Award-winning chef Lorenzo Cañas makes this dish with the gloriously sweet pimientos Riojanos that grow in Rioja Baja. You may be able to find them at some farmers’ markets during the summer, but the creamy meat filling is delicious in domestic peppers too.
Wine Pairing: Alavesa Reserva (Subzonal)
12 (5- to 6-inch) piquillo peppers (Anaheim or poblano peppers can be substituted)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
½ pound lean ground pork
½ pound lean ground beef
2 teaspoons paprika, preferably Spanish
3 large eggs
Vegetable oil for frying
1. Using a long-handled fork, char the peppers over the open flame of a gas stove or set a metal cooling rack over a burner on an electric stove and turn the peppers with tongs until the skin blackens on all sides. Place the peppers in a plastic bag and allow them to steam for 10 minutes.
Remove the peppers from the bag and, when they are cool enough to handle, peel them, keeping them whole. Cut off the tops and remove the seeds. Set aside.
2. While the peppers cool, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.
Stir in the 2 tablespoons of flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until the mixture bubbles. Slowly but steadily pour the milk into the pan, whisking constantly over medium heat until the sauce comes to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Crumble the pork and beef into the skillet and cook, breaking up lumps with a fork, for 5 to 7 minutes or until well browned. Add the paprika and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the sauce and cook for 1 minute. Allow the mixture to cool.
4. Gently stuff one-twelfth of the filling into each pepper through the hole in the top. Then refrigerate the peppers until cold, to facilitate frying.
5. Break the eggs in a shallow bowl and whisk well. Place the remaining 1 cup of flour on a plate. Pour 1” of vegetable oil in a deep-sided skillet and heat the oil over medium-high heat to 375 degrees F.
6. Dip the peppers into the flour, then into the egg, and then into the flour a second time. Place the coated peppers into the hot oil with tongs, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry until brown and crisp on all sides, turning them gently with tongs. Remove the peppers from the oil with a slotted spatula and drain well on paper towels. Serve immediately.
Note: The peppers can be prepared up to the stage of coating and frying 1 day in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered with plastic wrap.
Recipe Courtesy of The Wine Region of Rioja by Ana Fabiano