Every year I make a batch of pepper confit (confit means to cook very slowly usually in oil or fat) with Doux des Landes (capsicum annum) grown in the fields of Criqueboeuf sur Seine, hardly considered pepper country. Criqueboeuf-sur-Seine is just a few kilometers from my house in Normandy, the land of lettuce and leeks, potatoes and shallots. Peppers are from southern climes and this particular variety, whose fruit can grow as long as a foot, is from the Landes, a huge department in the southwest which dips into the Pays Basque. Peppers are ubiquitous there, in fields and in dishes like piperade (eggs and sautéed peppers Miam); Normandy cuisine couldn’t be more different. BUT, peppers grown in Criqueboeuf, whose soil has a particularity which gives everything from it extra flavor and sweetness, are rivals to their southern cousins. Shh! I’d even say they’re better.
Their season for Doux des Landes is relatively short. When they’re ready, I get a text message from Baptiste Bourdon, who grows them. He loves my pepper confit and wants to be sure I make and share with him, so the alert means that he’s put some aside. The text arrived last Friday, so Saturday I got my peppers and just made the confit. The harvest is meager for now (thanks to global warming) though that could change. But for now my quantity was limited. I made the most of it, and have just enough confit of pepper to serve, and to share.
Just Three Ingredients
This is a three ingredient recipe, including salt. You may look at it and say “Where is the garlic, the heat, the lemon juice, the basil, the parsley, the bah blah..” there is nothing but peppers and oil here, and when you taste it you’ll understand why. The peppers are round, sweet, almost buttery in texture when cooked like this. And a little goes a long way because it’s flavor is so immediately satisfying. It goes with just about anything but a peanut butter sandwich (actually, it would probably be delicious with peanut butter).
Pepper and Eggs
But for my money and palate, it’s true role is to accompany fried eggs which, yes, I copied from the Basques. I drain some of the oil from the confit, heat that and fry the eggs in it. Then, I put a small dollop of the confit on a plate, pour a glass of rose if it’s hot outside, red if it isn’t, and oh my!
You will find many uses for this. If you can’t get Doux des Landes (but you most likely can since many, many seed houses in the U.S. offer it), then you can grow your own. You can try this technique with your favorite pepper, too. Each will give a different result.
Keys to the success of this recipe: don’t let even ONE seed into it. Get rid of them all. And slice your peppers as thin as you can, then dice them because they’ll release even more flavor that way. It takes time, so put on your favorite music and dice away.
- ½ cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 pounds (750g) Doux des Landes peppers trimmed, seeds and white pith removed, diced,
- Pinch fine sea salt
Place the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan with sides that are at least 2-inches (5m) high, over medium-low heat.
Add the peppers and stir, then season lightly with salt.
When the peppers begin to sizzle, stir them and reduce the heat to low. If necessary, place a "flame tamer" between the pan and the flame to keep the heat low. Cover the peppers.
Cook the peppers, stirring regularly so they don't stick, until they are deep red and completely tender through, which will take about 1 hour. Taste and give them more time if necessary.