Roasting chilies and peppers adds a smoky flavor that can enhance any recipe or be served as an appetizer or side dish. Many people buy roasted peppers and chilies in cans, but it's so easy to do and the flavor is so much better, that you really should roast your own. Though you can use a lot of different cooking equipment to roast a pepper it is best done over a live fire, like that from your gas or charcoal grill.
To Roast a Pepper
To roast a pepper, start with a hot fire and whole washed peppers. Place them over the fire, turning frequently, until they are charred and blistered on the outside. They won't look too edible, but the black stuff coming off in a minute. Take the peppers or chilies from the fire and place immediately in a paper or plastic bag. Close the bag and let them sit for about 10 minutes. The heat from the grill and the moisture from the pepper will sweat the skin loose. After the ten minutes are up, remove the peppers from the bag and scrape the black off with a kitchen knife. It will be messy, but the skin should come off easily. Once the skin is cleaned off, cut the pepper open, remove the stem and the seeds from the inside and you're done.
Roasting Peppers Can Release the Capsaicin
Of course, it's important to remember that peppers can be hot and that roasting them can release the capsaicin (the stuff that makes hot foods hot) and so be careful handling them. In fact, be careful roasting them as well. Roasting peppers can release capsaicin into the air while cooking. Use rubber gloves or be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after you have handled the chilies. It is also important to use fresh roasted peppers and chilies soon. They can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, but they are best freshly roasted. Also, washing the peppers after you have scraped off the skin will cause them to lose some of their flavors, so if you want to hold on to the heat, keep them away from the water.
How to Substitute
Fresh fire roasted peppers and chilies can be substituted in any recipe that calls for peppers. The addition of the smoky flavor will add to most any recipe. They also make a great appetizer or the base for a fresh salsa, so try roasting up some peppers next time you're in the mood for a flavor with a bite.