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Piment d'Espelette--fresh peppers


Katie Meadow
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Yesterday at the Berkeley Farmers' market I bought some beautiful fresh espelette peppers. I don't think I've seen them before. Since I'm not really fond of sautéed peppers I roasted and peeled them just as I would for fresh green chiles. They are really delicious and different, and pretty hot, although that isn't what literature on these peppers would suggest. They were in fact marked "hot" at the market, so I shouldn't be surprised.

 

I'm trying to think up ways to use them that are different than my usual uses for green chiles, although scrambled with eggs would make my husband very happy. The only other idea I have come up with is to make some version of Chicken Basquaise, for which I really don't have a recipe, but could probably wing it. So, if anyone has another idea for showcasing these yummy hot peppers, please point me in that direction, or if you have a favorite recipe for Basque Chicken that would be useful. I do happen to have a few slices of bacon that could be enlisted.

 

I'm sure a Spanish tortilla or some kind of quiche would be good, but I don't do butter pastry or rich dairy, so custardy dishes, sadly, are best avoided. Thanks!

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About two weeks ago, we had lunch a few miles outside Espelette and one of the dishes on the menu of the day was loosely translated as veal stew with Espelette peppers.  I ordered it and it was pretty basic, seeming to consist of the meat, onions, and peppers in a rich brown gravy.  Pretty good, too.  I noticed no heat from the peppers, though.

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Actually a stew sounds good, maybe a lamb stew? The more I eat these peppers--and they really are quite hot--the more they remind me of harissa flavor.

 

For my first espelette dish today's lunch was patatas bravas, going with a Spanish theme. I added a spoonful or two of the roasted peppers, finely chopped, toward the end of the cooking process as the potatoes were starting to get crusty. They already were dusted with ample amounts of smoked paprika. I served them with a garlic aioli. Very good. My husband thought the potatoes could use more heat, so he dished out some extra roasted peppers. On the side we had sliced tomatoes topped with sautéed okra. Potatoes, peppers, okra and tomatoes, all from the farmers' market. 

 

Tomorrow my nephew and his girlfriend will be over for dinner, and since they both like hot food, I'm going to make a version of chicken Basquaise that roasts with peppers and tomatoes. Hopefully I will have a tablespoonful left for scrambling the next morning. These peppers are really quite great, and don't taste like anything else. My plan is to buy a bunch more next weekend (if they still have them) and roast some to keep in the freezer. 

 

I'm curious as to why these particular locally grown espelettes have so much heat, I can only assume it is a combination of environmental factors, the same way jalapeños and poblanos can run the gamut from mild to fiery. Of course they were grown very far from their namesake village.

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