While many things are different about the holidays this year, one thing is the same: We'll still want to eat. If you've been cooking at home more since COVID-19's onset, you may be getting to the end of your repertoire.
Branch out by trying these delicious, personalizable stuffed peppers. Chef Jon Green, a recent Spokane transplant and co-owner of the newly opened Wooden City restaurant downtown, adapted this recipe from a similar dish he once prepared at a restaurant where he worked in high school.
"My mom actually worked there as well," Green says of the place, which closed 15 years ago.
"Because of how much our family liked them, they just integrated themselves into our celebrations," he continues. "Any time there was a special occasion, you knew someone was going to bring a plate of these. My family always celebrates the holidays, but we've never been super traditional about anything. So, making these peppers became our tradition. You make a big platter, and everyone grabs one and eats with their hands. It's super fun and tasty."
In the spirit of sharing, Green is now gifting Inlander readers the recipe for his stuffed Hungarian wax peppers, which are a favorite dish at both Spokane and Tacoma Wooden City locations.
"People are just blown away by them, because it's a stuffed pepper but in a way people haven't seen before," Green says. "It's so many people's favorite, and it all started with our family learning this from a small restaurant we worked at in Ohio."
Green's stuffed peppers are a great dish to make at home, because there are so many ways to make it your own.
"It's pretty flexible to whatever your personal taste is. My mom makes hers with chorizo and manchego. I like Italian sausage and sharp cheddar."
The recipe Green provides reflects this malleability, with many of the ingredients up for your own interpretation and expression. Other ingredients, however, are more fixed.
"Wax peppers work the best, but you could use a banana pepper or Cubanelle peppers. There's just something about the wax pepper that makes it truly what it is. They're harder to find here, but in Ohio they were everywhere," Green says. "The chive oil and fresh ciabatta are crucial."
For those who do decide to try their hand at these, don't stress too much about drink pairings, or even other dishes on the menu.
"It's a good one to have with beer or white wines," Green says. "We came from a humble background and never spent very much on drinks. For holidays, we would drink whatever was there." ♦
STUFFED HUNGARIAN WAX PEPPERS
- ~10 Hungarian wax peppers
- 1-2 pounds sausage (your choice: sweet or hot Italian, chorizo, or blend)
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 2 cups grated cheese (again, you've got choices: sharp cheddar, pepperjack, Manchego, or blend)
- pinch of salt
- pinch of red chili flakes
- ciabatta bread for serving
- 1 pint canola or vegetable oil
- 1 handful of chives
- pinch of salt
Make the chive oil by blending together chives, canola oil and salt. Pour contents into a container and store covered in the fridge. The oil is usable immediately, but the flavor improves after sitting in the fridge overnight. Chive oil will stay good in the fridge for up to two weeks.
To prepare the stuffed peppers:
Temper the cream cheese.
Cook and brown the sausage in the oven or in a skillet on the stove. Cool to room temperature, drain off the fat and crumble.
With the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, combine the cooked sausage, tempered cream cheese, grated cheese, salt and chili flakes. Mix until evenly combined, but be careful not to overmix. If you don't have a mixer, mix with gloved hands.
Cut a slit horizontally across the pepper near the stem. (Do NOT cut all the way through.) Then, cut a slit vertically down the pepper. Hold the cut pepper open and carefully remove the seeds.
Stuff the peppers with the prepared stuffing.
Roast in a preheated oven on a baking sheet at the hottest setting your oven will go* for 6-10 minutes.
*A note from Green on temperature: "At Wooden City, we cook in the wood-fired oven at about 800 degrees Fahrenheit. We love when the peppers get blistered, but the filling doesn't melt out. When I cook at home, I start my oven at 500 degrees and then finish with the broiler setting to get the peppers blistered. Be careful cooking at this temperature; it's quite a bit hotter than most recipes will call for."
When the peppers are almost done, pop fresh ciabatta bread into the oven to toast.
Serve peppers dressed in the chive oil. Eat with plenty of ciabatta bread. ♦