But these Peruvian stuffed peppers are vastly different. This recipe is based on Tony Custer’s, from The Art of Peruvian Cuisine; but I’ve altered it quite a bit, through trial and error. I think using diced meat (over ground), and macerating the raisins in pisco, are real enhancements.The peppers are par-cooked; this not only makes them fork-tender, but also allows the filling’s flavors to permeate during the baking process. The hot pepper’s fruity heat, combined with the sweetness of the pisco and raisins, create a rich meat filling that far surpasses its American Hamburger Helper counterpart – almost reminiscent of a cream-less moussaka. The Crema de Rocoto – which I’ve also altered by using pisco instead of wine – is a perfect complement. After all, what isn’t better with pisco?
I’ve used bell peppers here, rather than the traditional rocoto– the fiery red Peruvian pepper – which are very difficult to find fresh here in the U.S. You can use canned whole rocoto, if you can find it at your local Latin market; or use poblano, if you prefer. Rocotos are a little smaller than bell peppers; rocotos rellenos are sometimes used as an appetizer.
There are several steps (prepping the peppers and filling, stuffing, and baking); but the beauty of this dish is that you can make the filling (and even the peppers) a day ahead, chill, then stuff and bake the next day. I assure you that it’s worth the effort!
Number of servings (yield): 4-5 bell peppers, or 8-9 rocotos
Apple cider vinegar ¼ cup (three times)
Kosher salt 1 tsp (three times)
Black pepper 1 tsp.
Ground cumin 1 tsp.
Beef, bottom round,
Pork loin, visible fat
Garlic, finely minced 5 cloves
Plum tomatoes, small dice 2 each
Tomato paste 1/3 cup
Ají panca paste ¼ cup
Ají rocoto paste (*see below) 1 Tbsp.
Olives, Peruvian or kalamata,
Hard-boiled eggs, small dice 3 each
Salt, black pepper and cumin To taste
- Preheat oven to 350° F
- Hard-boil the eggs in advance; shock in cold water, then dice when cool.
- (* See pepper warning below!) Cut the tops off the peppers, and reserve. Scoop out the seeds and veins; discard.
- If using rocoto or other hot pepper, heat water, ½ cup sugar and ¼ cup vinegar to boiling; add peppers, and parboil for about 3-4 minutes. Change the water, then repeat the process twice more, but only boil for about 2 minutes each time. This process will reduce both the heat and the bitterness of the pepper, while partially cooking the peppers so that they will be more tender after baking. After the third water change, remove the peppers and immediately immerse them in ice water (or under running water) until cool. Remove, and drain upside down on paper towels or a wire rack.
- If using bell peppers: boil the water with the sugar and vinegar as above; but cook for only about 10 minutes / until just slightly tender. Do not change water. Remove; cool and drain as above.
- Combine the meat; season with 1 tsp. each of salt, black pepper, and cumin. Mix well.
- Heat the oil on medium-high heat in a large sauté pan; add the meat, and sauté until browned. Remove using a slotted spoon and reserve.
- If the pan is very dry, add 2 Tbsp. more vegetable oil.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add onion, and sauté for 6-7 minutes (until very soft).
- After this point, avoid adding extra oil if the mix is too dry; add a splash of water when needed.
- Add garlic; sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add tomato; sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add tomato and pepper pastes; cook until darkened and the mix has a strong tomato aroma (3-4 minutes).
- Drain the raisins, but do not discard the pisco. Deglaze the pan with the pisco; when the alcohol scent evaporates (2-3 minutes), add the raisins, and mix well.
- Add the meat and mix well. Remove from heat, and allow to cool completely.
- When both peppers and filling are cool, place peppers in a Pyrex dish. Stuff the peppers; pack firmly, but take care not to rip the peppers. Leave a small space on top for the cheese.
- Place a layer of cheese on top of the filling; press firmly, so the cheese is level with the top of the pepper.
- Place the reserved pepper top on the cheese as a lid. Cover with foil; “tent” the top, so the foil does not touch the peppers.
- Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes / until the internal temperature reaches 160° F.
- (Optional) Remove the foil; broil for 2-3 minutes to brown the cheese (watch closely).
- Remove from oven; serve immediately.
- Optional accompaniments: Crema de Rocoto, Arroz a la Peruana
- * When working with rocoto (or any hot pepper), be sure to wear gloves. Use a separate cutting board and knife, and wash them separately from your other dishes. Pepper oils remain on the skin, even after washing; and if you touch your eyes or sensitive mucous membranes – well, let’s just say you won’t forget to wear gloves the second time around. Especially if you wear contacts. (Think pepper spray.) Trust me on this one.
- * If using rocoto peppers, do not add rocoto paste to the mix (unless you are a suicide wing alumnus, or have a breakup revenge meal planned).
- If you wish to omit the alcohol, use half white grape juice and half water (with a touch of apple cider vinegar) to macerate the raisins.
- For a vegetarian meal: use your favorite meat substitute. Follow the recipe the same way, except brown the meat substitute only lightly; and add ¼ cup vegetable oil before sautéing the onions. (The baking time may also be shortened; check the temperature frequently.)
- If desired, carefully peel the skins after baking (again, using gloves if necessary). The skin will keep the pepper more intact while cooking; but the skinless peppers are more pleasant to eat. Keep in mind that this may cause the pepper to be “floppy” – something to consider for presentation purposes.
- You can use Peruvian queso fresco (quesillo), Mexican queso fresco, if you prefer. You can substitute ground meat; but it will probably render out more fat. If so, ladle out all but about ¼ cup before sautéing the onions.
Cooking time: about 1/2 hour for filling and peppers; 35-45 minutes baking time; about 1 hour 15-30 minutes total.
Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.