By Katie Canales
The International Herb Association has named Chile Peppers the 2016 Herb of the Year. In honor of this spicy award, we asked two local chefs for their take on chile peppers and how they are used in their restaurants. Read more…if you can handle the heat!
Christopher Lampo, Christopher’s World Grille
Dish: Chille Rellano
“Right now on the menu, we have a chili relleno, which is a poblano pepper that we roast and we skin, and we stuff that with beef tenderloin and cheese and pico de gallo and spices. That’s breaded and deep-fried and served with another sauce that we use peppers in. Our ancho sauce – these are ancho peppers that are dried, and we rehydrate them and we blend them with chipotle peppers, which are smoked jalapenos, they’re smoked red jalapenos. We blend those up with different things so it has a tobacco-y, very dark intense smoky flavor.”
His advice for cooks at home:
“Chile peppers are all over the grocery store, they’re so easily accessible now. You just kind of have to know what you’re working with. You don’t want to make a certain dish with habanero peppers for instance and realize later on that you’ve made both of your children go off crying, and your eyes are watering because the pepper’s still on your finger and you accidentally rubbed your eye. You have to know what you’re working with. Honestly, one of the best things to do is get your inspiration from probably something that you’ve seen before. If you’re not used to working with hot peppers, you need to google something, find it in a recipe, find something in a magazine that interests you. You need to start experimenting with different things. People see the word ‘pepper’ in the grocery store, and they automatically assume that it’s spicy and hot. They just walk away from it. So, the best thing to do when you’re walking through the grocery store is just go ahead and google that pepper. Our poblano pepper that we stuff is not hot. It’s not hot, it’s like a big bell pepper sort of thing but with a more intense flavor. So the idea is… you don’t have to avoid all peppers. Just experiment and play, and when you see a recipe you like, don’t get freaked out.”
Chef Tai, Veritas Wine and Bistro LLC
Dish: Schezuan Style Steak, Schezuan Style Shrimp, Schezuan Style Sea Bass
“We use this dressing to make a variety of dishes. So it’s basically minced chile peppers, with a season on it so it’s really spicy. And then we make a soy ginger garlic broth, and it makes it really spicy but also savory at the same time. The three methods that we serve it up is grilled shrimp with a little bit of butter and a lemon, and then finish it up on the grill. And then we dowse the Schezuan dressing on top, just to contrast the very sweet flavor of the shrimp with the little sharp zing of the pepper. And then, the other one we do is a whole-oven baked sea bass. So it’s a whole fish that we bake in the oven, and then we dowse the whole fish with the sichuan dressing that has been tossed with red bell pepper, green pepper and red onion, and arugula and cilantro, and top the whole fish with this dressing.”
His advice for cooks at home:
“Chile peppers are really healthy for you, it has more vitamin C than oranges and citruses. I like to eat chile peppers a lot. My favorite way of eating chile pepper is heating it up on a hot sauté pan to kind of blister out the pepper. You don’t need a whole lot, you just need one or two. Blister out the chile pepper, and then you’re going to salt it and squeeze out a little bit of lime juice. Now, you can add onions on top of it or potatoes or whatever, just to give that heat on the back note of it. If you want to try a really neat pepper, we used to have it during the fall season, it’s called a Shishito pepper. It’s a Japanese sweet chile. And it looks like a serrano pepper, but really wrinkly. We used to sell that like crazy. Basically on a hot pan, a little bit of oil, make it hot, throw in maybe one hand of chile pepper and sauté it up. Oh, I’m salivating! Put a little bit of salt and lime juice, and it’s a fantastic little snack to nibble on as an accompaniment to beer.”
Want hear more about chile peppers and other herbs? Check out the 21st Annual Herbal Forum in Round Top, March 18-19. Workshops include: the “New” New Orleans–Savory Spectrum of Edible Vietnamese and Mexican Zeal!; Springtime Cocktails and Cocktail Gardening; and Sweet Treats with Chile Heat. The weekend will also feature plant sales, lectures, instruction, and more. For a full schedule of events and more information, visit www.festivalhill.org.