Mario Batali wants you to get familiar with creole, a specialty of the Gulf Coast. This recipe for creole stuffed bell peppers is the perfect introduction.
- 4 large bell peppers, any color
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 2 cups basic tomato sauce
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Fill a large saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
3. Cut the top 1/2 -inch off one pepper and pull the stem and seed pod out. Trim the pepper flesh from around the stem, finely chop, and reserve; discard the stem and pod. Pull the veins out of the pepper and discard. Repeat with the remaining peppers. Drop the peppers in the boiling water and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Remove, drain, and set aside.
4. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the pork until it is browned. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and leave the grease behind. In it, sauté the chopped bell pepper, onion, celery, and garlic until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Return the pork to the pan and add the rice. Stir to incorporate. Add the tomato sauce and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the cayenne and thyme.
5. Stand the peppers upright in a baking dish just large enough to hold them.
6. Stuff them to overflowing with the pork and rice mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile mix the cheese, bread crumbs, and parsley together. Top each pepper with one-fourth of the cheese mixture and bake for 10 minutes more, to melt the cheese.
7. Serve hot!