Stuffing Red Peppers: Need Advice Please!
As a side dish for an upcoming dinner party, I would like to fill red peppers with corn pudding and bake. I figured I could just copy the technique from other stuffed pepper recipes, but fill with my pudding instead of the mixture called for in those recipes. However, I've come across a couple of different techniques for baking stuffed peppers, and I don't know which one I should use. I assume the different techniques affect the final result of the pepper and its stuffing, so I'd like to choose the technique that will best suit my particular filling. Any advice you have on which technique I should use and why, or the reasoning behind these different techniques, would be great. Or, if you have your own technique to recommend, that would be great too!
Note: my corn pudding is a basic mixture of homemade cream corn, plain corn kernels, sour cream, cornbread mix, and possibly an egg or two to lighten the texture since I'm stuffing peppers with it instead of serving it solo.
The techniques I've found so far:
1. "Just bake" - Slice top off of pepper (or slice in half lengthwise), fill with stuffing, bake upright in well oiled pan.
2. "Blanch" - Slice top off of pepper (or slice in half lengthwise). Blanch: boil for 3-4 min until tender, then cool in ice bath. Stuff and bake.
3." Water bath"- Slice top off of peppers (or slice in half lengthwise), stuff. Stand peppers upright in baking dish. Fill dish halfway with water. Bake. (I assume this method works well w/ dryer stuffings, but since my pudding is already so moist, I suspect the water bath will make things too mushy...thoughts?)
How long and hot do you normally bake your pudding at? I suspect you need to use #1. With #2 the peppers will get too soft. Modern red bells really don't need any cooking. #3 may not be hot enough to properly cook your pudding (unless the pudding cooks more like a custard than a corn bread).
If you have chance, I'd suggest a test run before the party.
The other variable is whether you want to skin the peppers first or not. It isn't necessary, still there is something luxurious about a fire roasted red bell. I would use the direct flame approach that does not soften the pepper much.
paulj: Good question! I bake the pudding for 45 min at 350 F when it's one giant dish, but I assume that individual servings won't require as much time. Question for you: to fire roast my peppers, would recommend that I slice off the tops and then just char them, whole, on the grill for a min or two per side? If I bake them after doing this, will they (and the charred skin) remain intact?
ariellasdaddy: I've seen recipes online that require a stuffed pepper to bake for 30 or more minutes. Where are you getting your info that a pepper baked for more than a few minutes will leak?
Fire roasting is often discussed when dealing with peppers for chile rellenos. What I usually do is spear a pepper (from the stem end) on large fork (carving fork), and rotate it over the gas flame. Then put it in a bag or covered pot, for a few minutes. Then peel under running water. Broiler, toaster oven, charcoal grill, butane torch are other options for blistering the skin. But the more direct the heat, the less you soften the flesh.
I'd try imagining making the pudding in cupcake molds - 350 for 20 minutes sounds about right. However the pepper will act as something of a buffer, so it may take 30 minutes. I wouldn't worry too much about leakage. If you peppers fit in cupcake trays, you could try that. Otherwise, pack them snugly together in a cake pan. If packed together the baking time would longer than if separated.
Whatever method you use, the peppers are going to soften and therefore the walls may collapse and/or split from the weight or force of the pudding inside them. If you have any ramekins that are large enough to provide support to the walls of the peppers, that would be the way to go, no matter which method you use.
Or... Does it HAVE to be peppers? Could you use small acorn type squash? "Sweet dumpling" squash is especially good if you can find them, but so are any of the small winter squash that are so popular in markets around Halloween. There are squash filled with savory custard dishes from Japan, and other Asian countries that are sublime. The Japaanese recipes I'm familiar with "hide" little surprises like a shrimp, a snow pea, or other delicacies inside the bottom of the squash. The custard in these dishes comes out incredibly smooth, smoother than custard pies or even Mexican flans, probably because of the moisture and "insulation" of the squash shell around it.
If this interests you, you cut the top off the squash as if you were making a jack-o-lantern, scrape out the seeds, rinse, then "dry" the inside with a paper towel. Fill with your corn pudding to the top (unless it expands as it cooks, in which case leave room for expansion), place the squashes in a roasting pan being careful they don't touch each other, then add enough hot water to come a third way up their sides and bake at whatever temperature your filling requires, but allow extra time for the squash to cook through too. Probably an hour to an hour and a half. Possibly more, depending on the squash. Test the filling for doneness with a toothpick, or whatever testing method you use. Then also try piercing the flesh of the squash along the top to see that it's done too.
Whatever you decide, good luck!
Usually I've had stuffed peppers where the top was cut off, and the cup stands upright. I just found a Spanish recipe, where the peppers are cut in half, from stem down. The stem is left in, just brushing out the seeds. Brush the outside with oil. This is stuffed with a rice mixture, and baked uncovered for a total of 40 minutes, adding a breadcrumb topping half way through.
Cut this way you get more servings per pepper. Your custard may bake better this way, since it will be shallower, with greater surface area.