Grandma's Feather Bed by John Denver
I didn't spend much time in the back bedrooms at my grandma's house but I doubt she had a feather bed like the one in this song. But the song mostly evokes the memories we have of growing up with our extended families. I mostly remember my grandma's kitchen and my children frequently hear me comment about how something will remind me of how her kitchen smelled. There was sage and celery and oregano, some lingering Old Bay seasoning aromas, and the smell of onions and green peppers cooking. To me, those smells mean peace and comfort - "old timey" scents of love.
During the last quarter of culinary school my classmates and I were put in charge of coming up with the daily specials in the cafe on campus. It was a great experience in learning how to be creative in using the resources on hand. We were also required to take into consideration how each dish could be executed along with the regular menu items, being sure to not place too much work on any one station. I learned a great deal! I enjoyed tossing ideas around with my classmate, Brian, as well as with our chef instructor, Jay, who supervised us and helped us detect potential problem areas. Sometimes our choices for the day turned into friendly competitions to see whose sold better.
I remember one day I came up with the idea for a favorite comfort food of mine - stuffed bell peppers. I knew that it would be a fairly easy entree to execute and I was confident in my ability to produce a very tasty dish. I was surprised, however, when my choice was questioned. It seemed to be the opinion of some that nobody would buy them - that they were too "old-timey." Oh dear. I questioned myself for about a half a second and then stood my ground. I declared that stuffed bell peppers would sell because it had been dreary outside and people would want to eat them because it would remind them of going to grandma's house!
They finally agreed to let me go ahead with my pepper plan and snickers and trash talk ensued. I'd be eating alot of stuffed bell peppers for the next few days - they said. They hoped I had some genius idea in mind of what to do with all the leftover stuffed bell peppers there would be when nobody bought them. (I did.)
I understood the hesitation. My own husband isn't the biggest fan - he will usually eat the filling but he's never been a big pepper fan anyway and he wasn't raised on them like I was. But I felt strongly that I represented a large population out there who did like them and they would be thrilled to see the offering on the specials board!
Of course, I wouldn't be sharing the recipe today had I not been victorious and correct in my assumptions! They sold very well and I believe that we only had a couple left - which was fine by me because I wanted one as well! People DID want to "go to Granny's house" for a culinary hug! I'm sure you will as well!
I usually make more of the meat mixture than what's needed and form little meatballs to go alongside the stuffed peppers. I use my Meatloaf recipe to fill the peppers but you could also use the Porcupine Meatball recipe as well.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
makes 4 servings
2 - 3 bell peppers, any color
1 c. marinara sauce or spaghetti sauce
1/4 c. Parmesan Cheese
I like to cut my bell peppers in half lengthwise and fill them like they were a canoe. I found this ratio of bell pepper to meat appealed to more people than using a whole pepper. After cutting them in half, pull away the membrane and stems and empty the seeds. There should be no pith remaining on the insides.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a large pot of water on the stove top and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. Add the pepper halves to the boiling water and blanch for about 3 minutes. There is debate as to whether or not this step is required. I found that I prefer the taste of the peppers if I do a blanch first. It's not that much extra work.
After the peppers are blanched, plunge them into the bowl of cold water with ice. Once they are cooled, about 2 minutes, remove and let drain. This step will shock them and stop the cooking. It helps their color stay bright.
In another bowl, mix together the meatloaf ingredients and stir until very well blended. Coat a 9x13" pan with cooking spray. Fill each pepper half with the meat mixture until it mounded up a little out of the shell. Place the filled pepper shell in the pan, meat side up. Continue until all the peppers are filled. Wet your hands and shape the remaining mixture into meatballs and space between and around the stuffed peppers in the pan. Top each pepper and meatball with some sauce.
Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the tops with the Parmesan cheese and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot.