Sometimes I cook a dish not to feed or for a subtle balance of flavors, but out of single-minded, monistic, shameless, worshipful obsession. It works like this: I didn’t need four adjectives to describe this kind of obsession, especially not both of the first two. But to have more of one thing, I need a variety of sameness. How do I create more roasted bell pepper? By adding other things, flavors spinning around a center always just to the side of roasted bell pepper. The center is almost the sauce, everything bound together in cream. The other things are just drawn out aspects of the original: bacon smokey like them, smoked paprika essentially the same as them, but dried and powdered. Then there are those forgotten things: onions and garlic sauteed in olive oil. What metaphor to turn to (the search for which is itself a good metaphor for what it is to organize a dish around a single ingredient)? Melody, harmony, and rhythm?
1 pound tiny yellow, orange, and red bell peppers 1/4 pound bacon ends 1 smallish onion 4 cloves garlic 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup heavy cream 2 teaspoons smoked paprika a pinch of black pepper salt to taste
Chop onion and garlic finely. In a large saucepan on medium-low sautee onion and garlic in olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Stir every few minutes. Heat a large cast-iron skillet to medium heat. Cut tops off of bell peppers, slice in half, and de-seed. Drop bacon ends into skillet, then bell pepper halves. Stir bell peppers when bottom sides blacken a bit. When bacon ends are a little charred, and majority of bell peppers are somewhere blackened, transfer into large saucepan with onion and garlic. Mix together and add smoked paprika and black pepper. Add heavy cream. Stir every few minutes while the sauce thickens. It should take maybe fifteen minutes to thicken. When it’s the right consistency to stick to pasta, add salt to taste.