7/9/12

Flash-Fried Shishito Peppers with Sea Salt

Don’t believe the photos in this post. They don’t tell the whole story.

Here’s the whole story. At work, I announce that tonight is Shishito pepper night! I’m going to flash-fry them and then serve them with rice and a fried egg on top. My friend Leia suggests topping the peppers with bonito flakes, which I happen to have. It’s a great idea and makes me even more excited for dinner. I arrive home from work and get started. Matt has already cooked the rice, so all I need to do is fry it up with some olive oil and freshly chopped garlic. The egg will be the last step after the peppers. As we all know, cooking is a great way to decompress, right? A nice way to transition from the hustle and bustle of work life to the serenity of home life.
Not today! Within seconds of dropping these peppers into the hot oil, it’s clear that we have done something horribly wrong. The reaction is violent. The pot is on the middle burner, about a foot in from the edge of the stovetop, and splashes of oil are jumping so high out of the pan that it isn’t just hitting Matt’s and my bare forearms, but also the wood floor below. The geyser's like nothing I’ve seen in my history of cooking. Matt turns off the heat and I scream for the lid as if covering the eruption is our key to survival. Matt grabs the lid—an enameled cast iron one mind you—and places it on top. And that’s when things get worse. It sounds like Fourth of July in Echo Park all over again. (And if you don’t know what I mean, watch this video. Denizens of East L.A. love their fireworks!) At this point, I’m no longer in the kitchen area. I'm just watching the lid dance from afar, shouting: “The lid's going to blow right off!” Matt's turned off the heat minutes ago, but now he moves the pot off of the burner, hoping that might help. The peppers are supposed to fry for 10 seconds with the lid off and 10 seconds with the lid on. This has been going on for awhile. We know this batch is a goner. We wait. Hoping the violence will eventually stop. And after a few more minutes, it mostly does. We retrieve our burnt peppers, wipe up the oil from the floor, and decide to try another batch with the oil completely off the heat at whatever temperature it's currently at. I mean, oil is already everywhere: the backsplash, the stovetop, the grates, the other pans that are hanging out on the stovetop, our bodies, souls. It can’t get much worse.

We send the next batch of peppers into the oil. It’s decidedly less violent than round one, but still pretty intense—the difference between, say, Goodfellas and Analyze This. We cover it with the lid for ten seconds, then take it off to stir. A few splashes of oil get me again, but it’s OK because I no longer think the house is going to explode.
They say the best thing for an athlete is a short-term memory—you know, in order to get back up on the horse after it’s covered you in scalding oil. Well, when it comes to deep-frying, I must have one, because it’s always messier than I think it’s going to be. And then there’s the perennial issue of collecting the used oil in some sort of receptacle and, like with old batteries or burnt-out light bulbs, Googling how you're supposed to dispose of it. (For the record, I did proudly, and over time, reuse the oil from my failed tortilla.)

That being said, if I ever have the courage to make these again, I will promise to monitor the heat of the oil much more closely. The recipe says 350 degrees and I’m sure the oil was hotter than that. The recipe also stipulates making sure the oil doesn’t fill the pot by more than one third, and while I believe we were at the one-third mark, I would err on the side closer to one fourth next time. Also, if I make these again, I promise to catch it on video as it must’ve been both hilarious and frightening to watch.

Another hilarious endeavor to watch? Eating these fried peppers. As Andrea Reusing puts it in the introduction to her recipe: “about one in seven, is quite hot, adding some drama to cocktail time.” Perhaps it was just Matt’s and my lucky night, but our batch seemed to be more like one in four. But what are you going to do? Not eat them? If they’re not completely overcooked, they’re deliciously worth the risk.
Flash-Fried Shishito Peppers with Sea Salt via Cooking in the Moment
serves 4 as an appetizer

Expeller-pressed vegetable oil, for frying
1 pound fresh shishito or padron peppers
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon (My tip: add some bonito flakes too!)

Fill a deep heavy pot with 3 to 4 inches of oil. The oil should not fill the pot by more than one third. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fat thermometer reads 350F. Add a big handful or two of peppers to the oil and immediately cover the pot with a lid to avoid splattering. After about 10 seconds, carefully remove the lid and give the peppers a quick stir. Continue to cook with the lid off for another 10 seconds or so, until the peppers are blistered and beginning to color. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper bag. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle generously with salt. Serve them fresh and hot as you continue to cook more.
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39 comments:

  1. I totally loved this terrifying meal. xoxo

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  2. oh man, where was the video camera when you needed one? I would kill to have seen that. It's probably a good thing in hinds sight. Camera lens + hot oil is never a safe combo. (Looks delish though!)

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  3. I somehow misread the top and thought this was going to be about a flash mob. It wasn't. Also, I am terrified of bonito flakes, please don't suggest using them again.
    Glad you both survived, nevertheless.
    (I'm a jerk!)
    xo

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  4. I laughed my whole way through this. Burned souls, Analyse This and everything. Glad you both survived; I'd be super bummed if you fried yourselves now that I enjoy your company so much.

    ps. Jam would flip the fuck out if I cooked this for him. His love for hot spicy peppers outranks his love for the cat, the wife and everything else in the world.

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    1. Rebecca! Maybe I could make them for y'all? (Starting to sweat just thinking about it, though have gotten a bunch of good tips from lovely readers below...)

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  5. You are so funny! I love it!

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  6. This is why I don't deep fry, I'm far too accident prone to heat up a pan full of sizzling oil all by myself. ;) Hilarious!

