One of our favorite foods in Spain is the wood-fire roasted piquillo pepper. These brilliant red peppers have a sweet, tangy flavor with a touch of smokiness and a bit of spice. And the texture is amazingly firm yet tender, allowing you to enjoy each bite.
We visited our vendor in Navarra years ago to witness the piquillo harvest and roasting process. Peppers arrived by the truckload, bright red and perfectly ripe. They only produce piquillo peppers once a year, during the harvest season in the fall - no shortcuts here, no frozen or green peppers to store for later in the year. Once they run out of peppers jarred from this harvest, you have to wait until the following year to order more!
We then saw the peppers being roasted - but we were surprised to see a modern gas-fired machine. We always presumed that the peppers were roasted over wood, the traditional way. Well, we found out from our friend Patxi that the vast majority of piquillos are now gas-fire roasted. It is just more efficient and cheaper to do.
If you know anything about us, you will know that we could not let this stand! We began working with Patxi and his family to bring back the old ways. Because we work with El Navarrico, a small family company, they were open to the change. Since they had not used wood fires in decades, it took a lot of trial and error to perfect the old way of roasting the peppers.
But they succeeded! And you can taste the difference. The main taste missing with gas fire is smokiness, and smoke is the big difference in flavor for the wood-fire roasted peppers. They have the same sweet, vibrant taste as always, but now with a smoky base that completes the perfect piquillo flavor.
We are proud to now offer the only truly wood-fire roasted piquillo peppers available in the US. El Navarrico even brought back one of its classic black labels for the occasion. They cost a bit more, but we think you will agree that it is a small price to pay for bringing back the true tradition and flavor of piquillo peppers!
Serve at room temperature by themselves, or stuff with tuna or cheese and heat in the oven. They make a beautiful accent to paella as well. There are literally hundreds of recipes calling for piquillo peppers, a unique flavor from Spain.