“Char” is one of those buzzwords that’s popping up on a lot of menus these days. It’s understandable! Charring something is quite exciting. The act of intentionally burning your food—whyever would someone do that? It’s more common than you’d think. Take, for example, roasted red peppers: charring the outside of the pepper renders it pliable, sweet, smoky, and delicious. In addition, whole eggplants are routinely torched and then blended to transform the meat into the smoky, silky, smooth dip we all know as babbaganoush . It’s basically black magic.
So, why stop at the basics? A number of vegetables benefit greatly from a little char.
Peppers are still number one. Our Smoky Sriracha takes that ever-present condiment and amps it up with a hit of savory sweetness from charred red jalapeño peppers. It improves everything it touches, from eggs to tacos to stir-fry. In the summer, when peppers from the garden are plentiful, pluck the mild ones, like Anaheim or poblano, from the bucket to blister and char them on the grill. Simply serve them with some cotija cheese and cilantro leaves for an amazing start to any gathering.
Spring onions become as sweet as candy when you slide them out of their charred exterior.
Carrots take on a meaty texture. We love to char extra-large carrots, pull the char off, and serve them in buns for a fun play on a traditional American favorite, the hot dog.
Recently, we’ve been charring citrus like satsumas for salad dressings and avocados to use as a garnish for tacos.
All you need to get started is a hot flame and a good idea.
An ideal heat source would be an open flame like that on your outdoor grill’s side burner or outdoor range, but you could just as easily char something in your oven under the broiler. Just cook it until it’s nice and black, allow it to cool, and peel the char away to see the magic that has happened under the surface.
Editor’s Note: Husband-and-wife team Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence blog as The Chubby Vegetarian out of Memphis, TN, and are the authors of the new cookbook The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table (Thomas Nelson, 2013). Last week, they made this sexy veggie dish from our archives and shared it on their site.