My hubby is a stuffed pepper snob. He wants them a certain way -- with a moist, tender filling, not too much rice, lots of flavor, a thin sauce and a shell that's not mushy. It had been more than 20 years since I made stuffed peppers, so it was kind of like starting over.
My first attempt was delicious, I thought. The flavor was outstanding, but hubby objected to my use of a red pepper instead of a green pepper. (Red peppers, though sweeter, cook more quickly and get softer (mushier) faster. If using a red pepper, I discovered, you must precook the meat so you can cook the pepper for a shorter time.) He also wanted a thinner sauce and less rice.
My second attempt turned out more to his liking, but he wanted even less rice and moister, more tender meat filling -- in other words, perfection. So he presented me with a recipe from Emeril Lagasse that he thought would work. But after reading the recipe, I found it had tons of rice, and no sauce at all -- the peppers were baked in water. So I came up with my own recipe, and he has declared it the best stuffed pepper recipe ever. Adding some ground pork and tomato sauce to the meat mixture made a major difference. Hubby said the search is over.
This stuffed pepper is more like a stuffed pepper soup. Served in soup bowls, the flavorful tomato-beef broth is poured over and around the pepper.
Eat it with a soup spoon because the pepper is tender, and a spoon works best to scoop up the delicious broth.
Though stuffed peppers never really excited me before, this recipe has won me over. However, after we ate the stuffed peppers, I found out that ground pork must be cooked to 160F. The filling for my peppers registered about 150F and, blissfully ignorant, we ate the peppers and had no ill effects. You can cook them to 160F and possibly have a mushy pepper, or you can precook the meat with the veggies to take the worry out.)
MY BEST STUFFED PEPPERS WITH BEEF, PORK AND RICE
Rating: 10 out of 10
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6 large green bell peppers, tops, membranes and seeds removed
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped sweet onions + 1/3 cup coarsely chopped for broth
1/3 cup finely chopped green peppers from tops + 1/3 cup coarsely chopped for broth
1-3/4 tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided
1 Tbsp. grated or minced fresh garlic
8 oz. lean ground pork
1 lb. lean ground beef
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepperscant 1 cup cooked and cooled Jasmine rice (rinse raw rice in warm water before cooking)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 (8 oz. cans) tomato sauce, divided
1 (14.5 oz.) can low-sodium beef broth
Enough tomato juice to almost cover peppers
Rinse peppers and place, upside down, on paper towels. Finely chop enough of the tops to equal 1/3 cup; set aside.
In large saute pan, using medium-high heat, cook oil, onions, peppers and 1/4 tsp. salt till softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly to keep garlic from burning. (If desired, add the ground meats here and precook to be sure the pork is well done.) Set aside to cool completely, about 1/2 to 1 hour. When thoroughly cool, add pork and beef if you have not precooked them already. Sprinkle remaining 1-1/2 tsp. salt and both peppers over the meat. Lightly but thoroughly mix meat with onion mixture. Add cooked rice, parsley and 1 (8 oz.) can + 3 Tbsp. tomato sauce, combining lightly but thoroughly. Stuff mixture into peppers, dividing equally. (I make balls of filling and weigh them on my kitchen scale to get the same weight for each pepper.)
In large soup pot or dutch oven, combine remainder of tomato sauce and beef broth. Add peppers and enough tomato juice to almost cover them. Sprinkle with coarsely chopped onions and peppers. Heat to boiling on high heat, then cover pot and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, till pepper is cooked through and soft but not mushy (if stuffing peppers with raw meats, cook till a meat thermometer registers 160F when placed in center of filling). Serve peppers in soup bowls with broth ladled over and around peppers. Yield: 6 servings
TIP: To reheat, slice peppers in half vertically. Spoon some broth into a saute pan or fry pan. Lay peppers, filling side down, onto broth. Spoon more broth over, as desired. Cover, heat on medium heat, adjusting to a simmer if mixture boils. Cook about 10 minutes, or till peppers are hot all the way through. To freeze, place peppers filling side up in container. Spoon broth over and around pepper. Cover; freeze. Thaw overnight in fridge and reheat as mentioned above.