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Stuffing Cubanelles for Flavor and Profit


My one, solitary cubanelle plant in the garden has been a strong producer all season. The first batch of peppers I got from the plant amounted to only six, but they were large, firm and tasty. The next cycle produced over three dozen medium-sized chiles, some of which I purposely let ripen on the plant. These fruit were very colorful, from greenish-yellow (immature) to deep, fiery red. I especially liked the way the colors came onto the peppers, with areas of red, yellow and orange all competing. Once ripe, though, the peppers are uniformly red.

Many of you know about and enjoy chile rellenos at your local Tex-Mex eatery. That dish uses poblano chiles, which are large and deep green with a slick, shiny skin. I’ve never seen chile rellenos served using any other chile. However, in central Mexico the locals use cubanelles for a similar dish. Now that I’ve tried stuffed cubanelles, I don’t think I’ll go back to stuffed poblanos.

For one thing, you usually have to roast and peel the poblanos, then you coat and deep-fry the stuffed peppers before baking. That can be a lot of work! Cubanelles don’t have the tough hides of the poblanos. Sure, you can bread and fry or bake; but why?

Here are three quick ways to stuff these tasty peppers. First, gather together four nice cubanelle specimens and clean, top and seed them (or halve and seed); each recipe will make four servings…

Stuffed Cubanelles

Prepare rice using 1/2 cup uncooked rice; set aside. Lightly brown a pound of lean sirloin in olive oil; drain. Add one can (14 oz) of tomato sauce; some flavored variety works well, like garlic and herb. Season with salt and black pepper and bring to a simmer. Mince in a couple green onions. After a few minutes, stir in the cooked rice; set stuffing aside. Heat oven to 350° F. While the hotbox is hotting, stuff the peppers with meat mix, working in a glass baking dish. Top with minced parsley, a bit of brown sugar, some fresh basil and dried oregano. You’ll probably want to open a small can of tomato sauce and spoon that over the chiles. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour; just when the chiles are good and soft and beginning to brown. Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve hot.

Here’s an Italian-style version: Prepare enough rice to make a cup of cooked; set aside. Dice an onion and peel and mash 6 cloves of garlic. Chop some fresh basil, about a quarter cup or so; more for garnish. Heat the oven to 350-375° F. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown a pound of bulk Italian sausage; I like to mix sweet and hot. Add the onion as the meat browns, and then add the garlic the last minute or so of cooking the meat. Add a can (14 oz) of crushed tomatoes and about 6-8 ounces of beef broth. Add the basil and stir over medium heat, just until the basil wilts and the mixture is hot through. Transfer meat sauce to a large glass bowl and add rice, then shake in some hot sauce (like Tabasco or Crystal) and a quarter-cup of grated mozzarella cheese. Stir to combine, then stuff the peppers. Bake for about 40 minutes, garnish and serve. Here’s a nice variation: Use whole chiles (not halves), then grill over medium, direct heat until the skin blisters a little. Pour some prepared marinara sauce over and serve.

Finally, with a bit more work you can have Tex-Mex style, chorizo-stuffed chiles: Use halved and seeded cubanelles for this dish. First, get the oven heating to 375° F. Start with three links of soft Mexican-style chorizo; take off the casings and place meat in a small skillet. Cook over medium heat until golden-brown; spoon out the sausage to a plate. In the drippings, sauté some minced garlic, diced onion, minced jalapeño and diced celery just until crisp-tender. Add a cup of canned black beans (rinsed, drained) and three diced Roma tomatoes. Cook another few minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Add the retained chorizo, then a half cup shredded parmesan cheese, and about 3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese; stir. Stuff the chile halves and place in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle more cheeses over the top and bake about 30-40 minutes; just don’t let the cheese get too brown. Here’s a nice variation: Add corn kernels when you add the black beans. Naturally you can add rice, if you prefer.

Whichever style you try, I’m sure you’ll enjoy these stuffed peppers. I’ve even had them with venison as the protein; I’m sure buffalo and elk would work too. One advantage of these lean meats: Great for dieting! Just don’t get too crazy with making the filling too spicy; you’ll want to enjoy the mildly zesty sweetness of these special chiles…

Turn Up the (Cram-Full Cubanelles) Heat!


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