Peppers with Stuff(ing)
This is very important. This is one of those cooking secret things that is incredibly easy and yet impressive. It is a way to have a fantastic meal and clean out your pantry: The art of stuffing a pepper and there is very little art to it. Just take some stuff that probably tastes good together, cook it with rice and stuff it inside a pepper. Not hard.
I knew I wanted to make some peppers last week so I picked up a few at the store. I also knew I wanted sausage in them, so I picked up some Italian sweet sausage. The rest of the below ingredients were things in my pantry and things that could be easily substituted or omitted entirely.
If you are playing along these are the ingredients I used:
1) Cook sausage in a large skillet without casing over medium-high heat. Crumble sausage as it cooks and cook until it’s browned, 8-10 minutes. Then add chopped onions and cook until they are soft, 4-5 minutes.
2) Peel and dice apples and then add to sausage. Cook for a minute or two.
3) Add rice to the skillet and season wiht salt and pepper.
4) Cut the tops off of the peppers and stuff them full of the rice mixture.
5) Place peppers in a baking dish and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees F. Add grated cheese to peppers and return to oven for 15 minutes.
Let peppers cool for a bit before serving.
The first thing you want to do for this meal is cook up the sausage. I just browned it in a bit of olive oil, breaking it up as it cooked. I find it easier to do this if you cut off the casing before cooking. You can leave it on though if you are in love with sausage casing.
You want to make sure the sausage is browned before you hit it with the apple. Take the time to chop up the apple into pretty small chunks. Obviously you don’t want a slice of apple sticking out of your pepper. After you throw in the apple, you just want to stir for a minute or two. I wanted to make sure the apple still had a tiny bit of crunch to it.
I’m omitting the next step which is making the risotto. That is because risotto is an entirely different post. Just make normal rice. I wouldn’t recommend the instant kind though. It might just get too mushy after baking it in the pepper. You want a rice with some heft if you can imagine such a thing. After the rice is done just stir in the apple-pepper mix.
So at this point my sausage apple risotto is delicious. Really the pepper is just a nice vehicle to deliver the awesome stuffing. Here are the vehicles:
Sometimes when people are filling peppers they do just that – they fill them. I don’t believe in that though. If you fill the peppers you end up with:
That’s fine and all, but that is not what Macheesmo is about. Macheesmo is about stuffing peppers. This is a meal – not a side dish.
It’s a subtle difference, but stuff them as high as you can. They will brown up nicely in the oven and just be lovely. Nobody will turn down a pepper because it is “overstuffed” and if they do never let them back in your house again.
So after they are stuffed, put them in a baking pan and in the oven for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. When I pulled them out after these 35 minutes a voice asked me, “Nick, is there a reason why you couldn’t cover these with cheese?” I didn’t have a good answer so I covered them with cheese. This turned out to be a good idea.
Now, some astute readers may notice a discrepancy. I said there were only three peppers after one went bad but in the below photo there are four red things. Surely an error! Well, I had left over stuffing because I planned for four peppers and I ended up with three. The one in the bottom left there is a tomato that I hollowed out and filled. The jury is still out on whether or not this was a good idea.
So in the oven for 15 more minutes after the cheese. If you don’t want to add the cheese that is fine, just leave them in the oven for 50 minutes total. You will end up with a lovely browned crusted pepper. The pepper itself will be soft and flavorful, the filling lighter than you would think.
I served it with a salad and a good IPA.
I think this was a really solid recipe for stuffed peppers but the point is that many things are a lot better if you stuff them in a pepper and bake them with cheese on top. Next time you are looking to get rid of some produce, don’t forget the humble pepper. It can be a great vessel for your leftover stuff(ing).
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