Batter Licker

August 27, 2011

breakfast padrón pepper poppers

Jay left for the East Coast earlier this week. Why anyone would want to travel to a coast that features the weatherly pleasures of both earthquakes and hurricanes – and in the same week! – is beyond me.

(In all seriousness, I hope everyone back East is okay. Also, maybe it’s time to consider moving to California.)

But it hasn’t been the worst experience to come home, exhausted, and throw together such genius dinner plans as “an abundance of lightly salted, raw dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes” that would normally induce Jay to fast for the evening; and “sauteed broccoli with microwave-zapped potato à la mode,” where “à la mode” refers to a giant scoop of Greek yogurt atop the potato but also to a scoop of baklava Greek yogurt ice cream enjoyed while watching Project Runway.

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His absence also left me unsupervised and unhurried at the farmers market this morning. $40 and more than a weeks’ worth of produce later, I meandered homeward with nectarines, Early Girl and Green Zebra tomatoes, basil, Napa cabbage, pink-speckled cauliflower, onions, summer squash, figs, and a handful of pimientos de Padrón in tow.

I had wanted to try the Padrón peppers since their seasonal debut about a month ago, but staved off the urge because Jay is not particularly keen on peppers. But because he was still away and I was feeling a bit sad (whoever said 4 days of alone time is phenomenal lied, or hasn’t dated Jay, or hasn’t been part of the goofy fun the fiance and I have been having for the past 10 years), I decided it was time to pick some peppers, and whip up something new and fun for my first meal of the weekend.

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Having craved jalapeno poppers for the past week but realizing it was still not quite 10 a.m., I set about on a mission to create a breakfast-appropriate popper. (I add peppers to my eggs all the time and love chile rellenos, so I’m surprised I hadn’t thought of stuffing peppers with eggs, onion and cheese sooner.) (I also like parentheses.)

Now that you’re on board, let’s get to some rebellious popper-making …

Unless you’re an absolute popper purist (in which case, why are you making a breakfast version?!?), acknowledge that you’re opting to save time, mess, and some calories by not frying these more-delicate-than-jalapenos Padrón peppers. That means no need to leave them whole, as halves will spread your peppers further and make for a prettier presentation. So halve those peppers, cutting through the middle of the stem and keeping stems intact if you want a fancier final result (i.e., more pepper resemblance, less blob).

Rumor has it that 1 in 5 pimientos de Padrón packs some major heat, so while the rest are supposedly sweet and mild, one bite is enough risk to take. In other words, remove those seeds. Toss with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt, then throw those halfsies in the oven for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, fry up some onions and scramble some eggs. Simple dimple. Easy peasy. Etc. But leave the eggs just a scooch wet, as they’ll bake a few minutes longer in the oven. Stir in some cotija or feta or jack cheese – whatever you like, really. They’re your poppers. Over-stuff the cheesy egg mixture into the peppers because over-stuffing is way more fun than regular stuffing. Sprinkle with paprika because everyone loves a pop of color. Toss the overflowing poppers back into a broiling oven.

While the tops of your poppers goldenize under the broiler, take a quick coffee break. Why not? You’re already making up words like “goldenize” and wearing totally rockin’ sparkly purple nail polish. Such a rebel.

Sip the coffee out of your fiance’s mug because he’s battling hurricane-inflicted airports on the East Coast, and coffee tastes way better out of his mug anyway. Duh.

Double back towards the oven so your poppers don’t burn. Remove them from the pan with a pie server, and take a moderately bad picture to commemorate the event. Pretend you’re using a pie server because you’re fancy, but really it’s because you’ve cooked something every one of the last 3 nights but haven’t done any dishes. So unlike your usual clean-as-you-go self. It must be the purple nails.

Or else it’s been a long week, you were tired, and besides, no one was here to see the mess. Dirty dish piles ensued, and you know what? You don’t mind because your mouth is moments away from breakfast popper bliss. But make a mental note to clean up before your fiance comes home tonight because he will mind.

Serve all the poppers on a Japanese stoneware dinner plate from the 1970s, passed to you from your more-like-an-older-brother uncle, who received the plate from your more-than-an-aunt-but-not-quite-your-mother aunt. Wipe the drool from your mouth before it splatters into the picture.

Realize that the farmer at the market (who told you 20% of pimientos de Padrón peppers were fairly mild and sweet) either lied or you’ve turned into a wimp. Add a giant dollop of Greek yogurt to dip your poppers into and soothe your burning tongue.

Retire from eating after devouring four of these overstuffed mouthfuls of eggy and cheese, spicy and creamy breakfast indulgence. Blog about the experience. Nap. And finish the remaining four lollygaggers for lunch.

And don’t forget about that half-week’s pile of dishes.

Breakfast Padrón Pepper Poppers
Serves 2 to 4, depending whether served as appetizer or meal

Jalapenos can be substituted for the Padrón peppers; you could even use a mild bell pepper, but be sure to scale up the egg filling accordingly. Feel free to experiment with adding browned-up sausage, bacon, or whatever other meat or veggies you like to the eggs, and using any cheese you have on hand (although I’d recommend something creamy and slightly salty).

3 eggs
4 pimientos de Padrón
2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 c. onions (or other veggies and meats), chopped
2 Tbsp. feta or cotija cheese, crumbled (maybe a bit more; taste your eggs first)
paprika for sprinkling
salt and pepper
Greek yogurt for dipping/dolloping (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F.

Whisk eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper until blended. Set aside.

Halve pimentos de Padrón lengthwise, slicing through stems and keeping stems intact for better presentation. Toss with 1 tsp. oil and just a pinch of salt, and arrange cut side down on a baking pan. Bake until peppers have just slightly softened, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tsp. oil in pan over medium-high heat. Saute onions until softened. (Check peppers, as they will probably be done; remove from oven, and set aside.) Turn heat to low, and pour eggs into pan. Scrape bottom of pan with spatula until scrambled eggs are just barely runnier than you would normally prefer. Stir feta into eggs. Taste eggs, and add a bit more feta if needed.

Turn oven to broil.

Using a spoon, generously fill peppers with cheesy egg mixture. Sprinkle paprika over the top. Return peppers to middle rack of oven, and broil until eggs set a bit and top of filling turns golden with some brown spots, about 2 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

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