Saturday, January 5, 2019

Blistered Shishito Peppers

For a while, it seemed that the trendy thing for trendy restaurants to do was to offer a small plate or appetizer of blistered shishito peppers. These peppers seemed to be everywhere, even go so far as to conquer the City of New York. (Somewhere, there is an idea for a Grade B - or perhaps more accurately, a Grade D - horror movie.  I can see it now, someone dressed up in a pepper costume terrorizing the people on Fifth Avenue, yelling "you ate my family, now I eat you.")

I don't know where the shishito pepper trend started, or, quite frankly, whether it is still ongoing. I try not to get caught up in culinary fads. Nevertheless, the dish was there and everywhere. And, for someone like myself, who loves peppers, I have to admit that I was intrigued. But, that interest was not enough to have me spend anywhere from $4.99 or $7.99 for a small plate of the peppers.   

During a recent trip to a local supermarket, I found myself confronted by the peppers. Not in in the horror movie sense.  I was walking up and down the produce aisles and saw these small packages of peppers.  They were not in the pepper section, where I traditionally pick up my anaheims, jalepenos, serranos and habaneros.  Instead, these packages of peppers were all by themselves, as if specifically meant to stand out from the other surrouniding produce. Sure enough, the label read, "Shishito Peppers."  I bought a small container of the peppers and then decided to do a little research into the peppers themselves and recipes for preparing them.  

Shishito peppers are a relatively sweet, East Asian pepper also known as kkwari gochu in South Korea.  An interesting "fact" about these peppers is that about 1 in 10 also tends to be hot or spicy. It is a kind of Korean roulette for people who don't ordinarily like spicy foods but want to challenge themselves: eat a pepper and see if it is the spicy one.  For me, I would like 10 out of 10 to be spicy.  In the end, the spiciness or piquancy of the peppers depends upon the exposure to sunlight and other "environmental factors." Unfortunately for me, although I had about a dozen peppers in the package, none of them were spicy.  The odds were not in my favor.

This recipe is really easy to make.  The blistered peppers make a great tapas-style dish that could be served along other simple, small plates, such as different types of cheese or slices of prosciutto.  If I ever see a package of these peppers again, I will probably make this recipe as a simple side or garnish.  But, I have not seen the peppers recently?  I wonder if I got in too late for this culinary fad?

Recipe from  Bon Appetit
Serves 4-6

3 pounds of shishito peppers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt

Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook peppers, turning occasionally, until they begin to blister on all sides.  Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. 


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