Up until about a year ago, I was a self-proclaimed spice-a-phobe. I had an extremely low tolerance for spicy food—I could taste it from a mile away. But I’ll never forget the day that my boyfriend snuck a bunch of red pepper flakes in the mac and cheese he made us after a long day of work one night. I didn’t know what they were—and quite honestly, I think I was just too hungry to care—until my mouth was on fire. But oh, was that burn good.
I started gradually, first venturing into the buffalo chicken arena, and slowly started ordering spicier dishes at my favorite Thai place. By winter, I couldn’t get enough of the spicy stuff.
Earlier this week, an idea popped into my head to try my hand at making chilis rellenos, or stuffed hot peppers. I have a stand-by recipe for couscous and feta stuffed green peppers, courtesy of Self.com, but I wanted to switch it up a bit and get a bit of a kick in there.
I found some good and spicy peppers at a farmer’s stand at Eastern Market yesterday (more on that experience later)—the guy who sold them to me laughed when I said I was a novice hot pepper connoisseur and told me these would do me good.
And do me good they did. My hands were literally on fire after handling them. (Note to self: next time, wear gloves.) They were a bit small to actually stuff, so I ended up piling the “stuffing” on top instead, which worked just as well. I ate two halves last night and then saved the rest for lunch today. They do heat up nicely in the microwave, and they provided me with plenty of mid-afternoon pizzazz. Not bad for my first real recipe improvisation, if I may say so myself.
Here’s the rundown. I’m not including exact measurements, because to be honest, I didn’t measure a single thing. Eyeball it depending on how many meals you want out of it—these amounts made enough for one serving.
6 small hot peppers (I believe mine were jalapeños, but any will work)
a few slices of white onion
one mushroom, chopped
a few ounces of ground turkey—I had mine frozen in individual portion sized baggies, and it was about enough to make a small hamburger
a sprinkle of taco seasoning mix
one canned whole tomato, chopped (I had some leftover canned tomato from a recipe, but you could certainly use fresh, too.)
1/4 cup garbanzo beans or black beans (I used a mixture of both)
1/8 cup frozen corn
a small handful of spinach leaves
a small handful of Mexican blend shredded cheese
1 tsp olive oil
1. Boil two cups of water.
2. Wash and cut the tops off the peppers, then slice them the long way and remove the pith and seeds. (This is the part where I will be using gloves next time. You don’t want to have those oils make their way under your fingernails—let’s just say I could still feel it in there this morning at work.)
3. Once the water comes to a boil, add the pepper halves and let them soften for about 5-7 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat.
5. Toss in the onion and cook 1 minute.
6. Add the mushroom and ground turkey. Sprinkle a bit of taco seasoning mix on top and blend it into the meat as it cooks.
7. Add the corn, beans, and tomato. Shred the spinach over the pan and keep stirring.
8. Once everything is cooked and heated through, turn off the heat and sprinkle the cheese over the mixture.
9. Drain the hot peppers, then lay them out on a plate. Pile the filling on top of each.
Next time, I plan on trying to find bigger peppers so I can actually stuff them a bit better. I’m going to see how it works with rice, too, which I think will take the edge off the burn a bit.
(Note: The photo above is from my second attempt a few days later, which included brown rice and was delectable.)