Post by Alison Hein.
I’m always on the lookout for a good, new restaurant, and happily, my husband, Kevin, is always on board. So when a homey new BYOB Italian storefront recently popped up, we promptly made a reservation after learning that the chef makes only fresh pasta, uses handed-down recipes from the old country, and is a CIA alum.
The interior was clean and welcoming, the wait staff cordial and professional. A daily specials menu featured an exciting appetizer of stuffed Italian frying peppers. When a trio of cubanelles was brought to our table, lightly charred and neatly lined up, I began to salivate. Then, Kevin and I each took our first bite, and our expectations were dashed. They were burning hot on the outside, yet cold in the center (heated in the microwave???). The stuffing was bland and over-bready.
“These could be so much better,” I said.
So I went home and began to experiment, using a stuffing of sautéed Italian sweet and spicy sausages, just a touch of breadcrumbs and parmesan, and a heavy hand with the seasoning. Cooking the stuffed peppers in a lidded foil pan on the grill seemed the logical next step. The results were delicious – an instant success of an appetizer.
A few modifications – pancetta instead of Italian sausage, no breading at all, and a couple of scrambled eggs – turns these lovely peppers into an instant success of a breakfast in bed that will keep your expectations intact.
1 Italian frying pepper (Cubanelle)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons diced pancetta
1 small red onion or shallot (2 to 3 tablespoons), chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375º. Clean and core Italian frying pepper by cutting a circle around the stem and removing inner seeds. Remove as much of the ribs as possible with your fingers, and give the pepper a good shake to free any remaining seeds. Set pepper aside.
Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in small pan over medium heat. Add pancetta, and cook for a minute or two, until it begins to render. Stir in onion (or shallot) and garlic. Sautee for another minute until softened. Reduce heat to low and add beaten eggs. Stir and lift, cooking until eggs are fully cooked, about 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste.
Fill the pepper with the scrambled egg / pancetta mixture, tapping down a little on the work surface to fill completely. Rub the outer skin of the pepper with the remaining olive oil and bake for around 40 minutes, until pepper is cooked and lightly browned in spots. Serve hot.
Makes 1 serving.
NOTE: Peppers can be stuffed one day in advance, then baked when ready.