Manzanas are often times called “rocoto peppers” or “locoto”, depending on the region you’re in. Biologically they are different, but in terms of practicality, they’re really the same. Rocotos are more red, while Manzanas have a vibrant orange color like habaneros, with large, round black seeds. Indigenously, they both grow high up in the Peruvian Andes around 6,000-10,000 feet and, unlike most chiles, grow best in cooler weather.
The peppers are extremely hot (between 10,000-30,000 in Scoville units, compared to the jalapeno, which is around 5,000). This heat is like breathing in fire, so I strongly recommend (from experience) covering your nose and mouth when cutting and boiling them. Simply tie a bandana or kitchen towel around your head to cover your nose and mouth. Wash your hands throroughly before touching anything.
They're fantastic when pickled and used in tacos, sandwiches, pizzas. To pickle, first seed and de-vein the peppers and soak in ice water, the same as below, to cut some of the intense heat before using your favorite pickle recipe. If you want to cut the heat even more, boil them for a half hour or so. When pickled and chopped very finely, they’re great additions to a seriously spicy salsa.
This recipe is a traditional Peruvian recipe and is typically served with simple potato gratin, Arequipa style. When making it, be sure to add salt, pepper, herbs and spices throughout the cooking time rather than all at once. This will help to layer the sweet-salty-spicy combination into every bit. Add the egg at the very last minute and stir minimally to keep the eggy flavor and texture in tact.
You can substitute jalapenos, pasilla chiles (which will be easier to find and MUCH less hot) or Bulgarian carrot peppers, if you happen to find them.
Alternatively, you can also use this filling to fill empanadas; make sure to add a decent amount of red chile flake to have some balance in the flavors the you’d be missing without the peppers. The beef, the egg, the olive and the raisins make for a fairly traditional Chilean empanada filling.
Oaxacan cheese is easy to find at most grocery stores. It's similar to string cheese, like boiled mozzarella, and comes in a large, lumpy round.
Stuffed Manzana Peppers
8 oz Manzana peppers
1T cotija cheese
1/2C queso oaxaca or jack cheese
1/2C shredded beef
4 finely chopped (not ground) hard boiled eggs
1/2C chopped black olives
1/4 black raisins, rehydrated in water
1-2t olive oil
2+ pinches dried Mexican oregano
3t diced shallots
2 dried bay leaves
salt & pepper, layered, to taste
1. Cut the tops off of the peppers and scoop the seeds and white veins from the inside, then soak peppers in bowl of ice water with 1T
white vinegar for 1 hour to overnight.
2. After soaking, boil peppers until just softened, then remove and let stand at room temperature.
3. In a deep skillet, sauce pot or dutch oven, add olive oil, bay leaf, garlic and onion and cook until fragrant, seasoning
with salt, pepper, chile flake and oregano.
4. Add cubed beef and tablespoon of butter, cook until beef begins to brown on the outside (about 3 minutes)
5. Add cream and bring to soft boil, reduce for app. 6 minutes
6. Add crumbled quest fresco, cumin and more oregano, salt and garllic powder. Stir in and let cheese melt.
7. Turn heat down and check meat for doneness. Once cooked through, add olives, egg and raisin and stir in. Add more
cotija cheese and stir in.
8. Once the beef is cooked through and all ingredients have been incorporated, spoon the mixture into the hollowed-out
peppers and top with the Oaxacan or jack cheese.
9. Bake on a sheet pan at 400 degrees until warmed through and cheese is melted and browned.