Really, there’s no reason why you couldn’t grill-roast a bell pepper any old time of the year. But it’s just not something I think to do in early March. It’s yucky and mucky outside. My boots make an unfortunate sucking noise when I walk across the puddle-pocked yard, and the chickens are not happy with their squishy surroundings.
So why am I cooking outside? Recipe testing of course. This time I’m on deadline for a Vegetarian Times article which will run at the end of the summer when veggies and fruit are in all their glory. Right now? Not so much. I feel like an alien (and a hypocrite) buying out-of-season, flown-from-far-away peppers and tomatoes, but I signed on the dotted line, so I’m committed.
The good news is that the assignment forced us to get the grill repaired. It has been crippled since Farmer knocked it over the first week he called this place home. But now it’s back in top form, and I realized yesterday it would give me the opportunity to talk about my favorite way to roast a bell pepper.
I’m not a big raw bell pepper fan (hence I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about one), but the smoky sweetness of a roasted pepper always appeals to me. Over the years I’ve roasted peppers many different ways—under the broiler, mostly, and sometimes over a gas flame or charcoal grill. But my favorite way is roasting in a covered gas grill. Not only is this method simple and hands-off (and yes, completely do-able in mud-season!), but it also yields a roasted pepper that’s easier to peel, because the skin really blisters and pops off, rather than getting too cooked and sticking to the pepper. The convected heat in a hot gas grill quickly surrounds the pepper on all sides and blackens it in less than 10 minutes. (A couple of flips with the tongs helps.) I take the peppers out when they’re mostly, but not completely, blackened so that they don’t overcook.
Below are quick directions you can follow. Once you’ve roasted and peeled your peppers, you can certainly keep them in the fridge for a couple days, although they are delicious warm. Cover them in olive oil or marinate them if you like. Use them as antipasto, rolled or stuffed with cheese or roasted veggies, or chopped up and added to other veggie or bean dishes for depth of flavor. If you’ve lucked in to a whole bunch of peppers, roast and puree them for soup.
Heat a gas grill on its highest setting. Go ahead and put the peppers on the grates and cover the grill as soon as you turn it on. (With this method, there’s no need to preheat the grill.) Check the peppers and turn them over every three minutes or so and remove them from the grill when they are blistered all over and blackened on most sides, about 8 to 10 minutes total.
Put the peppers in a bowl and cover with foil. Let them sit for 10 minutes or up to 20 or so. (You could leave them longer, but they keep cooking in all that contained heat, so I think it is nicer to peel when the flesh still has a touch of firmness to it. You only really need 5 minutes or so to steam the peppers if you’re in a hurry.)
Over a bowl or plate, peel the blackened skin away. To remove the seeds, work over a strainer set in a bowl so that you can capture some of the delicious liquid. (If I’m going to be stuffing the peppers, I cut them in half carefully and leave the stems in. If not, I just remove the stems.) Use your fingers to niggle out all the seeds. If you like, cut or tear the peppers into lobes or strips. Whatever you do, don’t rinse the pepper under running water at any point. You will lose delicious flavor.