Thursday, January 23, 2014

Roasting poblano chili peppers

This exquisite emerald melange is a bowl of freshly roasted poblano chili peppers. Poblanos are roasted to remove their tough skins, and in the process you also gain a sublime, smokey charred flavor that you just can't get from a store bought can of them. It's a bit of a chore to do, so I usually roast the peppers in huge batches and keep them in small zip-lock baggies in the freezer. Then I add them to meals such as my vegetarian three bean chili, turkey chilior green chili stew with chicken. they are a mild pepper (meaning not too spicy) so I even add them to scrambled eggs—a holdover from my Taos, New Mexico ski-bum days. If I am going to stuff them I only roast a few at a time, then slice down the middle to remove the seeds before stuffing them with black beans, veggies and cheese. A few years ago I wrote a post about the otherworldly aroma of these peppers roasting on the roadsides  in Taos. Read that and see my stuffed chili pepper recipe by clicking here. You can find poblano chili peppers at most grocery stores to roast them yourselves. Read below to see how I do it.

In the summer I'll do this over the grill, or sometimes I'll roast them over the gas flames on my stove. I just happened to have around 20 peppers the day I roasted these, so it was much quicker to roast in the oven. Place your chili peppers on a sheet pan and place under the broiler. Keep turning the peppers with a pair of long tongs to make sure each side is black and blistered. The roasting process takes around 10-15 minutes. As each pepper looks sufficiently charred all sides, remove them and place in a paper bag or container with a cover to steam them for about 5 minutes, which will help you remove the tough skins. They look all puffed up with steam when you first take them out of the oven but they will deflate as they cool off. At this point I slit them down the middle to further cool them, because trust me, the steam is hot and you'll burn your hands. On that note, it's a good idea to put on your rubber gloves now, before you proceed to the next step.

The outside is blacked and the seeds are on the inside.

Scrape the skin off the outside by pulling off with your hands and scraping the stubborn bits with a knife. I don't mind leaving some blackened bits here and there to show that they've been lovingly blackened. Then cut off the stem and the seeds, and scrape out any visible seeds. 

After scraping the outside and the inside this is what you have left (above), a tender roasted poblano chili, and a beautiful triangle of green. This is the most time-consuming and messiest part of the job, but to me it's fun because I like to get my hands dirty. Have a compost bucket nearby to toss all the scraps into. 

Once this is done you will have a pile of whole, green chili peppers. At this point, I chop the peppers up into half inch chunks, then put into individual zip-lock baggies and toss in the freezer for a later use. Yes, it's a labor of love, but so much greener and fresher tasting than anything you'll get from a can. 

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