Thursday, January 27, 2011

CSA week six - optimized stuffed peppers

It's been a few years since I've stuffed a pepper. I think the mediocre results dissuaded me from the effort. Beyond the two peppers in week five's share, what inspired me to pick the idea back up again was an article on that claimed to have the secret to better peppers: a whole lot of salt. That sounded sensible to me so I thought I'd give it a try.

1/2 cup uncooked rice, cooked [careful if you have a rice cooker. The cup measure that comes with mine is six ounces so I had to use 2/3 the resulting cooked rice]
4 bell peppers, tops removed, cored and de-ribbed, and a bit sliced off the bottom if they won't stand up straight
2 Tablespoons fat of one sort or another
1 medium onion, diced
plenty of garlic, minced
1 pound meat, grind to a coarse hamburger texture [You do grind your own, right? You definitely should]
Worcestershire, soy or Maggi sauce or some other umami-rich seasoning
tomato in one form or another
2 eggs
cheese, grated
salt and pepper

0. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. While the rice is cooking, boil a pot of water large enough to submerge at least one pepper. Add salt as if you were cooking pasta and simmer peppers until they start to soften, around 3 minutes. Drain and cool. [I used the water I rinsed my rice in. Waste not, want not.]

2. Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Add your fat of choice and heat. When your fat is ready add the onion and cook until softened and slightly browned. [Add any other vegetables you want to include around now and reduce the amount of meat accordingly.] Add garlic, cook briefly until fragrant. Add meat [I used beef] and cook until barely no-longer-pink. Season heavily with salt and pepper but add only enough Worcestershire (or whatever) to bring out the meatiness, not so much that you can identify it. Remove to a large bowl.

3. Mix rice into the meat mixture.

[At this point I split the filling into two bowls so I could go in two different culinary directions.]

4. Add your tomato of choice and season to match. [To one bowl I added half a can of roasted diced tomato, basil and oregano. To the other, about the same amount of salsa, chili powder, cumin and chipotle flakes.]

5. Add the eggs and mix well. [The original recipe called for just one egg, but I was disappointed in the final texture so I think you should use more.]

6. Salt the peppers well, inside and out, and stand them up in a baking dish. Stuff them with your filling, packing it in well. [I either had smallish peppers (I did) or I went overboard with the tomato (probably also true), as I had a fair bit of extra filling. No reason you couldn't save it and stuff something else later.]

7. Top peppers with grated cheese. I used mozzarella for the Italian-seasoned peppers and pepper Jack for the Mexican.

8. Bake for 30-40 minutes until cheese is bubbly and browned and the peppers have wrinkled up a bit.

And here's the result:

It definitely looks better than my previous stuffed pepper attempts, although I'm a bit disappointed that the filling doesn't stick together. An extra egg or two, as I advise above, would help with that. As would using bread crumbs instead of rice and/or mixing some cheese into the filling. The flavor combinations turned out quite well, if a little overboard on the salt.

The real question is, is the pepper itself improved. It's been nearly three years since I last had a stuffed pepper so I have no idea, to be honest. However, reading over those old posts, I don't sound entirely happy with the results and this time around, I think I am. The pepper is firm and flavorful but doesn't overwhelm the flavors of the fillings. I can definitely recommend it. I do wish I had done one without salting to compare and contrast, though.


Karen said...

Your stuffed peppers look just like the ones my mom always made - comfort food! I like stuffing a roasted pepper, instead of boiled...peeling optional, but still makes a great difference in taste and texture, and it removes some of the moisture in the pepper. Course they will usually not stand up even before the stuffing and baking, but all fall down sooner or later. A tasty vegetarian alternative stuffing that binds well is a mixture of goat+cottage+cheddar cheese with chopped roasted pecans or walnuts, corn, diced sundried tomato, with some sauteed garlic and onion and your choice of herbs and spices. The cheese mixture is about 40% of the total volume. No egg needed, nor salt.

billjac said...

You're right that roasted the pepper makes a great difference, but I think it transforms the flavor so much that it's a different sort of dish. No one would confuse a chile relleno with a classic American stuffed pepper. Worth experimenting with both, though.