I’m helping to spread the word about the just released Muy Bueno Cookbook, organized by my friend and blogging buddy Heather at Girlichef. The book is the project of a mother and 2 daughters who lovingly explore and share three generations of Mexican and Mexican American food heritage. A group of bloggers have been sent advance copies of the book and we’ve been cooking from it for the past three weeks. The book is gorgeous, inspiring, and full of so many recipes I want to try that my head is spinning.
I knew the minute that I saw this recipe that I had to make it and eat it at my earliest convenience. I’m guided by my sense of sight when I cook and eat as much as any other, and this one grabbed my attention right away. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed but they’re really pushing colorful peppers in the stores these days. The sweet bell peppers are huge, too, and perfect for stuffing.
Stuffed peppers is an old favorite, and I haven’t made them in years. The pitfalls are obvious…you can end up with waterlogged, mushy peppers filled with lackluster stuffing. I have to say, these blew me away. The peppers were firm and kept their color, and I loved the diced potatoes in the picadillo in place of the more common rice.
The technique of scorching the sides of the peppers in a hot pan before baking was fantastic. It not only gave the peppers a really cool look, it gave a smokey, fire roasted taste to the finished dish. I’m definitely using that technique from now on.
Ironically I think the only quibble I had with this recipe was that I wish there were more of a Mexican feel to the stuffing. It was an easy fix — I added cumin seeds, chile powder, and a diced poblano pepper to the picadillo. I absolutely loved it.
I found that I had enough filling for 4 peppers. I also did not find it necessary to do the extra step of blanching the peppers first, they cooked to a perfectly tender but not mushy texture with just the 30 minutes in the oven.
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Ground Beef and Potatoes
Makes 3 stuffed bell peppers
3 bell peppers (your choice of color)
1 batch picadillo (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
cilantro, for garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 poblano chili, diced
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
1 Tablespoon chipotle chili powder
1 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped roma tomatoes
1 small russet potato, peeled and finely chopped
To make picadillo: In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 2 minutes, until translucent. Add ground beef and brown, Using a potato masher, mash meat so you have small pieces of meat with no big chunks. Drain off excess grease. Add garlic, salt, tomatoes, and potatoes and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are done. Salt to taste.
To make the stuffed peppers: Preheat the oven to 350F. Make picadillo for stuffing the bell peppers (see above). Rinse the peppers, Cut the tops off and remove the white flesh and seeds. Rinse out the inside of each pepper. In a large stockpot parboil the peppers, about 3-5 minutes, depending on how soft you want them to be in the final dish. Remove the peppers and drain any excess water that is inside them.
Brush each pepper with olive oil. Heat up a comal (or griddle) and place the peppers on their side on the comal, about 1 minute on each side, just long enough to sear the sides of each pepper.
Prepare a baking dish (about 10.5 inches by 7 inches) that will accommodate your 3 peppers. Spray the dish with cooking spray to keep the peppers from sticking to it. Pour about 1/4 inch water into pan.
Stuff each pepper with some picadillo and place it in the baking dish. Cover with foil and crimp the edges onto the dish creating a seal. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and let rest for about 5 minutes. Plate 1 pepper per plate, top with crumbled queso fresco (or feta), and garish with cilantro.
This cookbook is my current favorite. The photos, in a world full of fabulous food photos, are especially evocative and inspiring. The recipes are that perfect mix of the new (otherwise, why buy a cookbook in the first place?) and the understandable. No huge long ingredient lists or difficult techniques. The recipes stay true to the theme of the book, which is reminiscing about and sharing beloved family food and traditions. I felt like I was suddenly privy to a whole treasure trove of tried and true recipes from a family archive.
I love the visual guide to peppers at the beginning of the book, the family stories that introduce each recipe, and the sumptuous photos. But the real treasure of this book lies under all the little bits of paper sticking out of my top of my copy, marking all the recipes I plan to try. They take me by the hand and lead me into new culinary territory. My curiosity is piqued, by appetite is whetted, and this is one of those rare books that keeps my interest, page by page. I want to cook my way through each and every recipe.