Monday, February 3, 2014

Fried stuffed peppers

This is one of those dishes from every Italian mother's repertory -- long, sweet peppers (sometimes called "cubanelle" in grocery stores), that have been stuffed with a savory bread mixture, then fried until tender.

It's filling, frugal, vegetarian, and delicious. Makes a great side dish to a roast, or chicken cutlets, or a main course for a Lenten Friday. 

For the savory bread stuffing, to fill 6 - 8 peppers, depending on size:

6 slices good-quality white sandwich bread (like Pepperidge Farm or Arnold's), crusts and all, pulsed into crumbs in a food processor
Enough milk to moisten the crumbs, maybe a scant half cup
A clove or two garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
A couple tablespoons chopped parsley
A couple tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
A dozen olives, chopped (any sort will do -- from green olives with pimentos from a jar, to Kalamata, to oil-cured Sicilian)
1/4 cup grated pecorino
A good drizzle of olive oil
An anchovy filet or two, if desired.

Moisten the crumbs with the milk.  You want to have a soft mass, but not a soupy one.  Add the other ingredients as you have and as you like.  You're aiming for a savory mixture, and very accurate measurements are not too critical.  I like to add an anchovy filet for savor, but feel free to leave it out if you don't like it. If you want to taste the mixture prior to filling the peppers, take a tablespoon of it, place it in a ramekin, and pop it into the microwave for a few seconds to cook.  Taste for seasoning.  Adjust as necessary.

Prep the peppers:  cut the tops off, and remove the seed pod.  Spoon a couple tablespoons of the stuffing mixture into each pepper, being very careful not to overstuff.  The stuffing will expand as it cooks, as you can plainly see in the photo below.

Heat a skillet over a medium burner, film with olive oil, and add the peppers.  I find the easiest way to cook these is in a 350°F oven, for about 15-20 minutes, turning every so often so they cook evenly.  Alternately, you can continue to cook them on the stovetop.

You will likely notice that as the peppers cook, the skins will darken and begin to peel.  No need to worry, but if you're so inclined, you can peel them off before serving -- they come off very easily. 

Serve hot, or at room temperature. 

By the way, that skillet in the photo is my 12-inch DeBuyer steel skillet.  Steel (not stainless, mind you), get very 'ugly' very quickly as they are used and seasoned, but they conduct heat nicely, and can be used on the stovetop or in the oven.  A nice investment, and compared to stainless pans (like All-Clad), much less expensive. 

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