1. Using tongs or a large fork, hold the pepper over the flame of a gas burner, turning as needed, until the skin is blistered and charred black on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. This may also be done in a broiler; watch the peppers carefully so the flesh doesnt burn.
2. Once the skin is blackened and puffy, transfer the peppers to a paper bag and close loosely. This allows the peppers to steam as they cool and helps to loosen the skins.
3. When the peppers are cool, peel or rub away the charred skin. Its OK if a little stays on the flesh. Dont rinse the peppers under running water or you will wash away some flavor.
4. Lay the peppers on a cutting board. Using a small, sharp knife, slit each pepper lengthwise. Some liquid will run out, so have paper towels handy. Open the pepper and spread it on the cutting board. Cut around the stem end, then remove the stem, seeds and membrane.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion: The A to Z Guide to Everyday Cooking, Equipment and Ingredients (Time-Life Books, 2000)