Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How to: Fire-Roast a Pepper

Dear winter, you've gone on long enough. It's time to pack up your miserable freezing rain and blistering wind chill and take it somewhere else. While I do appreciate February's efforts in brevity, calender-speaking, we can move ahead into spring any time now. Annnnnyyyy time now (coupled with a show of checking wrist for invisible watch).

Darn this miserable late winter weather. Let's cook something over a fire, shall we? A tiny fire in my tiny Manhattan apartment on my super-tiny Magic Chef gas stove, but fire nonetheless.

The first time I saw someone plop a pepper directly over a gas stove fire was in a Mexican cooking class a few years ago. The guacamole recipe called for "roasted poblano pepper." I'll never forget the collective reaction of the class as the pepper, assisted by tongs, was placed over a high flame by the bold instructor. It seemed as though everyone for that brief second held their breath, recoiling ever so slightly, as if half-expecting the stove to erupt in a peppery fireball as a result of the lack of cookware to direct the heat. What happened instead, after a few settled moments, were a few hisses and pops, and then we were on our way to a true fire-roasted treat.

To roast your very own pepper, you need a gas stove top, a pair of tongs, and a pepper. Turn up the heat to high, and place the pepper over the flame. Turn the pepper over with the tongs as the skin gets black and when it has blackened all over, remove from the flame. To remove the flakey skin, you can either set it aside in a bowl to cool and then peel it off, or if you're impatient like me, run it under cold water to cool it off and wash off the black pieces. Use your roasted pepper in all kinds of recipes... such as...

Recipe for Easy Roasted Red Pepper Meatballs:
  • One pound of ground beef
  • One diced roasted red pepper
  • One clove of minced garlic
  • One small onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and Pepper

Mix all the ingredients above together in a big bowl. Roll the mixture into large meatballs and arrange in a single layer at the bottom of a big pot. Cover with a little tomato sauce and cook, with the pot's lid on, over medium heat until meatballs are done. Probably 10-15 minutes depending on size.

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