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  7. hilarious!! and a rather precise illustration of why frying is & will remain my #1 (possibly only?) kitchen terror.

    but kudos to your short-term memory & perseverance... those pics could have been a plate of sea-salt-flecked padrons straight from a tapas restaurant in barcelona... not that they are... (what's the difference between padrons & shishitos--do you know??)

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    1. Hi Whitney! I *think* I read somewhere that padrons are somewhat fleshier than shishitos... Not sure why I didn't mention this above, but the ones I'm using are actually padrons. whooops. Probably should change the title of the post now, but then again accuracy has never been a strong suit!

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  8. I am with Whitney! After years of fantasizing about making the donuts that used to grace the Bon Appetempt banner, I finally bought a donut cutter. But I still haven't had the guts to actually heat up a pot of oil.

    I don't even know if a video was needed here. Your summation was incredible. Glad zero hospitals were involved...
    XO!

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  9. OMG. I can so picture this whole ordeal! Scary and kinda fun at the same time. Is that hot sauce or ketchup on the plate?
    -Jess

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  10. I have to agree with Nožisková, those look exactly like "pimientos del padrón" to me, too. In Spain we also flash fry them and we eat them with fried egg, too, only the egg is not like yours bcause it's fried in very hot olive oil and so the whites turn out all lace-like, fluffy and crispy.

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  11. Haha yikes! I've had a few kitchen disasters along those lines. Your photos do really look lovely, though. I thought the third one was a painting. Your new place has gorgeous light!

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  12. Having lived in Lisbon, Portugal for 4 years where these peppers are a staple on any bar menu I also had to learn to make them. My suggestion is less oil, just cover the bottom of your pan, and stand back when you toss in the peppers. Plus add the sea salt when they are right out of the oil. Love these things.

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  13. Wow, that sounds intense. I'm glad you lived to tell the story, and the meal looks so good! One tip for deep frying I learned from the Canal House books is to take a skewer (wooden is fine) and touch the tip of it to the bottom of the pan. If a train of tiny bubbles forms at the tip of the skewer, the oil is ready for frying. I deep fry all the time, and you gots to be really careful not to let the oil get too hot. You just moved and are working on a new stove, so maybe next time will be better?

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  14. @Tradeurbeads & @ladomestique LOVE these tips. thank you! And yes, this stove is so much more powerful than our old one... we're still getting acquainted!

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  15. I laughed. I cried. I wanted to eat flash fried shishito peppers by the dozen. Perfect! :)

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  16. I have the same short-term memory issue with deep frying. And for the record, shishito peppers are equally good if they're just sauteed in a conservative amount of oil. :) And you are, as always, the best.

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  17. Holy crow, I would've lost it if this happened to me! I'm terrified of deep frying (and slowly working on it), but my last attempt entailed disabling the fire alarm in my apartment and dancing to and from the stove wearing an oven mitt and waving the spider. Your success gives me hope though, so thank you! And you've made me crave these fried peppers...

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  18. Who knew there was so much danger surrounding one of favorite dishes!

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  19. When you are in NY w/MaryAnn and Adam go have these peppers here: http://tiapol.com/.

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    1. But I'm not going to NY!! :( :( Just Philly. Any pepper recs there?!

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    2. Sampan on 13th street have them

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  20. And hilarious and sweet and touching as always!

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  21. I would NEVERRRRRR eat that plate of peppers. Too scary all around for me. But the egg and rice look so delicious!! That egg looks perfect! I want filipino rice and eggs!!

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  22. i want to eat this right now!mmmmmm....

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  23. Yum! It's pretty hard to go wrong with bonito flakes as a topping. For future attempts, shishito are also great when sauteed -- they'll still get that nice, blistered skin even without deep frying if the pan is hot enough.

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  24. Okay, so it is weird that even the totally blackened peppers look super delicious to me?

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  25. In Spain, these peppers are called "Piminetos de Padrón" are very good and people love it.

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  26. I just ate these peppers today at Sushi On Fire in Huntington Beach, CA. They serve them with the bonito flakes too. Absolutely delicious.

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  27. first of all, i LOVE your blog. secondly, I know it's a bit stupid, but I'm so curious (and kind of desperately trying to find) where to buy these enamel pots and skillets. I live in Berlin (Germany) and there's only one austrian brand that still manufactures enamel cooking ware, but they don't have a great variety.. so would you/anyone mind giving me a hint (brand name or online retailer...) I'd be so grateful. mercy and best from Berlin, Lou.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe lecreuset.com?

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    2. Thanks so much, Lou! Anonymous above is right... Le Creuset enameled cookware is great: http://cookware.lecreuset.com/cookware/TopCategoriesDisplay?storeId=10151&catalogId=20002&langId=-1

      So is Staub: http://www.staubusa.com/

      Hope this helps!!

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  28. lol such a great story! and it seems like you've got the battle scars to prove it. i totally know what you mean with watching the pan from a distance, one sizzle or pop and i'm cowering behind the refrigerator

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  29. I've cooked padrons many times using a large skillet and a small amount of olive oil. They blister up pretty quickly and there's not enough oil to make such a crazy mess. Plus you don't have to deepish fry which is always a bonus in my mind. Give it a go next time you want to cook shishitos. http://www.food52.com/recipes/13507_roasted_padron_peppers

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  30. i love the way you wrote the story. Magnificent use of words, i am a new fan.

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  31. Just do a few at a time. only takes a few seconds per batch

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Thanks for your thoughts!