|Roasted Red Peppers|
|Features - The Craft of Cooking|
|Written by Lizzy Butler|
An unexpected gathering; a stormy New England day; the looming question of ‘What’s for dinner?’ after a long day at work; a sudden surge of hunger that cannot be ignored...we’ve all been there. We’ve all had those days when we need to whip up something fast without major planning or a trip to the grocery store. Although these situations can quickly turn into culinary nightmares, the solution starts within the walls of your kitchen. If I’ve learned anything about managing my own kitchen at home, one resurfacing truth has always been this: a well stocked pantry means a well prepared cook. No matter the source of pressure, it is aways comforting to know that our favorite backbone ingredients will be there for us upon opening the cabinet doors in times of need.
I can tell you a few of my own pantry staples that I know are sitting there right at this moment: chicken stock, canned tomatoes, black beans, bread crumbs, jarred salsa...the eclectic list could go on. When I’m pressed for time, they pull through tremendously, and I am very thankful for that. But for the sake of time and convenience, flavor and quality are often sacrificed.
The other afternoon this pantry characteristic came to my attention upon opening a jar of roasted red peppers. Being a lover of the uniquely sweet flavor of red bell peppers, I was disappointed by the bitter, preservative aftertaste with every bite. Even the peppers themselves seem ashamed of their lackluster and subpar qualities with their limp texture and color. I reluctantly added them to my sandwich.
Sure, they did fine in a pinch, but was this really the best I was going to get every time I wanted a roasted red pepper at home without paying an arm and a leg for them at a store or restaurant? I certainly hoped not! That’s when I learned the art of roasting peppers at home, and boy I will tell you, it’s hard to ever go back. The texture is fantastic, the flavor unbeatable, and they are without a doubt worth the extra ‘effort’ in the kitchen. I say effort loosely here, since roasting your own peppers at home is as easy as turning on your broiler. And, in my opinion, any recipe that asks you to deeply char your food is not something to pass up. With this newfound culinary technique, you will be able to call upon it for future peppers and beyond, just as you call upon your pantry to find your go-to, reliable ingredients. Because a well prepared cook doesn’t always just have her staple ingredients at her back, but her best culinary tricks too.
Once you get a hang of the technique, make sure to try bell peppers of all colors. Red, yellow, orange, green...even poblano or anaheim peppers too!
Roasted Red Peppers
2-4 Red Bell Peppers
Move your oven rack to the highest position, with enough room left between it and the top of the oven to fit a sheet pan covered in bell peppers. Preheat the broiler to high.
Wash the peppers and completely dry them with paper towels. Slice each pepper in half lengthwise. Remove the stem, core, and any white ribs inside.
Place each pepper-half cut-side down on a sheet pan lined with tin foil. Place the pan in the oven on set rack and broil for anywhere from 8-12 minutes (depending on the strength of your broiler), or until the peppers’ skins are deeply charred and blistered. You may need to rotate the pan half way through to promote even charring.
Take the sheet pan out from under the broiler. Carefully remove the hot, blackened pepper halves from the pan and place in them in a large bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (make sure the seal is secure) and let steam, undisturbed, for at least 15 minutes. (Alternatively, you can use a ziploc bag with a sturdy, fully sealable zip-top to steam the peppers) Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl. Peel off and discard the charred skins from each pepper half. The skin should separate from the flesh with ease.
They will be ready for you to slice, add to a recipe, or just plain eat, right then and there! Add to salads and sandwiches, homemade hummus or quesadillas, or wow your guests by adding them to an antipasto platter. The sky’s the limit.
photos © Lizzy Butler
Lizzy is a recent graduate of the University of Vermont with a degree in Spanish. Along with language, Lizzy cites food as her other life's passion. Lizzy recently participated in the program WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) while working on an organic fruit orchard in Colorado and is now back in Massachusetts for an internship at America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated Magazine. Lizzy also has her own blog where she recounts the stories behind the food she eats and creates through her writing and photography (lizzy-onceuponaplate.blogspot.com). Lizzy's food philosophy: "I believe every aspect of the food world is equally as fascinating as they are important to each and every one of us, and am very excited to see where these interests lead me in my professional life."