September 26, 2005
Blistered Cubanelle Peppers

I've never had the blistered peppers at Tia Pol in New York, but I kept running into them online on Friday. First, Adam over at the Amateur Gourmet praised the peppers, then I ran into a Gothamist post that attempted to recreate the dish with serranos.

The dish looks great, but the problem I had with Gothamist's recreation is that Joe DeSalazar used serranos, a hot pepper. All the description of the dish at Tia Pol seemed to imply the peppers were fairly mild, and serranos, even when seeded, pack a kick. The Gothamist post did offer this important fact - the dish at Tia Pol is called pimientos estilo gernika.

A couple Googles later and I find that Gernika peppers are a small very mild pepper from the Basque region of Spain. I have a theory that gernika = Guernica, the town bombed during the Spanish Civil War and made immortal by Pablo Picasso's painting of the incident. Can someone back that up or refute it?

In any case, I knew there was little chance of me finding those particular peppers in Chicago. I went to my local fruteria and bought three varieties of peppers - gypsy, cubanelle, and banana peppers.

I seeded and roasted all three types over an open burner until their skins blistered. A drizzle of olive oil and a big pinch of salt later, I tried each variety.

The gypsies were not interesting at all. Of the three they had the least flavor and no heat whatsoever. These are the only ones of the three I would not use to make a blistered pepper dish.

The bight green cubanelles were very flavorful and had little to no heat. I chose these to be the standard pepper because of the way their crisp, fruity flavor benefits from just a bit of olive oil and salt.

The banana peppers were marked as "hot" in the fruteria, and they didn't disappoint in that category. Despite seeding and spooning out the membranes, I had to drink a very large glass of milk to make the heat dissipate. If you want spicy peppers and can handle the heat, these might be a good choice.

I think I'll try poblanos next time. They may be the right compromise between too spicy and heatless. That's not to say I didn't like the cubanelles quite a bit. I did and will make the dish with the cubanelles while I continue my experimentation. Maybe a mix of peppers would be interesting. Is the next bite spicy or fruity? It might add an element of suspense to the meal, eh?

Blistered Cubanelle Peppers

A mess of cubanelle peppers (or substitute banan peppers, poblanos, etc...)
olive oil

If serving as an appetizer, figure 1-2 pepeprs per person.

There are two ways to present the peppers. If you wish to serve them whole, slice the pepper longitudinally, leaving the very top near the stem intact, and, using a small knife or a spoon, scrape out all the seeds and membranes from inside the pepper.

Alternately, you may cut the tops off the pepper, slice it in half and scrape the seeds and membranes out of the pepper more easily.

Rinse the peppers to get rid of any seeds and pat them dry.

Over an open flame, roast the peppers, skin side down until the skin is blistered and even charred in places. If you've kept the peppers intact, turn them to make sure every side gets blistered.

Once you blistered all the peppers, place them on a serving platter, drizzle with olive oil and salt well. Serve while the peppers are still warm.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at September 26, 2005 7:41 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

hi there - i had recently found out a few things since this gothamist post. a reader let me know that these very well could have been shishito peppers, read here for more:

also, i have since stumbled upon the larger green pimentos de padron in NYC markets which i have eaten a lot in barcelona, prepared pretty much the same way....

Posted by joe on September 26, 2005 at 10:05 AM

Hey Joe, thanks for the info. I'll keep an eye out for the shishito peppers. There are a couple of Asian markets in Chicago that might have them.

Posted by barrett on September 26, 2005 at 10:12 AM

Wow, Barrett, I think my dear husband would like an invite to your next experiment. And I wouldn't say no either!

Posted by Meg in Paris on September 26, 2005 at 11:15 AM

Barrett, I've been to Tia Pol in NY and Joe is right, they use Japanese shisito peppers. Pimientos de padron, which is what the dish is trying to emulate, are available this time of year from Tia Pol uses shisitos, I imagine, because they are much more affordable and somehow available year round. You're right that the peppers should be sweet (although the fun of padron peppers is that 1 out of 10 is really spicy). You're also right that Gernika is the name for the Basque city, spelled Guernica in Spanish. I had those peppers in San Sebastian in July and they, too, were mostly sweet, with the occasional hot one.

Posted by Brett on September 26, 2005 at 11:37 AM

Brett - great info. Thanks.

I'll try to find the right peppers, but I have to admit, I had a moment of revelation while watching a travel show. They were in a market in Mexico City and one of the locals told them there were over 150 TYPES of peppers in that market alone.

That's a lot of potential experimentation.

Posted by barrett on September 26, 2005 at 11:47 AM

I have found Shishito peppers at Mitsuwa Market in Arlington Hieghts. These are the peppers you want for the dish being discussed. A note: though mostly mild I have found about 1 in 10 of the Shishitos to be pretty hot.

Posted by John Podmajersky on March 19, 2006 at 2:57 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please be sure you read and agree with our ADVERTISING POLICY before posting.