Shisito Peppers seem to be all the rage here in Austin lately. I first tasted them at Uchiko, a posh Japanese restaurant where they charge a premium for fancy food served in itty bitty dishes. It's a fun place, but not somewhere my budget allows me to visit very often. The last time I went it was on Google Local Austin's tab. I won a seat at the dinner after posting a zillion reviews on Google Plus Local. This was a rare instance where lording my opinion over the rest of the world actually paid off. My sister and I joined a handful of other winners along with Google's local community managers, Bryn and Whitney. Score one for bossypants!
The dinner itself was a memorable one. Not so much because the food was amazing, though it was wildly delicious. What fixes the evening in my memory so solidly is the hunger we endured for the first two thirds of the dinner. Knowing that we'd be stuffing ourselves with gourmet food that night, Heather and I ate light throughout the day to make sure we'd have a great appetite before dinner. Everyone arrived on time, we were seated right away, and immediately given drinks. Whitney ordered multiple plates of several dishes, and then... we waited.
The Shisito Peppers came out early on, and for what seemed like an eternity, they were the only thing that we had to eat. Being at a table almost entirely populated by strangers, etiquette prevailed, and though we were all completely ravenous, we did our best to remain courteous as each teeny tiny dish arrived. We each had literally one or two bites every time a plate showed up. With the plates arriving every ten or twenty minutes, the entire meal took more than three hours. We had an abundance of Shisito Peppers though, so while we drooled over the other tables, who were actually getting to EAT, these hilariously petite peppers were our main course.
At one point, maybe an hour or so into the meal, the table next to us were served a hot-rock style beef tataki. The animal part of my brain wanted to stab them with my chopsticks and make off with their dinner. Never mind that I'm a decidedly non-violent person, or that I am predominantly vegetarian. I was that hungry. You know that scene in romantic movies where the couple goes to a fancy dinner then almost cries when the waiter takes the big, silly dome off of their tray to reveal a beautiful meal in miniature? I get that now.
Maybe Uchiko just isn't set up to deal with large parties, or maybe the stars were aligned against us that night. In any event, I developed a healthy appreciation for the shisito pepper. I'm pretty sure I could pick one out of a pepper lineup, blindfolded. After being quick-roasted, these tiny, thin-walled peppers settle into a nice combination of soft and crunchy. They have just a touch of sweetness and heat, making them safe for a crowd. You can kick up the heat by making your dipping sauce extra spicy, or tone it down by pairing it with something more mild, like a sour cream or yogurt dip.
Blistered Shisito Peppers
Makes a pint of peppers (enough for about four or five people to nibble)
- 1 pint shisito peppers
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
There are multiple ways to roast shisitos. Check out each of these options, then pick the one you are most comfortable with.
- Shisitos can be roasted directly over a gas flame, but this takes a little bravery and a lot of finesse. Hold the peppers with a long pair of tongs, and hold them over the flame until they blister and blacked. Rotate the peppers to roast them on all sides, then remove to a plate. Repeat with the rest of the peppers.
- A safer, but less controlled method is to blacken the peppers under a broiler. Turn your broiler on high, then line the peppers up on a baking sheet. Place the peppers under the broiler, keeping a close eye on them to watch their progress. Checking them every minute or so is pretty much mandatory. When the peppers blister and blacken on top, remove the pan from the broiler, turn the peppers over, and repeat on the other side. Keep in mind that the second side may blister more quickly than the first.
- Heat your grill up until it is nice and hot, at least 4oo degrees. If your peppers are big enough to sit on the grill without falling through, place them directly on it. If they are too small, put a grill pan over the grill before putting the peppers down. The peppers should blacken and blister pretty quickly this way. Keep an eye on them, and turn them over as soon as they blacken on one side. Remove them when they are nicely colored all over.
- If you don't have a broiler or a grill, you can roast them at a high heat in your regular oven. Preheat the oven to 450, then line the peppers up on a baking sheet. Pop them in the oven, and check them every five minutes or so to see if they have blackened and blistered. As soon as they do, remove the whole pan from the oven. (The disadvantage to this method is that the peppers may soften too much before they blacken. It's not a huge deal, but they definitely taste better prepared the other ways.)
After your peppers are done cooking, Sprinkle the salt over them and serve right away.
Spicy Mayo Dipping Sauce
Makes about 1/2 cup
- 1/4 cup mayonaise or Vegan Mayo
- 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until totally mixed. Chill until serving.
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