My father-in-law is an incredible chef. He’s one of those culinary masters that has perfected the sleight of hand that, no matter how closely I watch him cook, sneaks something into every meal that makes me go “hhhmmm….what is that?”. A recent peek in his refrigerator revealed one such secret ingredient: the elusive green peppercorn.
Green peppercorns live in the supermarket aisle of “all things pickled”, usually nestled as only one or two inconspicuous jars living between the capers. These less-acclaimed, younger and softer cousins of the well-known black peppercorn come packed in a vinegar brine to keep them preserved, otherwise they’ll go south very quickly after being picked. Unlike their dried black counterparts, these peppercorns can (and should) be eaten whole. Their bright, piquant flavor packs a quick punch of heat that’s cherished in cuisines the world over, especially those of Southeast Asia.
Since they’re merchandized at the store next to the capers, think about swapping them out as such in your next meal. Their quick burst of peppery spice also packs a little bit of vinegar that brings levity and balance to sauces, pasta dishes, and many other Southeast Asian or French-inspired dishes.
Next time you need capers, consider the lonely green peppercorn. Need some inspiration? Check these ideas out:
We’ve all been to a house party where the dish of wasabi peas gets eaten around and left by the wayside. It’s not their fault, they’re just kind of a weird snack. Bring that same kick to your next plate of entertaining nosh with a plate of marinated olives. My local market has a great assortment of them at the olive bar and when I get home, I toss a small spoonful of green peppercorns in with the mix. Those who love the heat are pleasantly surprised at trying something new.
No self-respecting Italian home would be complete without some pesto around, right? While there’s always room for classic basil pesto, I love to make mine with walnuts and a mix of dill, parsley, sage, and rosemary. Whatever the combination, a spoonful of green peppercorns (and a splash of their delicious vinegar brine) will keep with the color and amp up the kick in your next batch. Only question then is, what will you put it on first?
Classic Brandy Cream Sauce:
This sauce is straight out of my father-in-law’s recipe box. Perfect for a date night with steaks or a ritzy finish to a simple roast chicken, deglaze a skillet with a splash of brandy and add in some chicken stock and cream. Reduce the mixture by about 2/3 until its thick and creamy and stir in some chopped herbs (I love tarragon) and a handful of green peppercorns. Your weeknight meal just went from boring to bangin’!
One of Rach’s favorite pasta dishes is classic Italian Puttanesca – a timeless mix of tomatoes, capers, anchovies, and parsley. Pick up her version [http://rachaelray.com/recipe.php?recipe_id=3932] or use your own family favorite and swap out the capers with green peppercorns. Keep a few more on the side to pass at the table and the punch of heat will definitely have your family reaching for seconds.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has. Probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary team on Rachael’s daytime talk show, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day, and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest twEATs on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickdecker.com.