18 Oct Guest: Stuffed Peppers. My Grandma's Old School Sicilian Way
A very good friend reminded me today of stuffed peppers. My grandma would spend 8 hours making her version of stuffed peppers using not only the traditional green peppers but she included red, yellow and orange peppers as well in her recipe. I say recipe but Granny never used a recipe a day in her life. Each and every one of her over 2300 dishes, she made from scratch, using her memory to recreate many of her childhood dishes, taught to her by her mom and grandmom.
If you are thinking 8 hours for one dish is excessive, Granny spent 12 hours to make her lasagna. One day, I’ll share how she made that South Side Of Chicago famous dish.
Get comfortable and follow along……as with any dish I post that I make, the disclaimer/rules are the same: You can substitute ingredients if you choose but it will never taste the same as what I am giving you the recipe to make. The end results I boast about achieving are only possible by following my recipe to the letter. THAT does not mean you can NOT substitute ingredients….BUT YOUR DISH WITH YOUR SUBS WILL TASTE DIFFERENT FROM MY DISH.
I almost forgot….for my vegan friends, substitute all meats with ground tofu or ground squash of your choosing….season and treat both tofu and ground squash exactly as you would the meat stuffing. I personally would saute the tofu and squash a few minutes in a pan with garlic, tomatoes and seasonings before adding into the peppers….but that is not necessary.
HERE WE GO….
First the peppers…. you’ll need about 15 good firm fresh peppers ranging in color from red to yellow to green to orange. Now of course using all one color is acceptable but judging from the image above, multi-color peppers make for a WOW moment when you lay this platter of stuffed peppers in the middle of the table. Use whatever good firm fresh peppers you can locate this time of year and bell peppers are NOT your only option. Be creative and use the peppers YOU like.
Second, the stuffing…….believe it or not this is the most crucially important step to any stuffed peppers recipe. Now if you want a dish that people will talk about long after this meal is digested…..something folks will be telling their friends and family members about, just follow my recipe/instructions to the letter. YES it’s a bit more work, but taste is the ultimate goal of any cook.
Stuffing…..The Meats: Visit a butcher or your meat department in your local grocery store and ask the butcher behind the counter for the following: 3 ribeye steaks, with good marbling, ground up very fine…. one pound of a ground mild or spicy Italian sausage and finally one pound of ground lamb. You can just get some ground beef, but if you taste your recipe using ground beef and my recipe using these ground meats…..you’ll see and taste the difference. The ribeye steak with the marbling and the ground lamb make this stuffing incredible.
Stuffing…The Flavor: Get some fresh garlic, roma tomatoes, fresh cilantro, green onions, flat leaf parsley and finally some fresh ginger.
The Sauce…..I already know asking most of you to make your sauce from scratch is not going to happen so choose the best tomato or spaghetti sauce in your grocery store. PLEASE do not buy Ragu or Prego sauce. Try Barilla or Giada de Laurentiis or Francesco Rinaldi…all available in your local grocer’s pasta aisle.
The Seasoning….. Italian Seasoning, Onion POWDER, Garlic POWDER, Cajun Seasoning, Smoked Paprika. These are not for the stuffing, but for the sauce you buy. DO NOT BUY ONION SALT OR GARLIC SALT. The salts will make your dish way too salty. One cup of extra virgin olive oil. Grated Parmesan cheese and some Italian breadcrumbs.
The Preparation……preheat over to 450…..very important step….then…..
FINELY Chop up the garlic, cilantro, parsley, tomatoes, green onions and FINELY grate the ginger. Core and remove all the seeds from your peppers, after washing them thoroughly. I like the seeds and leave some in for extra added flavor and crunch but you can remove them all if you desire. Mix all your ground meats with the chopped ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle a very small amount of olive oil into this mixture. At this point if you need to add seasonings because you like an extra added kick of flavor, sprinkle that into this meat mixture now and mix very well. If you’re like me and want to taste the meats and chopped ingredients by themselves, skip adding any additional seasonings.
Assembly……coat the outside and inside of each pepper with olive oil, then spoon in as much meat stuffing mixture as your peppers will hold WITHOUT OVER STUFFING. A good rule of thumb is just to the rim/top of each pepper. Assemble them in a deep baking dish big enough for the peppers to fit without being too crowded. At this point you may sprinkle some seasonings over the top of your peppers. My grandmother would cover ’em now with foil paper. I do not cover them at all.
The reason I do not cover my peppers, or most any foods I bake is because covering food when baking adjust the baking time and doneness of the dish. I watch my dishes when baking and decide their doneness by smell, look and touch. When you put them into your preheated oven, let ’em bake for 35 minutes, then turn the oven off and allow them to “rest” inside the oven with the door closed for 10 minutes.
While the peppers are busy baking into delicious yummyness, pour your sauce into a pot and warm over medium heat adding your desired seasonings to your taste. Do not bring to a boil or allow to burn in your pot. WATCH THE SAUCE LIKE A HAWK WATCHING RABBITS PLAY.
At the 25 minute mark of the baking process…..in other words after your peppers have baked for 25 of the 35 minutes, sprinkle over the top of the peppers, after removing ’em from the hot oven, your Parmesan cheese/breadcrumbs mixture. Pop back in the over for the remaining 10 minutes baking time and then allow them to “rest” for ten minutes after you turn off the oven. Once the peppers have rested, you can do one of two things…..pour your sauce over them right then or serve your sauce in a gravy boat or bowl on the side at the table, or over each individual serving of the peppers. At this point, I usually remove that 15th pepper, and eat it up….my treat for putting together this masterpiece.
As always make the substitutions you desire and enjoy your meal. If you make this, let me know how it turned out and all the WOWS you get.
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