Roasting Red Peppers

Tomorrow’s post will be R’s nearly-famous Roasted Red Pepper Soup … a surefire way to fight off the effects of the impending SNOWPOCALYPSE and make you forgot about its cousin, ICEZILLA, which is headed this way on Thursday. It would be up today, but there’s no bloody way I was going to spend $6 per POUND on red peppers at an unnamed grocery store, even if the store’s name rhymes with Troll Nudes. No wonder I never shop there.

We will, however, talk a little bit about roasting red peppers, in case you want to get started. Actually, roasted red peppers are a thing of beauty in their own right, and have myriad uses, so a person would be wise to have a stash of these around to use for sandwiches, eggs, tacos, salads, sauces, antipasti, rice, and so on.

There are plenty of ways to roast peppers, some easier than others, and most of them work just great. Actually, using the word “roast” is pure custom — you can broil, grill, or napalm these babies and get almost identical results. The principle behind this whole thing, which is after all the important part, is to apply heat to the peppers in order to cook them and blacken their skin, after which you peel them and remove the stem and seeds. Much like another well-known agricultural product, nobody wants their stash of red peppers to be full of stems and seeds.

Whatever process you use, the end result should be cooked, peeled pepper flesh that has started a caramelize a bit, deepening the flavor profile and creating a smokier, sweeter beast … kind of like the Humboldt Kitchen crew after a tall single malt scotch.

Some would have you fire up the gas burner and grab a pair of tongs, roasting the pepper over the flame like a marshmallow over a campfire. This gets boring after a few minutes, but works great in a pinch, like when your oven is preoccupied. Long story short, you roast the peppers this way until the skin is black, then stick them in a glass bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. When they’ve cooled, use a clean dish rag, paper towels, or your fingers to rub most of the blackened skin off, and then remove the stem and seeds. I usually take off the hard tip at the bottom, too, but that’s just me.

For more than one or two peppers, I prefer to use the oven.

  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Scrub all the nasty stuff off the surface of your peppers, like the wax coating, the sticker, and the salmonella.
  3. Arrange the peppers on a sheet pan, leaving an inch or two of space between them to prevent their steaming instead of roasting.
  4. When the oven is hot, place the sheet pan onto the top rack. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on your oven and the peppers. Every 10 minutes or so, turn the peppers using tongs … CAREFULLY, BECAUSE THAT 500 DEGREE OVEN WILL TORCH YOUR SKIN … or just grab the sheet pan with an oven safe glove and give it a good shake to shift and turn the peppers a bit. Unlike babies, you can and should shake your sheet pan.
  5. When the peppers are all blackened, remove them from the oven and place them (with tongs, not your fingers) into a bowl that won’t melt, and cover them with plastic wrap.
  6. When the peppers have cooled enough for you to handle them, use a clean dish rag, paper towels, or your fingers to rub the blackened skin off.
  7. Cut a circle around the stem on the top of each pepper and remove the stem and seed pod, picking through the inside of the pepper for any seeds that may have come loose. I like to remove the little nib at the bottom of the pepper, too, but like I said, that’s just me.
  8. Use immediately, or pop them in a ziplock and stick them in the fridge for a few days. If you want to keep them longer, pack them in a jar or ziplock and top it off with olive oil.

I should probably mention that if you want to do this more quickly and feel comfortable concentrating on what your oven is doing to your peppers for a bit, then by all means preheat your (top) broiler or (charcoal or gas) grill, remove the stems and seeds from your peppers, and cut them in half so they lay flat. If using the broiler, put them skin side up on a sheet pan and stick them in. If using a grill, lay them skin side down over the flames. Now, watch and wait, making sure if you are broiling not to lose too much heat by keeping the oven door open too wide. When the skin side of the peppers blackens, remove them and follow steps 5, 6, and 8 above.


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