2/08/2010

Bell Pepper Victory!

Have you ever tried to make fajitas, fighting the bell peppers in a battle of epic proportions, only to finally admit defeat when you realize all you have is a bunch of awkwardly sized chunks of what used to be a bell pepper? Yeah, me too.

I have long struggled with how to best clean the innards from a bell pepper, particularly in preparation for slicing and/or chopping up. I used to try to use a paring knife to cut around the stem and pull it out, but then wasn't sure how to proceed, and ended up with funky shapes and chunks as opposed to nice, uniform pieces.

After much experimenting I discovered a great method that works well for me! The first tip is an excellent knife; see my post on my beloved Santoku knife and the sharpening tips.


Here's the trick- after removing any stickers and cleaning the outside of the vegetable by rinsing it off under cold running water, I cut off the top. I do this as if I were cutting if off to make a stuffed bell pepper, slicing as close to the top as possible while still getting the stem cleanly off.



Once the pepper is "capped" I use my fingers to empty the seeds / white innards into either the sink or a garbage bowl (a great tip from Rachael Ray- when prepping food, have a large bowl nearby to quickly put scraps into, then empty into a compost, a garbage disposal, etc), and then rinse the inside to get out any extra seeds.

If you are making stuffed peppers then this is the obvious stopping point. When I'm cutting further I use the "fault lines"- the natural lines that occur between the bulges at the bottom of the pepper. I follow the lines up the entire pepper so that when I lay the chunks down to be cut the pieces are close to flat against the board; I then slice pieces according to the width I desire, usually about a quarter of an inch in width. This works great for fajitas or stir fry; if I need it chopped then I just turn the slices and chop 'em up.


One trick I've seen chefs use, such as those incredibly talented Food Network Iron Chef star types, is cutting off the rounded parts from both ends, then making one cut down the length of the body. Then, you can lay your knife flat against the inside and cut along the entire pepper to remove all of the innards. If you're super skilled then the whole pepper is uniform in width and thickness, and it's nice and flat, so you can do a really great julienne this way, basically getting perfectly straight little sticks from a round and not-so-straight object. I tried this recently and it was AWESOME; sadly I was cooking for a ladies night at my house and there simply wasn't enough time for pictures. Next time I'll try to plan ahead better!

At this point you can easily toss the cap; I tend to avoid waste, though, so I lay the cap down flat and cut along the sides to get the extra pieces off, as pictured below;


One thing I like to use these odd pieces for is setting aside to make chicken and / or veggie stock, so the shape doesn't matter at all!

And... voila! If you follow these tips, I am sure you will declare yourself victorious over the bell pepper!

I hope this helps you! If you have tips and tricks of your own, please feel free to share!

I'm using this week's posts to build up to a big finale on Friday- a super tasty meal that I cannot wait to share with you! Keep checking in each day!

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