Serious Heat: Culinary Russian Roulette with Padron Chiles
Note: On Thursdays, Andrea Lynn, senior editor of Chile Pepper magazine, drops by with some Serious Heat. This week, she joined forces with travel writer Kate Mulcrone to discover the mystery of a Moroccan spice blend.
With the start of summer, the hunt at the local farmers' markets begin for my seasonal chile addiction--pimientos de Padron. In season from mid-June through September, what makes this crinkly, small green chile pepper originally from Spain so magical? It's playing Russian roulette with your food. While a majority of the chiles are mild, there will be about 1 out of 10 that will deliver a pow to your taste buds. Quickly cooked in olive oil and brushed with sea salt, the chiles are addictive for their sweet mellowness. Then, there's the fun of unexpectedly hitting that spicy chile in the bunch. One popular legend says there are very few spicy ones in June, but by September, almost all of them are harnessed with fire. Calvin Trillin wrote a beautiful essay on his addiction to the chiles in the January '05 issue of Gourmet that gives a glimpse into the padron chile obsession.
The best way to eat them is to savor them in unfussy glory--toss in a pan with olive oil and cook over high heat until blistered, about 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt, and devour. Start looking for them in farmers' markets, but don't worry if you can't find them--utilize the beauty of the Internet and order them online from La Tienda.