Stuffed Bell Peppers
I think a wise man said something like, “Everything is better with Bacon.” Or maybe that was Homer Simpson….It’s not really important because I personally think that everything is better with SAUSAGE. I am pretty sure that my sister in law, Alexa agrees, because she inspired this recipe by making a comment to the weekend table blog (you can do this too!). Alexa asked for a “healthier” delivery vehicle for sausage in the package of a finely roasted and stuffed bell pepper. So when I saw those luscious and large red peppers at the farmer’s market on Saturday, I knew it was kismet. This weekend’s table would feature her request for a new stuffed bell pepper recipe that still satisfied the sausage craving.
Success! As one of my guest’s last night remarked, this sausage stuffed pepper almost tastes like a pizza! And that made me smile because I was going for that brooklyn style pizza taste without the high glycemic index. I also wanted to eat my sausage without consuming two or three of them. Ultimately, I combined sweet italian sausage, shitake mushrooms, shallots, garlic, cherry tomatoes and wild rice with some fresh thyme and basil and some hard cheese, stuffing a slightly charred red pepper until it almost overflowed.
Here’s how I did it. I read about 10 or 12 recipes on line about red peppers so I could get a sense of how long to cook them. The instructions varied substantially so I went with my gut on which ones to follow. I took some very large red peppers, halved them lengthwise and deseeded them. I learned from a Rachel Ray recipe that if you place them cut side down in a baking dish and cut a little X into them, it allows the pepper to keep it’s shape (or at least that is what I deduced because it worked). I popped the halved peppers in the oven with a brushing of olive oil, salt and pepper in a glass dish for 20 minutes until they were softened and slightly – ever so slightly – charred. Then I took them out and let them cool.
Meanwhile, I boiled 3/4 cup of wild rice combined with 3 cups of low sodium chicken broth, bringing it to a boil and cooking it for about 60-70 minutes until the wild rice began to burst open and reveal its inner self.
Next, I sauteed some shallots, garlic, shitake mushrooms and cherry tomatoes together on medium high heat until they were cooked to the point where the tomatoes were softened and slightly blistering but not breaking apart. I dumped these veggies into a dish and set them aside.
I then removed from their casings four sweet Italian sausages adding them to the hot pan on medium high heat. I sauteed the sausages until they were cooked through and just beginning to brown. I combined the veggie mixture with the sausage and rice, stirring in the fresh herbs, cheese and salt and pepper. I took this mixture and scooped it into the halves. I then sprinkled the remaining cheese and some panko on top, popping them in the oven for 25 minutes and then putting it on broil for about 2 minutes to get the top extra brown.
Now I will say that this is a hearty dish. Probably more suited for fall. Thankfully, as one of my guests pointed out, last night there was an ever slight chill to the air, uncharacteristic for an August evening. I was happy for that and so was my tummy.
This recipe is not one that one can whip up in a matter of minutes. But what is nice about it is that you can have it all prepared ahead of time well before your guests arrive so that YOU can relax and chat and enjoy a glass of wine while the peppers heat up and get browned. Admittedly, I got involved in conversation a little longer than I would have liked last night so my peppers got an extra minute more than they should have (see picture above), but my guests told me that it did not diminish from the taste.
- 4 large red peppers, halved lengthwise and deseeded
- 1 tbsp olive oil (for brushing on pepper halves)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- ¾ cup wild rice
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup shitake mushrooms, chopped
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tbsp basil, chopped
- 10 sprigs of thyme (leaves only)
- 1 cup grated hard cheese (I used a 3 cheese blend of parmesan, pecorino and fontina) ⅔ for mixture plus ⅓ cup for topping
- ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs for topping
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Half and deseed red peppers. Place cut side down on a baking dish and brush with olive oil and grind sea salt and pepper to taste. Cut an X in the middle of each pepper (about ½ inch to ¾ inch). Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring ¾ cup wild rice and 3 cups of wild rice to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking for 60-70 minutes. I usually remove it and drain it once the inner part of the wild rice begins to pop out of its hard casing. Drain and set aside.
- Coat a frying pan with a thin amount of olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Then add the shitake mushrooms and tomatoes to the pan. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes until the shitake mushrooms begin to brown and the tomatoes are softened and slightly blistery (but not to the point where they begin to break down). Set the veggies aside in a bowl.
- After removing from their casings, add the sausage crumbled to the pan and cook through until it begins to brown. About 5 minutes.
- Combine the veggies, sausage and rice together. Add ⅔ cup grated hard cheese, fresh basil and thyme and salt and pepper to taste.
- Stuff each pepper with the filling until it is nearly overflowing. You can make through this step several hours ahead of time and refrigerate.
- Heat oven to 375. Bake for 25 minutes. If you want to achieve a little extra brown to the top, switch to a broil for 2 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.