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How to Roast Peppers

Roasted Peppers:

 

In my estimation there is almost nothing like freshly roasted peppers in olive oil with just a touch of garlic and salt and pepper. For a long time I resisted roasting the peppers for my favorite antipasto dish, thinking it was just too much trouble. Then, after too tentative beginnings, I finally learned to roast them to perfection. It would have been much easier if I had just been able to watch it being done, but I was working from written directions and knew only how the peppers looked before roasting and after they were peeled.


It really doesn’t matter if you want to roast the peppers whole, in halves, or in pieces. One of my favorite cooks prefers to cut the raw peppers into the finished size before starting to roast them. The end result is the same, but it may require more attention to taste whole peppers.


Whether you are going to roast the peppers whole or cut up, the process is pretty much the same. In fact, while they are usually called roasted peppers, they aren’t actually baked in the oven like, say, roast beef. Rather, they are broiled, grilled, or singed over an open flame. The key is to have very hot coals, a preheated broiler, or a gas burner set on high, and to have the courage to char the skin until it is completely black. Not only will that make the peppers a cinch to peel, it gives them that wonderful smoky flavor that makes them so special.


My gas grill has lava rocks, and I put the peppers directly on the rocks. If you are grilling over charcoal, bring the rack as close to the coals as you can, or lay the whole peppers directly on the coals. If you are using the broiler in your electric stove, it may be best to at least cut the peppers in half lengthwise and to move the rack as close to the broiler burner as possible. If you have a gas salamander or your broiler is open-flame gas, move the rack up until the peppers are almost in touch with the flame. An open-flame gas burner is fine too. Simple spear the whole peppers on a long handled fork and turn them in the flame until well charred. And, in a pinch, I have put the peppers – or at least pieces – directly on an electric burner.


Roast peppers, turning from time to time so that all the skin becomes black and blistered. The ends will be the most difficult and you may have to hold them down onto the grill. If you are roasting cut-up peppers, they do not need to be turned, as only the skin side should be charred.


Once the skin is crisp and black, place all the peppers in a paper or plastic bag. Seal and let stand 10 to 15 minutes. The charred skin should then peel off easily if you scrape them gently with a knife.


Once peeled, the peppers are ready to be used in salads, sandwiches, terrines, or anywhere else you want the smoky flavor.

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