use your imagination- there literally is no end to how to use roasted peppers. Roasted peppers with a bit more heat make great salsas too- which is where mine are going!

My mixture of Hatch chilies, jalapeno and yellow and red gypsy peppers turned out super pretty and delicious. I almost don't want to put them in salsa! I'm quite sure if I had a loaf of crusty bread I would drizzle these babies with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and eat piled on slices of bread. Oh so good! 

No comments:

Post a Comment