Sunday, February 5, 2012

How-to: Roasted peppers

Time: 1 hour...maybe. It takes me a few hours, but it's greatly dependent on amounts.

bell peppers or chile peppers (allergic folks, check on waxes and coatings)
(optional) oil with a flavor that won't clash with the peppers

Flat pan or cookie sheet
Glass bowl
Plastic wrap or tinfoil or a big, flat plate (really allergic folks, check on the plastic wrap and foil for additives or coatings)
Oven or BBQ grill

1. If you are using a grill, get it started so that it will be hot by the time you finish prepping the peppers. Wash the peppers clean. Turn on oven broiler if you are using that.

2. For the grill, put the peppers on the grill and cook, turning, until the skins are blackened on each side. Not completely black everywhere, but a good chunk of these suckers should be blackened. This might work on foil or a thin, heat resistant pan, like something that could be used for camping and campfires, but I'm not sure if it would just fry them.

3. For the oven, put the peppers on the flat pan or cookie sheet, lying on their sides, with a little space between each one. Stick them under the broiler, on the top rack, and turn periodically until they are blackened over the majority of the skin, or at least half of it, all sides having a little black. A tip here, if you have an electric oven. I have read that the electric ovens will turn on the broiler heating element  and then turn it off as the heat reaches 500 F and then it goes on and off and on again to maintain that temp. A cooking blog (can't remember which) once said to leave the oven door cracked a bit when you are trying to broil foods in the oven, because then the broiler element never turns off.

I don't know if this is true, but every time I've left the door cracked, my broiler-cooked food has cooked faster and with more blackening, so I'm betting there's something to this.

4. When you take the peppers from the grill or the oven, pile them in a clean glass bowl. Now you want to cover the bowl and try to seal it as best you can, to keep the steam in with the peppers. I believe plastic wrap can be a corn hazard (some is coated with corn oil, is what I've heard, though I haven't confirmed that). I use tinfoil and then put a heavy plate on top to ensure the seal, but the plate itself would likely be fine if it is flat enough.  Leave the peppers this way for at least 20 minutes, but longer is fine, too. I typically forget about it for 30-60 minutes, until it has cooled enough to handle.

5. Now, take them out one at a time. The steam should have loosened the skins so you can peel them. Start by taking the pepper in one hand, then take the stem in the other hand and pull - frequently, all the guts will come out with the stem. But you can scoop out the rest of the seeds with your fingers, anyway. And if you are like me and you are doing this because you can't BUY roasted peppers, you're probably not so picky about whether there's a few seeds left behind anyway. It's more fiber. We need that, right? ;-)

6. Then, take the skin of the peppers and slowly peel it from the flesh. And seriously, this stuff comes off easy-peasy. It will just slough right off. If it seems to stick to the pepper and is coming off in tiny little bits as you try and scrape it off with your thumbnail (and cursing a lot)? That's usually a sign you haven't cooked that part of the pepper enough, is all. Get it a little more blackened or a little more cooked all around, the next time you try. 

7. You'll end up with a bunch of slimy, roasted peppers and some juices, now. I typically freeze these in small baggies or in tinfoil, in the amount I'm likely to need all at once.

8. I tend to do large batches of this, but it's more of a round robin thing than doing them all in the oven at once, because they don't blacken well if they are not near the heat. And I only have a limited number of glass bowls to use, so I finish one set, cook something in the oven while the peppers are steaming, and then steam another batch.

What you can do use these for:

1. Sauce recipes that you don't want to cook too much.
2. Soups
3. Warm and cold salads
4. You can save the seeds from the roasted chile peppers and add them to soups for a kick. This is actually really commonly done with certain poblano chile soups, normally. I just gather the seeds and freeze them for later use, too.

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