A coulis isn't just easy to make, it's versatile too. Pete McGahey, Executive Chef at Beverley Hospital, shows us how to make a simple red pepper coulis which could be used in any number of ways.
A coulis is quite simply a puree of cooked seasoned vegetables or fruit. World renowned cooking reference book, Larousse Gastronomique, explains that a vegetable coulis "may be used to enhance the flavor of a sauce, it may itself be used as a sauce or it may be used as an ingredient in soup."
McGahey chooses to use this coulis as a simple sauce with risotto, but there are plenty of other possibilities. It would also work well on pasta, as it is or as an addition to a more complex pasta sauce, such as Bolognese, giving a real depth of flavor; the same goes for a few spoons added to a tomato base for pizza. Alternately, you could mix some with aioli (garlic mayonnaise) for a wonderful accompaniment to a Mediterranean-style fish soup, such as bouillabaisse.
To give the red pepper coulis a deep, smoky flavor, McGahey chars it on a gas burner for three or four minutes, turning it until the pepper is completely charred all the way around. He explains that "if you don't have a gas burner, you can just use an electric oven with a broiler. Just set up the broiler, leave the door open a little bit. It'll take the same amount of time, but you've just got to be careful and make sure you are turning it accordingly."
McGahey suggests a cubanella or yellow pepper as an alternative if you don't have or want to use a red one, "but you want to stay away from using a plain old green pepper; you're just not going to get the right flavor or the color" he says.
"Once the pepper is completely charred all the way around, you want to put it in either a covered bowl with plastic wrap or a paper bag and let it stand for about 20 minutes" explains McGahey. This allows the hot pepper to 'sweat' which makes the skin much easier to peel.
When the pepper is ready, he rinses it with a little bit of cold water to help remove the skin; "it's ok if there's a little bit left on. It'll add a little bit of charred, smoky flavor" says McGahey, "never a bad thing". Then he pulls the top off and rinses the seeds out.
McGahey blends the pepper with 1 clove of garlic and a "little bit of extra virgin olive oil just to thin it out a little bit" and that's it, done. It couldn't be more simple.
Red Pepper Coulis
2 red peppers (yellow or other colors except green can be substituted)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Roast the red peppers directly over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning occasionally, until the peppers are blackened all over.
2. Transfer the peppers to a paper bag or a covered bowl and let cool completely.
3. Peel the peppers and discard the skins, seeds and cores. This can be easily done under running water.
4. In a food processor, combine the peppers with the olive oil and puree until very smooth.
Season the coulis with salt and pepper.
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Recipe courtesy of Chefs Pete McGahey and David Gauvin, Unidine, Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital, 2012.