Earlier this year we stopped in at Le Express Bistro in Wappingers, one of our new favorite Hudson Valley haunts, for a quick dinner at the bar on a Sunday night. I ordered the house charcuterie platter, which typically includes a selection of cured meats and sausage, and more importantly – a few wedges of cheese from Sprout Creek Farm. That plate, along with a glass of pinot noir is, for me, more than enough for a light summer supper. When the plate arrived, along with all of the aforementioned offerings, there was a little pile of roasted green peppers. They were about as long as a jalapeno, but not quite as wide. I asked John, the owner and frequent Sunday night bartender, just to be sure. They are shishitos, he informed me, an east Asian variety. They are not exceedingly hot, but with just enough bite so that you know they are a pepper. I am still reliving that first tasting of shishito peppers six months later.
The peppers at Le Express had been simply prepared – brushed with a little olive oil and roasted, and then – and this is important- sprinkled with a really good coarse grain sea salt. The kitchen here uses Malden salt, a British “finishing salt”. As a rule they are not overly hot, but not all of the peppers follow the rules. Approximately one in ten will pack a little heat. Not scotch bonnet heat, not even jalapeno heat, but enough to make you take notice. I loved the taste, and especially loved the spicy surprise 10% of the time. I began a quest to find a source for these delicious little morsels. I started looking for shishitos at the markets where we usually shop. I tried Adams Fairacre Farms. No shishitos. I tried Whole Foods in Albany. Nada. Healthy Living Market in Saratoga Springs. Again, no shishitos.
Back to John at le’Express. Could you tell me where you buy your shishitos please? Answer – Red Barn Produce in Highland, NY, a premium purveyor that supplies the Culinary Institute and many of the area’s finer eateries. Red Barn is owned by some old friends – Kevin and Tamara Terr, whom I called and arranged for a pick up the following Thursday.
I decided to try them first on the outdoor gas grill, after tossing them in some EVOO. The peppers are very dainty, quite thin skinned, and quickly blistered to a gorgeous char. They looked decidedly different than the oven roasted version I had tried at le’Express. Spritzed with sea salt and served hot, they were just as good an hour later at room temperature. Good salt is important here; now would be a good time to dig out that fancy course French sea salt in the back of your spice cabinet. They make the perfect party app, with no concern for temperature or freshness. I would say that they will last for hours, but I assure you that they will not last that long; your guests will not let that happen.
If you cannot find shishitos at your local grocery, you can purchase them from Red Barn Produce in Highland during their morning retail cash and carry hours from 8 AM until 11 AM. I am also told that Obercreek Farm in Hughsonville will occasionally have some available. If any readers can help us out with a retail market that carries them, please do let us know about it in the comments section.