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...)
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.