I really enjoy stuffed peppers, but I make them rarely. (I think I’m still traumatized by a time we had friends over for dinner in college. I made green peppers with ground beef and rice stuffing only to discover that our friends ate just about every vegetable EXCEPT green peppers. From then on, I’ve made a point to *always* check with guests about aversions or allergies prior to our meal together.) I found a great make-ahead recipe in the April 2005 issue of Everyday Food for Polenta-Stuffed Peppers, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
Every other stuffed pepper recipe I’ve tried called for slicing off the tops of the peppers and resting them on the base; this recipe called for slicing the peppers in half through the stem. I liked this way better because the peppers didn’t have to be a certain shape to sit properly. I did try to buy pretty uniformly sized and shaped peppers, though, to ensure even cooking.
First, I sliced 4 red bell peppers through the stem and placed them in a large baking dish. To make the polenta, I melted 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high in a medium saucepan. I added 1 finely chopped onion and cooked it, stirring often, until it was lightly browned (5 minutes). Next, I added 3 cups of water, 1 1/2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. I upped the burner heat to bring the mixture to a boil.
Once the mixture was boiling, I gradually added 1/2 cup of yellow cornmeal, whisking constantly. I reduced the heat to a simmer and cooked the polenta, whisking frequently, until thickened (5 minutes). I removed it from the heat and stirred in 1 package (10 ounces) of thawed frozen corn, 3 tablespoons of butter, and 1/2 cup of shredded sharp white cheddar.
I filled the peppers with the polenta mixture (I actually ended up with quite a bit more polenta than I needed) and cooled the dish to room temperature. Since I made the peppers ahead, I covered them tightly with foil and stuck them in the refrigerator. (It’s OK to bake them immediately if you want, though they can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
When it was time to bake the peppers, I heated the oven to 400F and poured 1/2 cup of water into the bottom of the baking dish (not over the peppers!). I re-covered the dish with foil and baked it for 30 minutes. Next, I removed the foil, sprinkled the peppers with 1/2 cup of that same sharp white cheddar, and baked them for 30 more minutes.
Honestly, for as good as the peppers *looked*, I was hoping for better flavor. They weren’t bad by any means, but I think I was expecting them to be exceptional. The bites with a bit of crusty cheese were the best. It seemed like the saltiness of the polenta faded some during baking, so I ended up having to season my meal at the table.
I do still think this would be a great make-ahead meal if you’re having vegetarian dinner guests. When I mentioned to Dr. O that this was a vegetarian dish, he kindly reminded me that he isn’t a vegetarian. I couldn’t help but laugh. He thinks this would be a great side dish (with meat as a main course, of course).
TIPS: I had better luck slicing the peppers through the stem when I started my cut *at* the stem rather than slicing through the body of the pepper first and trying to do the stem last.
Also, when these come out of the oven, they’re HOT. You might factor in about 10 – 15 minutes of cool time before serving.
Recipe link: Polenta-Stuffed Peppers