Monday: 110% Vindicated by Stuffed Bell Peppers Success (aka the “When a Market Offers You Three Types of Ground Meat in One Package — Buy It” Post)

Just ask anyone who’s been within 100 feet (okay, maybe 10 feet is more reasonable) of these stuffed peppers.

“Oh my god, it smells amazing,”

“I was going to ask you, where can I get some of that,”

“Something smells sooo good. Did you make that?!”

Why yes, yes I did.

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Started with an itch for chili rellenos (an entirely different beast) that I caught watching part of a dumb episode of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown show. I had peppers on my mind.

Then I found these really bulbous ones on sale for cheap at my local fruit-veggie stand on York Street in the Upper East Side. Inner monologue: “Really, two for $1? Shit that’s cheap.” “Alright, they may not be pobleno, but they’ve got potential.” (I bought four.)

I also had a box of Reese’s wild rice that I’ve been wanting to use. Call it the Minnesotan in me, but I adore wild rice —  it’s everything good about rice, only better: Granular, nutty, earthy, each grain fiercely independent and boasting actual nutritional value.

Bell peppers, rice, check, check. At this point I turned to the Internet. Hands down, the most influential recipe that I came across was this one, which opened my eyes to three great ideas:

No. 1: Slice the bell peppers in half. Who needs a whole stuffed thing, anyhow?

No. 2: Stuff the pepper halves with a ground meat-based mix (plus onion, egg, fresh herbs, etc.), not purely veggie-on-veggie, which can sometimes end up being watery, bland and … sad.

No. 3: Start off the peppers in a frying pan, a good few minutes on each side, before lining up on a baking tray in the oven. Dang, pan start and oven finish? You mean exactly the same method as so many other proteins? Must be on the right track.

photo-10I couldn’t find any single recipe to try, so this was me winging it. Truly, a BLD Project original recipe:

Banging Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 8

4 bulbous bell peppers, color of your choosing
2/3 of one small, white onion (to your liking)
2/3 of one stalk of celery, rinsed and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 crimini mushrooms, cleaned and diced
¼ c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, loosely chopped (to your liking)
1 lb. ground meat of your choice — get creative
1 egg
1 c. cooked wild rice

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1. Get the water for the rice boiling because it’s going to take nearly an hour to cook.

2. Wash and core the bell peppers, meaning, make the smallest hole possible on top so you can extract the seed chamber inside. Cut each bell pepper in half, vertically. Trim off any membrane inside that annoys you (although it really doesn’t matter). This is not unlike cleaning a pumpkin.

3. Prep onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms. In a saute pan, low heat, olive oil, saute onion and celery. Set aside. In the same pan, no rinse necessary, saute the garlic and the mushrooms. Set aside.

4. While the rice is still finishing, boil another pot of water and gently blanch each of the bell pepper halves. Two or three minutes mostly submerged in boiling water — softens them up. No need to run under cold water. Just throw them back into the strainer.

5. Once the rice is done, fold the egg, the onion/celery mix, the garlic/mushroom mix, 1 c. wild rice, the fresh parsley, salt and pepper into the ground meat (I stumbled upon a veal/beef/pork combo at my local Food Emporium that was selling for $3.99/lb — that ended up being amazing).

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6. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Put your back into it.

7. Stuff each of the pepper halves so that they are ever-so-slightly mounding with stuffing.

8. Pan fry on both sides until you start getting some serious browning, or about 5-7 minutes on each side. (Really, don’t be gentle, these things are hard to overcook in a frying pan.)

9. Finish off in the oven at 350 degrees, another 10-12 minutes, depending your preference of done-ness and the intensity of your oven … but, let the record note, in my opinion it’s always better to have underdone meat than overdone meat — a microwave can finish off underdone meat in 30 seconds, whereas there is no going back once it has gone too far.

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