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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Piquillo Peppers Filled with Halibut and Shrimp

These stuffed piquillo peppers are a must if you are having a tapas party. Piquillo peppers are often stuffed with meat, seafood or veggies and served as tapas in Spain. If you need more tapas recipes, please take a look at my other posts:

Spanish Omelette
Tuna in Escabeche
Curried Meatballs with Basmati Rice, Raisins and Pine Nuts

Long time ago, Columbus brought the first peppers to Europe from South America. These peppers, once planted in Spain, developed their own characteristics and turned into native Spanish varieties.
The name piquillo means "little beak", as this small red peppers are shaped like the beak of a bird. The peppers are about 3 to 4 inches long and about 1 inch wide narrowing to a slightly curved point at the end.

Traditionally piquillo peppers are grown in Northern Spain and are hand picked and roasted over open fires. The peppers are then peeled and de-seeded by hand and packed in their own juices into jars or cans for sale. They are bright red and have a sweet and tangy flavor; they are very tender, yet firm. Piquillo peppers can be prepared in a variety of ways: in salads, as a side dish, in sauces or stuffed with meat, seafood or veggies.

For best quality piquillo peppers look for the Designation of Origin "Lodosa". Lodosa is a village in Navarra, Spain, where the peppers are hand picked only once a year from September to November. They are produced almost entirely by hand using no chemicals in the roasting or peeling process.

You can purchase piquillo peppers in gourmet stores in the US. If you prefer to buy them online, here are a couple of choices:

Piquillo peppers from Spain

Organic piquillo peppers from Spain

Piquillo peppers from Lodosa, Spain (Designation of Origin) Best quality

Make sure to buy whole peppers, not the sliced kind. Reserve broken peppers that cannot be stuffed for the sauce we will be making to accompany the stuffed peppers.


Serves 6 (about 20 stuffed peppers)

25-30 whole piquillo peppers
2 cups whole milk (warm)
3/4 cup all purpose flour (divided: 1/2 cup for the filling; 1/4 cup for the batter)
1/2 stick butter
2 shallots (minced and divided 1/2 for the filling and 1/2 for the sauce)
1 lb shrimp (peeled, deveined and finely chopped)
1/2 lb halibut
grated nutmeg
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs (beaten)
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
3 tablespoons creme fraiche

Prepare the filling: Heat a deep sauté pan add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and shallots, cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add chopped shrimp and halibut in one piece. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until shrimp is cooked through (about 4 minutes). Remove shrimp and reserve. Flip halibut and cook for 3 more minutes; start to break halibut with a spatula and cook until well done. Transfer to a bowl and reserve.

Prepare bechamel sauce: Using the same pan, melt the butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir 1/2 cup of flour until smooth. Continue stirring and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium and gradually add the milk whisking constantly until well incorporated and thickened; cook for two more minutes stirring constantly. Season with salt and grated nutmeg. Add the halibut-shrimp mix and stir to combine.

Stuff the piquillo peppers: Select 20 peppers; carefully spread them open and spoon shrimp filling into them.

Hold pepper like this to easily spoon shrimp filling into it.

Batter and fry peppers: Place remaining 1/4 cup of flour and two beaten eggs in two shallow bowls. Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Dredge the stuffed pepper in flour, roll in beaten egg and fry, turning once, until lightly golden brown (about 1 minute on each side). Transfer to a dish lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.

Prepare the sauce: Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in skillet, add shallots and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Add 5-8 piquillo peppers, its  and the tomato sauce. Cook for 3 minutes. Transfer to a blender and add creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper. Blend on low until smooth.

You can make the peppers and sauce ahead and then reheat in the oven or microwave when ready to eat. Serve with a dollop of sauce.


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