A couple of days ago I was cruising the Instructables food section and happened across someone’s entry for stuffed peppers.Instant cravings set in as it has been a while since I’ve made this.These days my time is severely budgeted, which for me is a harsh reality.Normally I am quite a snobbish foodie towards ingredients and cheating at steps.My other foodie friends will mock some of my chosen ingredients, but for this dish it works.
The whole point of this dish is to have something that tastes like it’s been simmering for hours versus the 40 minutes it takes from start to finish.Even clean-up has been reduced as some of the steps have made things not quite as messy.Cheat further and use disposable lasagna pans as I did, yes my Hippy friends will be mortified, ah well; what they don’t know won’t hurt them…. Right?
The trick here is the fact that for this dish you can get away without caramelizing the onions which knocks off about 10 minutes.Your still cooking them, it’s just they get tossed in with the rice prior to cooking.This still allows a full rich oniony flavour to be imparted to the rice, but cuts down on the time, and the fat content – win win.Second, by pre-steaming the peppers you cut down on the oven time for this dish.The water used to boil the peppers is what you dilute the sauce with, so the flavour loss is re-introduced back into the dish – tricky!
This recipe is engineered to be half and half. Half for meat lovers and half for vegetarians. It feeds about 12 people with a pepper per person. Serve with some crunchy buttered french bread and a small salad and everyone will be happy
A note on the vegetarian - this uses Paneer, a cheese of Indian origin. I use the pre-packaged variety as it works better being pressed. By all means though, if you have access to fresh paneer that's quite firm use it instead!
Step 1: Ingredients
- 12 Green bell peppers – sweet pepper lack the needed bitterness
- 3 cups basmati rice
- 5 cups water
- 2 large onions
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 Vegetarian bouillon cubes
- ¼ cup garlic powder, ¼ cup onion powder “mix these 2 together”
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 lb ground beef – regular
- 1 lb ground pork
- 3 large cans – tomato sauce
- 2 lasagne pans
- Worcestershire sauce
Step 2: Prep
Cheese prep – for Vegetarian
- Slice your paneer cheese into slices about 1/3 of an inch thick
- Cut these into sticks about 1/3” thick again
- Toss with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of the garlic/onion mixture
- Set aside until ready to mix with the cooked rice
- Fill a large pot with about 3-4 inches of water, 1 tablespoon of salt and put on the stove to boil.Put a lid on it to speed it up
- Slice the top off your green peppers and hull it of seeds and connecting membranes
- Remove the stems from the tops and discard.Break up the tops into large bite size pieces – set these aside to add to your rice in the next step
- Once the water is boiling, unceremoniously dump in your pepper and put the lid back on
- Set the burner to about medium for about 20 minutes or until soft.If you time it right, they should be ready just before your rice is
- Drain the peppers gently, they will be somewhat fragile. Make sure to save about 2 cups or so of the pepper water. This will be added to the tomato sauce. You are going to be diluting the sauce anyway, might as well have it with a "smack of pepper"
- Bonus points if you can correlate the phrase "smack of pepper" with Arrested Development!
- Mix your pork and beef gently with 1 tablespoon of the garlic/onion mixture and 4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce – set aside until ready to cook!
Step 3: Rice
Chop your onions – a nice medium dice is fine
Into your rice cooker or a pot that has a tight lid, add the following
- Chopped onions
- Chopped pepper tops
- Bouillon cubes
- 1 tablespoon of your garlic/onion mixture
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 3 cups basmati rice
- 5 cups water
Bring just to a boil, give it a stir, slam the lid down tight and set to simmer for 20 minutes.
Step 4: Sizzle
Into a hot pan, add your meat – they will have enough moisture and “in-house fat” that you won’t need to add any oil or butter to act as "pan lube".
- Break up the meat as you cook it, finer particles work better in stuffed peppers
- Cook until completely browned
- Drain off excess fats/moisture
- Mix with ½ of the rice mixture when ready.
Step 5: Mix, Stuff and Top
Mix it up!
- Divide up your rice mixture into 2 batches, one slightly larger than the other
- In the slightly larger batch add your spiced cheese and mix thoroughly, the idea being in the mixing process you break up the larger pieces of cheese.
- Wash your hands – especially concerning depending on the level of veg-ee-ness your vegetarian cohorts are.
- In your second batch, mix the smaller batch of rice with your cooked meat.Do the same as the first, while distributing the meat through the rice, break up any large bits.
I like to stuff the peppers until almost over flowing. Once again, start with the vegetarian peppers first as this makes it easier to keep them separated.
- Cup the warm cooked pepper in your hand
- Loosely stuff at first, more to inflate the pepper then fill it
- Once filled gently begin to pack in the stuffing.You will need to support the pepper so as not to burst it.If it bursts just perform some Frankenstein surgery and piece it back together once you’re done.
- Stuff 6 peppers and arrange in the pan.Any leftover stuffing can be piled loosely around them, its actually beneficial to have some extra filling to do this with as it holds it all in place while its cooking.
- Repeat for the meat variety
- Not really much here to do except mix the 3 cans with 1 can of the reserved drained pepper water to make it a little thinner.Trust me, it will seem a little runny but will thicken up nicely in the oven.Add yet another tablespoon of your onion garlic mixture.Also toss in some salt and freshly ground pepper, taste it cold and add more salt and pepper if desired.
- Divide up the sauce and pour over both pans of peppers
Step 6: Bake
Bake in your pre-heated 450 oven for about 20-25 minutes
- Your done when the edges blacken up a little and the surface appears to have minute cracks, careful its hot!
Step 7: Nom Nom Nom
Whats to say, at this point dig in! This is one of those dishes that taste better the next day, but since the whole idea of this is speed, guess you'll never know!