This year I've been experimenting with slow roasting chile peppers to a crisp in the oven. This experiment actually started by accident last year when I attempted to slow cook some peppers in a 200F oven hoping to get some tender melting soft peppers that I could puree into a paste. My efforts rewarded me with crisp toasted peppers instead, at least I managed not to burn them. I didn't want to throw them out so I experimented with grinding them up to sprinkle on various things and found them to be absolutely delicious. That first batch was cooked with some olive oil and salt which I figured wasn't the best for long term storage and was rather messy to grind so I did one more batch without the oil and salt and, wow, they were even better than the first batch. Those were Aji Angelo peppers, a mild baccatum pepper with just a hint of heat and an aromatic fruity flavor. I've found that in general I prefer to use the ground Aji Angelos in place of store bought pepper flakes since the Ajis have a lot more flavor and are less spicy.
Here's a photo of the last of my ground Aji Angelos from last year.
Shown below are Christmas Bell peppers, another mild baccatum pepper, cut in half, seeded and ready to go in the oven.
It took about three to three and a half hours for the peppers to become crisp. The thinner fleshed Aji Angelos take about two to two and a half hours to become crisp. You have to keep your eye on the peppers as they get close to crisping up, they go quickly from a nice red color to brown. I pull the pan out of the oven when the peppers become leathery and let them cool in the pan, they crisp up as they cool and any peppers that still have soft spots go back in the oven for 10 minutes or so and cooled on the pan again.
I grind the peppers using the food grinder attachment to my mixer. The Christmas Bells came out as a coarse powder as you can see below.
The Aji Angelos were ground using the same method as the Christmas Bells but came out as flakes rather than powder. I think that that is because the Aji Angelos are thinner fleshed and have tougher skins than the Christmas Bells. Today I'm roasting a batch of Kaleidoscope peppers, another baccatum pepper that is similar to the Aji Angelos in texture but is not at all spicy. It'll be interesting to see how the Kaleidoscopes grind up. I keep most of my roasted peppers whole in glass jars. I've only ground the Christmas Bells so far this year and am going through the last of the 2009 Aji Angelos. Once I've ground the peppers I like to keep them in the refrigerator to preserve the color and aroma which dissipates more quickly once the peppers have been ground.
I dry most of my peppers in a dehydrator but I've found that I really like the way the Aji peppers taste when they are slow roasted in the oven. The roasting caramelizes the sugars in the peppers a bit and seems to intensify the aromas and flavors. You wouldn't believe how delicious the peppers smell as they roast and when you open a jar of dried peppers, either whole or ground, the aroma is still fabulous.
One of my favorite uses for the ground peppers is to sprinkle them on cooked vegetables, eggs, open faced toasted cheese sandwiches, pasta dishes, etc. Lately I've been incorporating them into crispy parmesan breadsticks. They are fantastic used in marinades for just about anything. One of my favorite quickie marinades is olive oil, fish sauce, garlic, and pepper flakes, fresh cilantro or dried oregano is also a great addition. So, how do you think you would use ground slow roasted peppers?