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It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Today: Mei Chin, editorial intern at Food52, recreates her favorite pickled peppers in the name of a perfect sandwich.
I have a confession. At the risk of making myself into a complete outcast, with the knowledge that honesty is the best policy (right?), I need to tell you something. Uh oh, I can hear you thinking. You’re getting squirmy over there in your seat, I can feel it.
Here goes nothing: I don’t really like sandwiches. There, I said it. I’m not ashamed. (I will have you know, however, that this is my husband’s second deepest regret about marrying me, right after the fact that I don’t like going to the movies. Yup, you read that right. The truth may set you free, but boy is it brutal.) To me, sandwiches are always too bready, unbalanced, big, or—at their worst—soggy. Why on earth would you eat a sandwich when you could eat soup? Or leftovers? Or anything else, for that matter?
More: If you, too, are a sandwich hater, these might help you see the light.
That being said, a few years ago I found that sandwiches aren't all terrible—once I discovered hot pickled peppers. They brighten everything up: sandwiches, pizza, stir-fries, tartines (which are decidedly not sandwiches; there is only one piece of bread. Don’t you roll your eyes at me, I already told you: I can hear what you’re thinking).
At the last restaurant I worked at, the chef introduced me to Mama Lil’s oil-cured sweet-and-hot peppers made in the Pacific Northwest. They were a revelation: sweet with a kick, and acidic enough to make everything accompany taste like pure gold.
Unfortunately for me, Mama Lil's are tricky to come by way over on the East Coast. So I had to strike out and make my own—my dinner depended on it. Trust me: They make every dinner better. Chop a few and add them to pasta with a handful of tomatoes, sautéed sweet peppers, and some sausage. Layer them liberally onto pizza, and your mouth will zing with joy. Pizza joy! And here you thought pizza couldn’t get any better. They are also perfect on a very thin of focaccia layered with ham and aged provolone cheese. Add in a basil leaf or two and, if you’re feeling very decadent, a slice of avocado. Slap on the other slice of bread and you have the only sandwich that matters.
Makes 1 pint
4 ounces mini bell peppers
4 ounces hot chile peppers
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
Keeping the hot and sweet peppers separate, chop off the stems then cut each of the peppers in half lengthwise, and then in half again to quarter each of them. Set aside.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegars, salt, sugar, oregano, bay leaf, garlic, olive oil, peppercorns, and hot peppers. Bring to a simmer.
As soon as the mixture comes to a simmer, add the bell pepper slices. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the peppers look swollen and translucent.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool in the saucepan. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peppers to an airtight container, then pour the liquid over the top. Either use them immediately on a slice of bread or some pasta, or store them, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 month—if they last that long.
Photos by Bobbi Lin