Friday, January 6, 2012

(Mostly) Around The House Stuffed Peppers

I've wanted to make stuffed peppers for a while now, haven't made them in years. As usual, I don't have everything that I need, but I put together what I had from around my kitchen- mostly. I say mostly because I did go and buy the peppers and the chopped meat especially for this dish.

You will need:

several teaspoons salt
several teaspoons pepper
1 cup white rice (I use Basmati)
several tablespoons of butter
6 bell peppers (traditionally green, I used a mix of green and yellow because they only had two green left.)
1 small onion
1 clove garlic (I used a clove of smoked garlic, which was all I had)
1 tiny can of tomato paste
~1.5 pounds of chopped beef
oregano (about a teaspoon, dried)
basil (about a teaspoon, dried)
1 egg
Worcestershire sauce

First thing's first. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Have a large casserole dish (large enough to fit all of your peppers upright inside) on hand. Put a fairly large (6 quart) pot of salt water on the stove to heat. Note that this should be fairly lightly salted, you don't want it to be salty like you make pasta in- it will turn your pepper into pimento if you do that.

I recently figured out a trick when it comes to rice. I hate washing rice. It's not that its hard, but it takes forever, your hands get pruney, and you're never quite certain that you've gotten all the starch washed off. Here's the trick. Get a large, deep mixing bowl. Deep is important. You don't want one of those shallow but large ones. Just a big, classic deep mixing bowl. Put one cup of rice in the bowl. Stick the mixing bowl in your sink, under the faucet. Aim the faucet into the middle of the rice and turn the faucet on, hot. Why hot? Because starch is more soluble in hot water than cold. What *should* happen (and you will need to shift the bowl/faucet around) is the water will hit in the middle of the bowl and spread out and come up the sides. A current will be set up so that the rice will flow with the water in a cycle, constantly rinsing it, no need to stick your hands in. After a few minutes, the water should run clear. Bam, you're done.

Wash 1 cup of rice and drain. Add it to 1 1/2 cups (there will still be a little water left in the rice, which is why I don't say 1 3/4 cup) water and a tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan and put on a high heat until boiling. On boiling, turn the heat down very low so it just simmers and cover tightly. After 10-15 minutes, it should be dry. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

While the rice is cooking, cut the tops off of the bell peppers, putting the edible parts of the tops aside, and clean the insides of membrane and seeds. Once all six are done, place them into the pot of water. Hopefully you didn't take too long about this, so the water should still be pretty cool. This will be brought to a boil and allowed to boil for five minutes. However, this much water takes a long time to get to a boil, so by the time the peppers are ready to be fished out, you should be ready to use them.

Take the edible parts of the top of the peppers and chop them up. Also chop the small onion, and the single clove of garlic (chop this fine but no need to mince it, or you can crush it if you like). In a frying pan, melt two tablespoons of butter. Add the peppers, onion and garlic and stir them a little to make sure everything is nicely coated and cook for five minutes until tender. Add the tiny can of tomato paste, re-fill the can with water and add the water to the frying pan. Stir until the tomato paste is evenly incorporated into the vegetables. Add a teaspoon salt, teaspoon pepper, the oregano and basil and stir. Let that sit with an occasional stir for 5 minutes or so- you want it to be thick, but not play-doh thick. Like a good tomato sauce in thickness.

In another mixing bowl, whip the egg until fluffy. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and whisk it together. You want to add the Worcestershire sauce now. How much? I add a tablespoon or two- but I have low sodium, so if you have regular you may want to add less. Just use a few generous dashes, you should be fine. Add the chopped meat and the rice (should be finished cooking by now). Use a lean chopped meat, you don't want lots of fat oozing through the peppers, making it greasy. Add half of the tomato-mixture from the frying pan. Mix by hand. As with all chopped meat, you don't want to over-mix it, but you want it fairly homogeneous. It won't take too long.

Fish the peppers out of the water and put them upright in the casserole dish. Fill them with the meat mixture by hand- you can add it in without touching the pepper if the pepper is still really hot. Top with rest of the tomato mixture.

Pop into your hot over for an hour, then take out and let cool. Eat and enjoy! Hands down best stuffed peppers I've ever had. And the yellow peppers? I'm never going back to green again, much sweeter and more flavorful!

Edit: I made an absolutely enormous batch for a party last night and found something interesting- the amounts don't seem to scale linearly. I made a little over three times the number of peppers (red, yellow, and green) and made three times as much filling, but had enough for a good 4-5 more at the end. I'm not really sure why this is, but the green peppers I got were a little bit on the small side. So, I guess, look at this as working for fairly large bell peppers.