July 21, 2023 at 10:19 a.m.

Time for the pepper sneezes


By JEFF NORTON | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment
Sports Editor

Last year about this time, I did recipes for green peppers, as they nearly ready to be picked in our garden. This year, they still have a little bit of time left to go. I’m not a great gardening mind, but I assume it’s because of how hot and dry it’s been this year. We water our plants every day, but when there is just natural moisture and rain here and there, I feel like it makes a big difference in the speed and size of your plants and their growth.

So, as I was thinking of a different type of recipe column for this year, peppers were sticking with me and it all of a suddenly dawned on me that I absolutely love black pepper and can highlight it in this space. Obviously it’s not the same type of food or recipes as the vegetables, but there is many very good peppered food recipes that call for more than just a dash here or a sprinkle there.

Just an aside, though, before I get started. I buy the nice, coarse, thick pepper, not your regular table pepper in the tiny granules. It just packs more flavor, and I don’t have to deal with grinding my own then either. Just assume that in my recipes this week, I’m referring to coarse, thick pepper, unless otherwise noted.

Some of these will be simple, and some will be more than that, but they will all feature black pepper heavily.

Also, last note: I’ve never gotten the pepper sneezes before, but Aly does, and they are the cutest little sneezes and nose crinkles when she gets them!


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GLAZED BLACK 

PEPPER BACON

8 slice thick-cut bacon

3 tbsp. maple syrup

1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange 8 slices thick-cut bacon on rack fitted into jelly-roll pan.

Brush slices with maple syrup; sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until crisp.


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This one pairs amazingly with a steak. It’s not a standalone recipe, as you’ll need to have a protein or potatoes to put it over, but it’s immaculate. 

My favorite time to make this sauce is when I might get a budget cut of steak. I prefer my fillets and ribeyes with just seasoning on them, but if I’m getting a sirloin or eye of round, putting a nice peppered sauce on it really kicks it up to steakhouse quality without the exorbitant cost.

It also paired well with mushrooms, potatoes, chicken or pork chops.


PEPPERCORN SAUCE

1 large shallot

1/2 bunch fresh chives

1 1/2 tbsp. whole black peppercorns

2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1/2 c. brandy or cognac

1 c. beef stock or broth

1/3 c. heavy cream

2 tsp. cornstarch (optional)


Mince 1 large shallot. Finely chop 1/2 bunch fresh chives until you have about 3 tablespoons. Place 1 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and coarsely crush. 

Place the shallot, 1 tablespoon of the unsalted butter, and 1/4 of the teaspoon kosher salt in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots have softened and are lightly browned at the edges, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Carefully add 1/2 cup brandy or Cognac. Return to medium-high heat and cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute.

Whisk in 1 cup beef stock and peppercorns. Bring to a rapid simmer. Simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

Add 1/3 cup heavy cream and the remaining 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. If you would like an even thicker sauce, mix 2 teaspoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water and add to sauce, whisking continuously. Cook for 1 minute more.

Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Taste and add season with more kosher salt and crushed black pepper as needed. Serve sauce spooned over steak, chicken, or grilled mushrooms. Garnish with the chives.


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This is a play on the popular Asian dish that you can find at many restaurants.


BLACK PEPPER CHICKEN

2 lbs. chicken thighs (boneless and skinless cut into 1 inch cubes)

2 tbsp. soy sauce (low sodium)

6 cloves garlic (minced)

1 c. cornstarch

1/3 c. vegetable oil

2 large onions (chopped)

1 large red bell pepper (cut into 1 small ½ inch pieces)

2 tsp. sesame oil


BLACK PEPPER SAUCE

2 tsp. Sichuan peppercorn powder

2 tsp. black pepper (freshly ground)

1/3 c. oyster sauce

1/4 c. soy sauce (low sodium)

1 tsp. dark soy sauce

1/4 c. dry sherry wine


In a medium size bowl, combine the chicken pieces with the 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and minced garlic. Toss well. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the chicken and toss well.

Make the sauce: In a small bowl, combine all the black pepper sauce ingredients together.

Add the vegetable oil to a wok or large skillet and heat over high heat. Add half the chicken to the wok and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel lined plate and repeat with remaining chicken.

If there's no vegetable oil left in the skillet, add another tablespoon or so. Add the onion and peppers to the wok and cook for a minute. Add the chicken back to the wok and the prepared black pepper sauce. Toss until well combined. Drizzle the sesame oil over the chicken and stir.

Serve: Serve immediately over rice.


TFD: A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.


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