Sunday, September 18, 2011

PEPPERS FOR FRYING

How to eat a fried pepper.
Hold it by the stem and dangle the fried pepper over your mouth. Eat it whole, throw away the stem. Have another. Fried green peppers are a late-summer treat all over Spain. They are served as tapas—so good with a cold caña, draft beer—or as a side dish with steak, chops or fried eggs.

Long and kinky or short and stubby—two sorts of peppers are used for frying.

Thin-skinned frying peppers.
The ordinary green pepper (elsewhere called “Italian” frying pepper, though I bet they were Spanish before they were Italian) is skinny, often curled or twisted, with a pointy tip. It is thin-skinned and crisp, not fleshy like a bell pepper. The frying pepper is bittersweet in taste, not at all hot.

This is the pepper commonly used in a sofrito, a sauté of onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes that starts off many a Spanish dish.

Padrón peppers.



The other frying pepper is the famous pimiento de Padrón, a very small green pepper grown in Galicia in northwest Spain (and now elsewhere in the world as well; see http://www.tienda.com/food/products/vg-08.html ). Padrón, where the peppers originated, is a town not far from Santiago de Compostela. They are picked when still tiny (1 ½ to 1 ¾  inches).

Padrón peppers are related to jalapeños, which they somewhat resemble, but the “hot” has been gradually bred out of them. Well, not entirely. The peppers are famed for their flavor and the Russian-roulette chance that about one in ten is a fiery-hot chile. The smaller and earlier peppers are least likely to be spicy-hot. Later in the season, as the peppers mature, more will be hot. As a Galician saying has it, “The peppers of Padrón, some bite and others don’t.”

Incidentally, if you didn’t already know, Spanish food is nothing like the spicy-hot food of Mexico. Chile is used in very few dishes and then very judiciously.

Fried pimientos de Padrón.
So, how to fry peppers? The medium is olive oil and the only seasoning is sea salt. Don’t expect crisp or crunchy. Fried peppers emerge from the oil limp and toothsome.

I learned to make fried peppers in tapa bar kitchens in the village where I live. There I was instructed to make a slit in the bottom end of each frying pepper and rub a pinch of salt inside each one, then fry them slowly in olive oil until tender. The slit  prevents steam from accumulating. However, the smaller Padrón peppers are fried whole.

Pimientos de Padrón
Fried Padrón Peppers


Don’t let the oil get too hot—the peppers should not brown.

Serves 6 as a tapa or side dish.

1 pound Padrón peppers (75 to 100 peppers)
Olive oil for frying
Coarse salt, to serve

Wash the peppers and dry them thoroughly. Place oil in a large frying pan to a depth of ¾ inch. Place on medium heat. Fry the peppers in two batches, carefully turning them in the oil, until they are wrinkled and soft, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Skim the peppers out and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Serve hot or room temperature.


Peppers at a tapa bar, ready for frying to order.

2 comments:

  1. Being Inspired by Spain's culinary delightsSeptember 15, 2014 at 8:40 PM

    We've just returned from Spain - Cataluna - and were served these up with a number of our meals and just loved them. I've now just tried your recipe for tonight's supper, and it worked a treat. Thank you so much. Your recipe is now in Portugal with us and Australia with the family who were with us on our recent trip.

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    Replies
    1. Being Inspired: Glad the recipe worked for you. Fried peppers are such a good side dish.

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