I’ve never liked American stuffed peppers. The flavorless pepper, tinny meatloaf filling, and powdered cheese topping always made me think of a decrepit diner’s Monday night leftover special.
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 use diced meat (over ground), and macerate the raisins in pisco. The peppers are par-cooked; this not only makes them fork-tender, but also allows the filling’s flavors to permeate the pepper 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!
|Cook Time||Passive Time|
- 4medium bell peppers(or 8 rocoto peppers)
- 4quarts water (2 times)
- ¼cup sugar (2 times)
- ¼cup apple cider vinegar (2 times)
- ½tsp. kosher salt (2 times)
- ¼cup vegetable oil
- 1tsp. Kosher salt
- 1tsp. black pepper
- 1tsp. ground cumin
- 1pound beef, bottom round, visible fat trimmed, small dice
- 1pound pork loin, visible fat trimmed, small dice
- 1large red onion, small dice
- 5cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2medium plum tomatoes, small dice
- ⅓cup tomato paste
- ¼cup ají panca paste
- 2Tbsp. ají rocoto paste (*see below)
- 10each olives, Peruvian or kalamata, small dice
- 3each hard-boiled eggs, small dice
- ¼tsp. kosher salt (to taste)
- ¼tsp. black pepper (to taste)
- ¼tsp. ground cumin (to taste)
- 3oz. raisins (2 small boxes)
- ½cup pisco (as needed)
- 8oz. cheese, shredded or crumbled (mozzarella, queso fresco, etc.)
* When working with rocoto (or any hot pepper), be sure to wear disposable 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.
You can substitute ground beef; but it will render out more fat. If so, ladle out all but about ¼ cup before sautéing the onions.
You can use mozzarella; Peruvian quesillo; or Mexican quest fresco - whichever you prefer.
For a vegetarian meal: omit the egg; and use your favorite ground 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.) Either omit the cheese topping, or add your own favorite cheese substitute. This looks like a good vegan queso fresco recipe! (I'd add it after baking, though.)