Friday, September 19, 2008

Pepper roasting 101

Posted By on 09.19.08 at 03:36 PM

I made roasted peppers for the first time last weekend, inspired by the fact that over a few weeks, I'd accumulated 12 sweet peppers and 6 jalapeños from my CSA share (thanks, Vera!) and had no idea what else to do with them. I learned a few things that weren't mentioned in the first three links I clicked on after googling "roasted pepper" (after reading a few different sets of instructions, I decided I knew everything I needed to know about roasting peppers, which turned out to be not entirely true). If you've ever roasted peppers yourself, this is probably a good point to stop reading, as I'm unlikely to tell you anything you don't already know. But for other newbies, here's what I discovered:

  1. Roasting peppers is a pain in the ass. I'm not against making stuff myself—I love making hummus, and I spent the summer growing basil so I could make pesto. But the way I roasted the peppers (in the broiler; other options I found online and rejected are over the flame of a gas stove or in the oven) took probably 40 minutes or so, and I had to check and turn them every 5-10 minutes. Then I had to let them cool for a while, and after that I removed the skins, seeds, and membranes. It took me a couple hours total, although to be fair I also made and ate dinner in that time.
  2. You're supposed to coat the peppers with oil—but not olive oil, since it has a low smoke point. Faced with a choice between coating my peppers with rancid canola oil or extra virgin olive oil (extra virgin is the worst in terms of smoke point; extra light is the best), I went with the olive oil. I didn't have any problems with smoking.
  3. Most of the instructions I read said to roast the peppers until they turn black. I think that once they get charred, they’re harder to peel because the skin flakes off instead of coming off in one piece. It also tends to char the flesh underneath, which I didn't like. In the future (in the unlikely event that I do this again in the future) I’ll take them out when they first start to turn black instead of waiting for them to blacken all over.
  4. After they're done cooking, you're supposed to put them in a paper bag or covered bowl to steam. Maybe I left them in there too long, but their texture when I got around to peeling off the skins was pretty unpleasant. I don't know the exact word for it. Slimy is the first adjective that comes to mind, but there was no slime on them—they were just squishy and slippery. It reminded me of why I don't deal with raw chicken.

 

Roasting jalapeños as well as sweet peppers made the process a little more exciting. I’ve heard that you should wear gloves when cutting up chiles, but I’ve always ignored that advice on the grounds that 1) it probably only applies to wimps, and 2) I don’t own any plastic gloves. I’ve never had trouble before, so I didn’t bother with it this time either. Bad idea. A few things to note:

  1. By the time your skin starts burning, it’s too late. Washing your hands won’t help.
  2. Ice helps, but only as long as you’re actively applying it. If you had plans for the evening other than nursing your chile burns, you're out of luck.
  3. The burning does wear off eventually—in my case, after about an hour. But some stories I read online said it can last eight hours or more.

 

So just because something is a WikiHow doesn't mean it's easy to do, or even necessarily something you'd want to do (case in point: cleaning horses' sheaths—if you don't know what that is, you probably don't want to). But overall, the experiment was actually pretty successful. I've tried the roasted peppers a couple times this week, and they're not bad. If I roast peppers again I'll reduce the amount of time I leave them in the broiler, which I may have overdone. And I'll wear gloves when I cut up the jalapeños.

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