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#1104 - Peppers
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October 2, 2012 #1104 Peppers
All summer long we've been gazing fondly at the pepper tables of our local farmers markets. If you love color, texture and intricate shapes, then you can't beat peppers for sheer appearance. We don't know exactly how many varieties we grow here in Maryland, but peppers seem to thrive. One thing is certain: you can put an entire spectrum of color and flavor into your dishes by using peppers.
One of the most interesting is a regional heirloom variety called "fish peppers," which were prized by African-American cooks back in the 19th century. When they are young, the peppers are creamy white. As such, they were used to give flavor and heat to white sauces used with fish (hence their name). Their foliage is quite attractive, and when the smallish pods mature they become a brilliant red... well liked by landscapers. The fish pepper is hot but not scorching hot, so a little of it in a recipe can kick up the flavor.
We have a large number of sweet peppers growing in Maryland. Of course the Bell Peppers, which come in green, yellow, orange or red, have not a trace of heat but offer a sweet crunch to dishes. Also, easy to find are the yellow banana peppers, and the long yellow-green Anaheim peppers.
A touch hotter are the pablano peppers, which are dark green and fat. They do ripen into a hot red variety, and they are often smoked or dried... becoming ancho peppers. Closely related is the chipotle pepper, which is a dried and often smoked jalapeno. You can go hot with raw jalapenos, which are moderately hot, but not scorching. Or you can go full bore with the notorious Scotch Bonnet pepper... pretty, and tiny, and fiery hot.
What to do with peppers: aside from cutting them up and serving them raw in salads, or skewering them for kabobs, there are a lot of ideas. Grilled peppers retain their sweetness and acquire a richer flavor, and are great side dishes. And some of the larger, mild peppers are perfect for stuffing... often with ground meat and spices.
There are tons of Indian curry recipes that call for peppers with all degrees of heat. They are often mixed with other vegetables such as squash, onion and potatoes to make a complex stew
Finally, one of the most classic uses of peppers is to create a Mexican mole. If you haven't encountered a mole, we're talking about a thick, ultra-flavorful sauce that is arguably more of a condiment than a pure sauce in the French sense. Mole recipes are often quite long, and require considerable cooking time... but the results are stunning. Do a little research into Mexican cucina, and give it a try.
Here's a nice recipe perfect for this time of the year that is made largely from ingredients found in Maryland markets.
Al's Pepper Pot Stew
A Radio Kitchen Original Recipe
(Note: when cleaning hot peppers, wear rubber gloves and do not touch your eyes.)
1 each: red, yellow, orange and green Bell pepper, de-stemmed, de-seeded and cut into 1" pieces
2 long yellow banana peppers, de-stemmed, de-seeded and cut into long strips
2 jalapeno pepper (or any other moderately hot peppers) de-stemmed, de-seeded, and chopped into a medium mince
1 poblano pepper, de-seeded and cut into coarse chunks
2 small sweet yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tbs ground black pepper
kosher salt to taste
1 cup chicken broth
12 small yellow fingerling potatoes, cleaned and quartered lengthwise
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut up into bite-sized pieces
2 cooked andouille sausages (or similar dried sausage) cut up into one inch pieces
1. In a heavy non-stick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, and toss in the peppers and onions and the seasonings. Stir and evenly cook until they are tender and start to sear. Remove from heat, and set aside.
2. In a large, deep sauce pan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer and toss in the potatoes. Just as they start to become tender, add in the chicken and sausage. Keeping the heat low, cook for about 10 minutes uncovered.
3. Add the peppers and onions to the stew and continue cooking for about another 15 minutes over low heat. Keep the pan uncovered, and allow the liquid to evaporate and thicken. Check the flavor and adjust seasoning
4. Prior to serving, heat the stew up again and gently stir the ingredients. Serve over Basmati rice.