“Shishito peppers are the Japanese cousin of the Spanish Padrón pepper”, says Joe Carroll, de facto king of Brooklyn barbecue and proprietor of restaurants Fette Sau and St. Anselm, “though eating them can be a game of chance.” Like with their European relative, eating shishitos is often dubbed the “Russian roulette” of the culinary world thanks to the peppers’ unpredictable heat levels. “Most shishitos are mild, but about one in 10 will smack you in the mouth with a spicy surprise”, Carroll says in his new cookbook, Feeding the Fire: Recipes and Strategies for Better Barbecue and Grilling ($20), written in collaboration with Nick Fauchald. There’s no way to point out which peppers are hot, so eating them is a risky enterprise. But when cooked right, shishitos are a crowd-pleasing appetizer to share with friends around a summer campfire. As Carroll suggests with his recipe, the best way to eat them is unadulterated: dressed in olive oil, blistered with high heat, seasoned with flake salt. They’re easy, they’re fun and they go great with beer. But don’t let the sweet ones fool you. When they hit, they hit hard. Tread with caution.
Grilled Shishito Peppers
Ingredients Serves 4
- 20 shishito peppers
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
- Lime wedges, for serving
1. Spread an even layer of charcoal, about one or two coals deep, over the bottom of the grill. Start charcoal and let burn until coals are glowing red and coated in gray ash, about 15 minutes.
2. In a bowl, toss the peppers with the olive oil until well coated. Season with kosher salt and pepper.
3. Place a grill basket on the grill and add the peppers. Grill, tossing frequently, until blistered all over and charred in a few spots, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Transfer the peppers to a platter and sprinkle with flaky salt. Serve with lime wedges.
Primer: The Grill Basket
“I’m not much for grilling gadgets, but there’s one piece of equipment that can be a game-changer: the grill basket. This simple tool lets you bring so much more to the grill, including small or skinny ingredients — green beans, Brussels sprouts, diced vegetables, shrimp and so on — that would otherwise slip between the grates and perish in the fire below.
“Grill baskets come in an array of shapes and sizes, but my workhorse basket looks like a skillet made of wire mesh, which allows for the most contact between the food and the grill (and exposure to grill smoke). It has a long handle, which allows me to effectively sauté over a live fire. Some grill baskets are made of metal punched with holes or slits, but these don’t allow maximum charring.
“Grill baskets are also an excellent tool for cooking over a campfire or in your fireplace. You can use them like a portable grill grate to cook just about anything over a fire.” — Joe Carroll