My husband and some of my friends see peppers as a challenge. The hotter the better. They love to burn the heck out of their mouths and sweat & suffer afterward.
Not me. I like my food spicy, but I still like the ability to taste and enjoy my food after I feel the burn. Not the “Bern” that Bernie Sanders supporters feel 😉 , but the burn that a zip of spicy pepper adds to a dish.
Peppers, like salt, acid and fat, are essential flavor building blocks upon which dishes are built. In an article at www.bonappetit.com, Amiel Stanek encourages readers to “tease out” the subtle nuances of spice in the season’s crop of peppers using some very specific techniques. As someone who likes the taste, but not necessarily the need for a fire extinguisher after a bite, I appreciate the guidance.
Stanek reminds home cooks that peppers aren’t just spicy. They’re also flavor bombs hiding hints of fruitiness, floral notes, earthiness, and “funk.” To begin to experiment with these hidden flavors, a cook must first work on mellowing the pepper’s spice a bit:
- Remove the seeds – Using a paring knife or the edge of a spoon, remove the seed pod beneath the stem and white membranes that hold the rest of the seeds within.
- Char – You can do this whole on the grill, under the broiler, or directly on a stovetop gas burner and peel off the burnt layer before seeding them.
- Soak – Capsaicin, the compound that makes a pepper hot, is alcohol soluble. When using the hottest peppers, remove membranes and seeds, muddle, and soak in vodka for anywhere from a few hours up to a couple of days.
For a great, printable reference of the varied types of peppers and their levels of spiciness, from mild to “grab a fire extinguisher,” click on this link.
A recipe I shared earlier this year was for one of my favorite cocktail hour snacks on steak and salad night: Blistered Shishito Peppers. Take my advice and make a double batch! These suckers are addicting and one batch is never enough. If you have any left, put them in a re-sealable container or zip bag and toss in the refrigerator. These are easily revived in a hot pan with a splash of olive oil a day or two later.
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