Michael and I adore eating stuffed stuff. We're particularly fond of stuffed peppers. Apparently, my stuffed peppers are atypical because I don't include rice in the filling or pre-cook the meat. I load halved peppers with a highly seasoned combination of meats before braising them in a vinegar infused tomato sauce and topping them with cheese. Sweet. Acidic. Piquant.
The morning was quiet and still, leaving the market void of the early summer hysteria. It was peaceful, reminding me of walks on the farm with my father while shuffling through dried fallen leaves. Pleasant, yet melancholy. Happy and sad.
A pepper is a pepper is a pepper. Right? Stuff one...stuff them all.
I always serve stuffed peppers over steamed rice. Always. Well, I didn't have any rice. I had polenta and Attiecke, a west African quick cooking cassava couscous.
Before joining Michael for wine, I topped the peppers with tomato sauce along with a few splashes of red wine vinegar, covered the dish, and slid it into a pre-heated 350 degree oven to braise for an hour.
1/2 hour into the pepper braise, I pulled the hardened polenta from the refrigerator. Using a wine goblet, I cut the polenta into circles, floured the discs, and fried them until golden brown before sliding them into the oven to keep warm until we ate.
After several glasses of wine, I pulled the peppers from the oven, topped them with fresh mozzarella cheese, and slid them back into the oven to melt the cheese.
So, here's the deal. Apparently, not all peppers are created equal. Tough hard-skinned stuffed green bell peppers have no problem holding up through a long braise. They soften and collapse a bit, but retain their shape. Not so with tender-skinned peppers. The delicate flesh of the stuffed ripened red banana peppers completely disintegrated during the braise, happily creating an accidental cheesy braised pepper and meat-filled ragu.
I flew with it.
After stacking the fried polenta cakes onto our plates, I wrestled the peppers from the pot and surrounded the cakes with the stuffed pepper sauce. It was hysterical. Strings of melted mozzarella cheese clung to everything, whipping and snapping like gooey rubber bands. With little effort, I could have fashioned a splendid cheesy Jacob's ladder with my hands.
Did it turn out as intended? Hell, no.