Tasty Tuesday: Roasting Peppers

I know, I know, I’ve been promising my Chile Verde recipe for months now….and I’m still promising it. This post really is germane to that promised recipe. Roasted chiles are an essential ingredient to chile verde and lots of other foods. I didn’t learn how to roast peppers until just a couple years ago, so I figure that are a few folks out there who need the information on how to do this at home.

You can buy roasted peppers in the grocery store but don’t. Roasted peppers are often packed in oil which dramatically increases their caloric content. And really….roasting peppers yourself is not a hard thing.

Start by buying good, fresh peppers. You can roast any fresh peppers. Bell peppers of all colors roast nicely, as do all the chiles you find over with the hotter produce. Look for peppers with firm flesh and taut, shiny skin. The deeper and clearer the color of the pepper, the better. If the pepper is soft or shriveled, only buy it if you have no other options.

There are a number of ways to roast peppers. For me, the time of year dictates how I roast peppers. During warmer weather, nothing can compare to roasting peppers on the grill. Wash the peppers and place them on the hot grill. Use tongs or a long fork to turn the peppers as the skins blacken. The trick is this: you want to blacken the skins without turning the pepper itself into charcoal. The pepper will cook as the skin blackens, but be sure to take the peppers off the heat before the flesh starts to char.

The second way that you can roast peppers, the preferred method for cold weather, is to arrange the washed peppers on a baking sheet and put them under the broiler in the oven until the skins start to brown and then blacken. Turn the peppers over so that the entire pepper gets blackened.

A third way to roast peppers is to put them into a 400 degree oven until they get very dark.

A fourth way to roast peppers is with a blowtorch. My husband really likes to roast peppers with this method because he can get every little bit of skin charred evenly.

No matter how you roast your peppers, the next step is critical. Put the darkened peppers into a large brown paper bag. Roll the top of the bag shut and let the warm peppers sit for at least 20 minutes in the tightly closed bag. This is an important step because the steam from the peppers helps the skins loosen up from the flesh of the peppers.

The next step involves removing the skin from the peppers. Sometimes, the skin just slides off. Sometimes it takes a little assistance. We’ve learned the hard way that plastic gloves are essential when working with really hot peppers. This is also when you need to remove the seeds and pith from the inside of the peppers. For the really hot peppers, this is important because the seeds contain a lot of the “heat” of the chiles.

For us, the easiest way to get the skins off is to hold onto the stem of the pepper, slice the pepper open, and use a small paring knife to scrape off the skins. Flip the pepper over and use the same paring knife to scrape the seeds away from the pepper. If you’re working with really hot chiles, be sure to keep track of which utensils, cutting boards, and gloves have come into contact with the peppers, seeds, skins, and juices. Rubbing your eyes can be a horrible experience, even hours after you’ve handled peppers without gloves.

Once you’ve skinned the peppers, you can either use them in whatever recipe you’re making or you can freeze them in a ziplock bag to use in the future.

Another thing that we’ve learned the hard way is that if you skin the peppers under running water, you wash away any smoky, roasted flavor. You might get the pepper cleaned more thoroughly or more quickly, but you’ll lose most of the flavor that you’re shooting for by roasting. So just DON’T.

This important life skill of roasting peppers will be necessary for making Chile Verde, but the roasted peppers are great for lots of other dishes as well. Roasted red peppers are a great addition to salads, hummus, sauces, pizza, and sandwiches. Roasted chiles are excellent in salsas, enchiladas, tamales, quesadillas, omelets, and casseroles. Roasted peppers keep well in the freezer and are easy to use.

I promise that next week, I will actually post the recipe for Chile Verde, the best food in the world. And with your mad pepper-roasting skillz, it will be easy to make!

Enjoy the lovely spring weather. We’re starting to think about picnics over in My Sister’s Kitchen. This year we’re looking for unusual picnic-friendly dishes that we can use to spice up our outdoor eating. If you have ideas that you already use, we’d love to hear about them.

Barb Kelley.