It all started with me needing to clean out my fridge. I had Fresno chilis that were about to go bad, ground beef that was starting to oxidize… what was I going to do? I have had stuffed peppers on the brain for a while now. I was trying to come up with new and improved grilling menus and I thought might as well try this recipe out and see if it could work for a new class.
Next thing I know, I have a cute tapas spread utilizing one awesome filling in a variety of different ways. I am a big fan of assortment when eating. Buffets, tapas, grazing tables, smorgasbords, and tasting menus are all my cup of tea. I never want to be locked into one thing and have regrets, plus I just love being able to try it all! They do say that variety is the spice of life, right?
When cooking, I love being able to use one ingredient in a multitude of different ways. So the next time you are hosting a party, think of a way to get the most use of each ingredient. My filling is a pretty basic beef concoction but can be customized to fit your preferences. I always think of ratios of taste profiles when putting dishes together. Flavor Dynamics is one of my favorite classes to teach because after that class you will be able to throw your own filling together using whatever you may have laying around. Here is the filling recipe with substitution options listed.
Ground Meat Filling
1 pound ground beef – Lamb, chicken, turkey, even salmon or grated tempeh could be used
3/4 pound shredded mozzarella - Any melty cheese can work in this instance and you want almost equal parts meat to cheese because it will help hold everything together. Cheddar, fontina, or pepper jack are all good choices.
1/2 cup currants - Any dried fruit can work. When I am using dried fruit, I always soak it in vinegar. It provides extra moisture but also balances out the sweetness with some sourness.
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar - Once again, any vinegar can work. I mix and match all different kinds of dried fruit with different vinegars. Another favorite of mine is golden raisins and red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons fennel fronds - Any kind of herb or greenery can be substituted (I had some fronds that were going bad) but I like using arugula, spinach, parsley, basil or even scallions.
2 teaspoons each ancho chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin - Any of your favorite premade spice mixes are perfectly fine to use or any combo of dry spices you may have on hand would be awesome as well.
Salt and pepper
Mix up all of the ingredients, and you have a meat mixture fit for all of the different tapas you can think of! One thing that I wish I would have added would be some green olives. This ground meat mixture is very well balanced with the sweet, savory, salty and spicy components, but I wish I would have had more acidity than just the vinegar that I used to soak the currants.
There are so many ways to turn this filling into delicious tapas.
You can turn this mixture into meatballs to be tossed in your favorite BBQ sauce or tomato sauce.
I made some empanadas using store bought puff pastry for a quick and tasty treat.
Take this filling and stuff mushrooms for an awesome appetizer.
But what I was really excited about was this stuffed Fresno chili pepper recipe!
Fresno peppers are a spicy chili pepper that often gets confused with a jalapeño pepper but can be more intense in heat and has thinner walls compared to other peppers. This makes it an excellent choice for grilling over high heat because it will not take that long to cook through. For this recipe, you can substitute jalapeños, Anaheim peppers, even poblanos or bell peppers can be stuffed and grilled.
First, you need to cut the top off the pepper and scoop out the seeds. I like using a melon baller or a tomato corer for this. With all spicy chilis, I highly recommend using gloves during this process.
Then, taking care not to overstuff and tear your pepper, stuff the filling into the pepper. I like leaving the pepper whole but as you can see you can also cut the peppers in half and stuff the halves. I recommend this way for larger peppers.
It was a gorgeous day, so I decided to grill these stuffed peppers. Direct high heat is the way to go. Roughly 3-4 minutes a side. I was looking for a solid char on the skin, once they are charred all the way around to be safe use a thermometer to make sure the internal temperature is at least 165⁰. These can be made in the oven as well! I recommend broiling them on high for three minutes a side on a roasting rack.
The next time you happen to have some peppers or ground meat floating around your refrigerator, hopefully you will be inspired to make your own flavorful filling to use in various different ways.
We have a new Seafood on the Grill class coming up later this summer that features stuffed and grilled calamari. I am so excited for you to take this class! We also have tapas classes, including our upcoming Spanish Wine and Tapas Demonstration on Friday, July 7 at 6:30pm. And if you want to learn how to make hot pepper jelly, don't miss our Summer Canning and Pickling class this Saturday, June 10 at 11am at Lincoln Square. It's full of techniques for preserving the best of summer produce!