I first had to learn how to roast and peel peppers--something I had watched the maids do with poblano peppers at home, as they prepared to make chiles rellenos (mmmm!). The recipe I was working from at that time had me roasting the peppers over an open flame, turning them as their skins burned, to blacken them evenly. Then I was instructed to put them in a plastic bag and let them steam in their residual heat, which would loosen the skins for easy removal. This worked marginally well, but it took forever and the skins were still pretty hard to get off. I've since figured out a much easier and more effective way to do this, which I'll share with you. What follows is not so much a recipe as a step-by-step guide to making peperonata:
|Wash the peppers. Select the fleshiest ones you can find for this, because after roasting them, their flesh will shrink by almost half the original thickness, and if the peppers are too thin, they will virtually cook through at this stage, and then the final result will be way too mushy to properly satisfy the peperonata craving.|
|Cut them into quarters, remove the seeds and membranes, and trim the cut sides so the pieces will lie flat in the next step.|
|When the skins have blackened nicely, remove the tray from the oven. Some may need to be turned and roasted a little longer in order to get the whole surface.|
|Cut the peppers into pieces about an inch and a half square.|
|Cut some onions into similar-sized pieces. Peel and thinly slice some garlic.|
|Consider it done when the juices have reduced down to a thick sauce and the vegetables are very tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed, to suit your palate. That's it.|
This is wonderful stuff, with more than a couple of uses. To start you off on a long list I've yet to reach the end of, it makes a fabulous pasta sauce, a rich condiment, something to dip bread into, an accompaniment for polenta, a side dish in its own right as part of an Italian-inspired menu, a thoughtful gift to bring when you're invited to someone's house, and something to eat in the middle of the night if you're still up. I just made some today, and it's past midnight where I am...
I do recommend that when you make this, make a lot of it. It isn't a lot more hassle to do eighteen peppers than it is to do six, and a freshly made peperonata will keep at least a week in the refrigerator (not that it will last that long, trust me). If you want a detailed recipe, stay tuned--it'll be in my next book, due out spring of 2012. Chopped parsley is the ideal garnish for this, by the way.