Introduction: Pimientos De Padron
Pimientos de Padrón is a Spanish dish of fried peppers with sea salt. Most of the peppers are sweet, but occasionally you come across a hot one.
I spent much of April and May 2009 traveling in Spain and Portugal, and still dream about the food: Jamón ibérico, 5-year-aged Manchego, porco Alentejana (pork and clams)... When I came across these peppers at the farmers market, I immediately thought of recreating pimientos de Padrón.
Even without true Padrón peppers, you can prepare this dish at home. Compare the pictures of my peppers with those from a restaurant in Lisbon, Portugal.
Step 1: Get Peppers
These are Friariello Barese peppers from Lagier Ranches at our local farmers market in Oakland, CA. They aren't the exact variety you'll find in Spain and Portugal, but are an Italian variety that is close enough. More on these peppers from Vegetables of Interest.
Unlike true Padron peppers, apparently none of these will be hot. Part of the fun of Pimientos de Padrón is coming across a hot one, but these will still taste great.
Wash and dry the peppers.
Step 2: Heat Oil
Here, I'm heating oil to approximately 350°F (the temperature will drop when you put the peppers in). I used enough oil to get a depth of about 1 inch. The peppers float on the surface of the oil, so it doesn't need to be very deep. Some of the other recipes I consulted suggest sauteing the peppers in a thin layer of oil, but having seen Spanish restaurants prepare this dish, I wanted the peppers in more oil.
I used a mixture of olive oil and canola oil, because I ran out of olive and had plenty of canola. Though, I prefer to use olive oil. Steve McCulley of Apollo Olive Oil -- my favorite producer -- suggests that olive oil's polyphenols survive up to 320°F. Considering the peppers don't absorb much oil and the frying temperature is relatively low, it's probably irrelevant what type of oil you use.
Step 3: Drop the Peppers Into the Oil
The peppers will spit and might even burst, so it's important to cover the oil. I don't have a nice frying basket, so I dropped them in with a spoon and covered the pot with a splatter screen.
Step 4: Fry the Peppers
Once they stopped spitting, I removed the splatter screen and stirred the peppers to make sure both sides were getting cooked. Once they started to look a bit wrinkled and blistered, I took them out. If possible, grab the stems to avoid deflating any of the peppers.
Step 5: Drain and Dry the Peppers
First, I let the oil drain off the peppers with a kitchen sieve, and then dried them on paper towels.
Step 6: Salt the Peppers
I "rained" coarse sea salt over the peppers.
Step 7: Serve
Serve the peppers.
I was surprised to discover that unlike most fried food they were just as tasty after cooling as they were hot just out of the oil.
Grab the stems and bite the peppers!