Crab-Stuffed Sweet Spanish Peppers  Recipe
Crab-Stuffed Sweet Spanish Peppers

By Wolfgang Puck

One of the best ways I know to start a party, whether I'm entertaining in one of my restaurants or having a casual gathering at home, is to offer my guests quick little bites of food that they can pop in their mouths -- something bright and beautiful that explodes with delicious flavor. In an instant, you can see the happy surprise in people's eyes, and the smiles on their faces.

When you're entertaining in summer, something cool and refreshing is the way to go. You want something you can prepare in advance and keep in the refrigerator, ready to serve with drinks, wine, or cocktails. It also helps if the dish works equally well as a sit-down first course or as a tray-passed hors d'oeuvre. (The French term "hors d'oeuvre," by the way, literally means "outside the work," something that comes before a meal's progression of courses.)

Stuffed vegetables play the part perfectly when the weather is warm. You have a wide variety of choices for the vegetable base, from endive leaves to mushroom caps, sections of cucumber to curved wedges of crispy bell pepper. The fillings can be equally diverse, including creamy cheeses mixed with fresh herbs, chopped vegetable salads, Middle Eastern hummus, or any of the other kinds of thick, flavorful mixtures you might also serve as dips.

One of my favorite stuffed-vegetable appetizer recipes begins with bite-sized roasted peppers such as the mildly spicy sweet Spanish variety known as piquillos. If you can't find them fresh in the market to roast for yourself at home, look for jars of already roasted and peeled whole piquillos in well-stocked markets. You could also use whatever other mild to moderately hot peppers are available in your market, choosing those that are one or two big mouthfuls in size. And if you can handle a little extra spiciness, try using big, plump red jalapeno chilies.

Most supermarket seafood departments sell good cooked lump crabmeat, ready for you to use in the filling. Just be sure to take the little extra effort to sort through the crabmeat, using clean fingertips to pick out any bits of shell or cartilage. If you prefer, you could also substitute chopped cooked shrimp or even lobster meat. A little extra chopped chili pepper, chopped fresh herbs, and a splash of fresh orange juice brighten the seafood's flavor, and good-quality prepared mayonnaise binds the mixture together. Just before serving, add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and more herbs for final aromatic bursts.

It's that simple. And yet, from the first sight and the first bite, your guests will feel like you've spent hours preparing this special appetizer. What an excellent way to get the party going!

Crab-Stuffed Sweet Spanish Peppers

Serves 6

7 small red piquillo peppers

7 small yellow piquillo peppers (or 7 more red piquillo peppers)

1/2 pound cooked crabmeat

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives, plus extra for garnishing

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chervil, plus extra for garnishing

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon, plus extra for garnishing

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt

Freshly ground white pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

Aged balsamic vinegar

Preheat the broiler.

Arrange 6 red and 6 yellow piquillo peppers (or 12 red ones) on a foil-lined broiler tray. Slide the peppers under the broiler and cook until their skins are evenly browned and blistered and the peppers have turned tender, watching carefully and turning them frequently using tongs.

Remove the tray from the broiler. Protecting your hands with oven mitts or pads, carefully fold up and crimp the edges of the foil to enclose the peppers. Leave them to steam inside the foil until cool enough to handle, at least 30 minutes.

Open the foil carefully to let any steam escape without burning you. Working on a cutting board, use a knife to cut off the stem end of each pepper at the pepper's widest point. Peel off and discard the blistered skin. With a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the seeds and veins from inside each pepper. Set the peppers aside.

With your fingertips, make sure to sort through the crabmeat to remove any fragments of shell or cartilage. Put the crabmeat in a mixing bowl. Halve, stem, seed, and devein the remaining 2 peppers and cut them into small dice. Add them to the crabmeat along with the chives, chervil, tarragon, mayonnaise, orange juice, and sugar. With a fork, mix gently but thoroughly. Taste and correct the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Using a teaspoon, stuff the roasted peppers with the crabmeat mixture. If not serving immediately, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

To serve, arrange the peppers on a platter or individual plates. Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with fresh herbs. Serve immediately.

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Recipes: "Crab-Stuffed Sweet Spanish Peppers "

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