Recipe of the month: Pimientos de Padrón

Pimientos de Padrón

Recipe by Kelly Crull

One place I take friends who visit me in Madrid is a flamenco bar called El Mesón de la Guitarra. The bar is a dimly-lit cave carved out of the wall of Madrid’s most well-known square, Plaza Mayor. On any given night one or two men with guitars will strum their chords while older men crowded around wooden tables bellow their flamenco with fierce vibrato.

I brought my friends for the music initially, but one evening a man at a table next to us who was eating a plate of peppers ordered a plate of the same for my friends and I. Now I bring my friends for the music and the peppers.

Pimientos de Padrón are small green peppers roughly the size of your thumb. They’re fried in olive oil, salted, and served at many tapas bars in Spain. Besides being salty and sweet, most people eat Pimientos de Padrón for the fun of it. Eating them is considered a form of culinary Russian roulette. Some are sweet. Others are hot enough to keep you humble. Some people say one in every five peppers is a hot one, others say the larger ones are the hottest, but in my experience, there’s only one way to find out—pick one up by the stem and take a bite.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

125ml (1/2 cup) olive oil (aceite de oliva)
250g or roughly 30 Pimientos de Padrón
Sea or rock salt to taste (sal gruesa o sal gorda)

Preparation:

Wash the peppers and dry them thoroughly.

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over a medium flame.

Add peppers and fry, stirring well, until they blister and begin to turn brown (2 to 3 min.)

Remove the peppers and pat them dry on a sheet of kitchen towel.

Sprinkle with salt and serve with bread

Notes:

Normally the peppers are cooked with their stems, but the stems are not eaten.


History:

Pimientos de Padrón are one of the oldest non-hybrid peppers. As the story goes, Franciscan monks brought them to Spain from Mexico in the 18th century. They gained a name for themselves in the town of Padrón in the northwestern province of Galicia. To this day, a festival is held every August in honor of these little peppers in the nearby village of Herbon. Buy a plate for 3 euros, and you can eat all the peppers your stomach can handle.


Availability:

A rare pepper, Pimientos de Padrón are not easy to find outside of Spain. You may get lucky and find them in the odd Spanish grocer or delicatessen.

Pimientos de Padrón are only slightly more available in the United States after Calvin Trillin wrote favorably about them in the November 1999 edition of Gourmet. Since then, selected farmers like David Winsberg of Happy Quail Farms have been growing them and selling them at farmers markets.

In the UK, Pimientos de Padrón are available from UK Peppers.

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