Before I get started, to whomever may have noticed, I haven’t posted in nearly a year. While I may have given the impression that I’m one of those who start something and then disappear from the grid, fear not! I had a lengthy hiatus due to a job change, moving to a new home, and without sounding too much like a cliche twenty-something, some “soul searching”. While foraging my life’s river, I’ve recently arrived to many forks leading many ways. Continuing this blog to merge my food and my writing is a course I want to follow. Shall we go on, then?
*ahem* Töltött paprika, or stuffed pepper, is incredibly classic in Hungarian eating.
Actually, many cultures have their own version of this dish with variations in the filling and type of pepper (or any vegetable, really). I am personally a fan of the Spanish chile rellenos, mainly because it’s often overflowing with melted cheese. I’m happy to say my Hungarian stuffed peppers grant some personal interpretation, so I always, always add some cheese both inside the filling and on top of the pepper. Despite my cheesy addition, töltött paprika is quite healthy and still leaves the eater satisfied. However, I wouldn’t turn away second helpings.
You will need
A large pot for boiling
Another large pot for cooking
A large spoon
A baking pan or glass dish to bake the peppers
Green Bell Pepper, whole- 4
Olive Oil- enough to coat the bottom of your pot
Ground Beef, 85% lean- 1/2 pound
Salt- to taste
Pepper- to taste
Onion Powder- 2 tablespoons
Fresh Garlic, diced- 3-4 cloves
Paprika- 4 tablespoons
Crushed Red Pepper- 2 tablespoons (feel free to amp up the heat)
Beef Broth- 1 cup, plus more as needed throughout cooking
Yellow Onion, diced- 1/2 of whole
White Mushroom, diced- 1/2 cup
Artichoke Hearts from a jar, peeled and sliced- 3, whole
Tomato Paste- 1 6-ounce can
Tomato Sauce, plain- up to 1 1/2 cups
Sauerkraut- 3 large forkfuls, (my homemade recipe is here.)
Mild, white cheese (such as mozzarella or provolone)- optional
*Note: Many traditionalists will tell you rice is a main component of the filling. I personally consider the sauerkraut as my filler. It’s healthier and adds a nice, tangy flavor. I promise you will not go hungry from lack of rice.
1. Fill a large pot with water. Add a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil.
2. Cut the tops off of the green peppers. Chop up two of the tops and discard the remaining two, as well as all stems. Clean any loose seeds and fibers out of the peppers.
3. Place the peppers in the boiling water, and cook until they are soft but still firm enough to be handled (they will continue to soften in the oven, later). Drain the pot and set the peppers aside to cool.
4. In a clean pot, coat the bottom with a small amount of olive oil. Add all of the ground beef. Start browning the beef on a medium heat while breaking it up with a spoon.
5. Halfway through the browning, add salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic. Continue breaking up the beef to avoid burning the spices.
6. Once the ground beef is cooked through, add the beef broth. Give the bottom of the pot a good scrape with your spoon to deglaze and incorporate all the spices.
7. Toss in the diced onion, mushroom, artichoke, and green pepper from earlier. Turn the heat to high, and bring the stew to a boil. Then turn to low-medium heat to maintain a simmer.
8. Stir in the tomato paste, then the paprika and red pepper. Finally, a few fork fulls of sauerkraut. Cover the pot and cook for ten minutes with the occasional stir. Taste your filling. Add additional spices as seen fit. Personally, I tend to add more paprika- this is the main contribution to the bright, red color.
9. Leave the lid off, and continue stirring the filling intermittenly for at least another fifteen minutes. Allowing the flavors to mesh together is important for this dish. If too much liquid evaporates, add additional beef broth as needed. However, remember that the filling should be thick enough to hold inside the peppers.
10. Remove the pot from the heat. Rub a little salt and pepper inside each green pepper. Use a spoon to fill each one with the filling. If you’ve decided to use cheese, I highly suggest placing a small amount between two layers of filling. It’s okay if the peppers overflow a little. Place each pepper in a baking dish. They should fit snuggly while allowing enough room for additional sauce to surround them.
11. Take a look at the remaining filling in the pot. If needed, stretch out the remainder with tomato sauce. Give the bottom of the pot a good scraping with the spoon and stir it all together. Spoon this remaining filling around the peppers in the baking pan.
12. Loosely cover the pan with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-30 minutes. Check for soft peppers that have lightened in shade. The surrounding filling should have a darker, cooked look. Everything should be heated through.
13. Remove the foil, and add a layer of cheese for melting (if you so choose). Set under the broiler for a minute until the cheese begins to brown.
14. Serve each pepper in a shallow dish. Spoon the surrounding sauce from the pan over the tops. Now eat it.
Töltött paprika is a lovely dish that allows the cook to add, subtract, or interchange some ingredients as he or she pleases. There is no harm in incorporating other cultures or vegetable combinations. The important thing to keep in mind is to maintain a balance of solid and liquid in the filling. All the ingredients and their flavors should marry within their sauce while avoiding turning into soup. Here are some additional ideas for pepper fillings:
- Multi-colored peppers, sweet and hot
- Pulled chicken or pork
- Seasonal squash or tomatoes
- Stewed French onion
- Pork sausage and kraut
- Rice and Peas
- Lentils and spinach
- Triple-cheese: monterey, cheddar and swiss
- Basil, cherry tomato, mozzarella
Really, the possibilities are quite endless. Incorporate your culture or favorite foods. When sharing my food, I say it’s okay to break some traditions. Some.