Fried Italian Dried Peppers (a.k.a. Paparul Crushk)

The May 2009 issue of Saveur magazine had a cover story titled: "The Real Italy." While paging through the magazine we noticed a section on Basilicata, Italy which is where Dom's grandmother was born. The article mentions the sweet fried red peppers that many of his family members remember from their childhood. Dom's grandmother would dry long red sweet peppers that she had grown in the garden. Then (this was a rare treat) she would fry up the peppers. His grandmother called them "paparul crushk," and are also known as peperoni cruschi. They were like a homing device. Her kids would drop in just in time for some of the fried dried peppers. Dom describes them as "salty and crunchy like pepper flavored potato chips."

Pepper Rista
We actually tried to order the peppers from the website the article mentioned, but no luck. So, Dom bought dried red Anaheim peppers and tried frying them. They turned really to dark and thus once they hit the oil get even darker. They were too spicy and not what Dom remembered them tasting like. Poor Sonny was a vicitm of the heat...

We found another type of dried pepper at the DeKalb Farmer's Market called "California" peppers. These are as close as we have ever come to the real deal. We have also come to a realization - the olive oil use to fry the peppers can't be too hot or the peppers burn almost instantly. If the oil is just above warm but not smoking, the peppers will cook very quickly when turned once but not burn. Remove and drain on a paper towel, salt and let cool. The peppers get super crispy when allowed to cool for a few minutes. Sweet and smoky at the same time, these crunchy treats compliment prosciutto and Italian cheeses nicely.

Once they are fried, the peperoni cruschi can be crumbled and added to sautéed breadcrumbs (mollica di pane) then sprinkled over pasta. Leftovers can be saved by putting them in a jar and then covering them in the oil used to fry them. The oil becomes infused with the pepper's flavor and unusual smoky-hot flavor. It can then be used as an oil for dipping bread, drizzled on pasta dishes.