Piquillos are slightly sweet and spicy handpicked peppers that are roasted in brick ovens before being peeled and preserved in brine. They're most typically used in Basque cuisine, stuffed with pureed salt cod and served with a rich cream sauce. In the non-Basque parts of Rioja, these delicate peppers are often filled with a creamy-shrimp-and-mushroom stuffing and served with a quick and rustic tomato sauce, The best-quality jarred piquillo peppers are available at most specialty markets. For firmer peppers, look for brands that are packed in only salt and water with no citric acid added to the brine.
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1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
5 garlic cloves, 3 minced and 2 thinly sliced
1 small onion, minced
1 pound oyster mushrooms, stems discarded and large mushrooms halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound medium shrimpshelled, deveined and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fine, dry bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet pimentón (see Note)
2 large egg yolks
8 large piquillo peppers from a jar, drained
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, finely chopped
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly brush a medium, shallow baking dish with olive oil. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and the onion and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until softened and just golden, about 7 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, just until opaque, about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and then the milk and bring to a simmer, stirring, until smooth. Stir in the parsley, bread crumbs and pimentón and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the egg yolks and remove from the heat. Continue to stir until the egg yolks are fully incorporated and the stuffing is thick, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool.
Make a lengthwise slit down 1 side of each piquillo pepper. On a work surface, open the peppers and spoon the stuffing into the center, overfilling them slightly. Close the pepper around the stuffing as neatly as possible. Transfer the stuffed piquillo peppers to the prepared baking dish, seam side down, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until they are heated through.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the sliced garlic and cook over low heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until a thick sauce forms, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Using a spatula, carefully transfer the stuffed piquillos to plates. Spoon the tomato sauce over them and serve.
The unbaked stuffed piquillos can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking.
Pimentón is available at specialty markets in sweet and hot varieties.
A soft, simple white or a refreshing rosé from Rioja will bring together the sweet and salty flavors in the stuffing and the slight spiciness of the peppers.
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