Stuffed green peppers will always remind me of my dad. When I was growing up my father was the primary cook in the family, and he was genuinely great at it. He cooked a wide range of foods, which helped me have a fearless attitude to trying different foods, and in turn helped foster my own love of cooking. Despite his own culinary explorations, he would have a handful of staple meals he would rotate around. These became comfort food for me. Stuffed peppers are definitely a comfort food.
When he became elderly, and it was difficult for him to cook, I endeavored to emulate many of these comfort foods so I could recreate them for my own family. Despite my efforts, I’ve never quite been able to replicate his stuffed peppers. When I tried he would complain that I would have something wrong. “Antal, the filling shouldn’t fall apart. If you add an egg or two to the mix it won’t fall apart.” Okay dad. But next time: “Antal, the peppers aren’t cooked enough. You have to boil them first.” And so on, until one day I gave up trying to make his recipe, and just winged it.
Somehow, he stopped complaining. Maybe it was his resigned acceptance, or maybe I dazzled him with my culinary prowess. Most likely it was my inclusion of cheese. Either way, this is essentially the recipe I came up with:
Equipment: 6-8 quart pot to boil peppers, 9×13 casserole dish, sauté pan, a bowl for mixing, preferably one that’s heat resistant
Preheat oven to 350.
First and foremost: start rice. You’ll need 2 cups of cooked rice at the start, so get that going. Put a large pot on the stove and start water boiling. You’ll need this to pre-cook the peppers so they’re not inedibly hard when they’re finally taken out of the oven.
While the rice is cooking and the water is boiling is when I usually work on my mise en place for this recipe. When I remove the tops of the green peppers, I usually reserve the edible bits and sauté them along with the onions. Next, prepare the peppers. Thinly slice off the tops, then insert the knife into the pepper and rotate gently around the pepper to remove any remaining membrane and open the cup up fully. When you choose the peppers, it’s helpful to look for large ones that stand up easily on their own.
Carefully submerge the peppers, tops removed, into boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside. Brown the ground beef, adding salt and pepper to taste. Drain excess fat and liquid and place into mixing bowl. I like to leave some of the ground beef fat behind in the pan to use for sautéing the onions and peppers.
In the same pan you browned the beef, sauté the onions until slightly translucent. Throw in the green peppers and continue to sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Throw the onions and pepper into the mixing bowl, along with the ground beef and the rice. Add ½ cup crushed tomatoes to the mixture along with the spices and 1 cup of the cheese. Mix well. Add salt/pepper to taste. Next, optionally, mix in the 2 beaten eggs. (Dad insists).
Mix everything together well, and then stuff the peppers with the mixture. After the peppers are stuffed, you should have a little bit extra mixture. This will be the sauce. Pour the remainder of the crushed tomatoes into the remainder of the mixture, and mix well. Add a bit more salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce into casserole dish, and place peppers into sauce.Top the peppers with a bit of the sauce, top with cheese and put into the 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. When the peppers have cooked and the cheese has melted nicely, nestle the peppers into a bed of rice, serve with a little extra sauce, and enjoy!
Here is the full recipe you can enjoy with your family:
2 cups cooked rice
2 lbs ground beef
1 diced medium yellow onion
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
Pinch red pepper flakes (these make things spicy very quickly)
4 bell peppers, tops and insides removed (Try to find large bell peppers that can stand on their own. They don’t have to be green)
Two 16 oz cans of Crushed tomatoes, ½ cup seperated
2 eggs, beaten (optional)
2-4 cups shredded cheese (optional, but, is it really?), 1 cup seperated
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Eggs, beaten – optional