Take a perfectly portioned poblano pepper, fill it with an earthy-rich, mushroom-centric stuffing, douse it down with a tart and tangy, taste-bud rattling relish and smooth it all out with a big fat dollop of sour cream and I give you….
A fiesta on your fork?
A party on your plate?
Mardi Gras in your mouth?
You choose, because this is as good as any one of those sound. No-where near akin to any stuffed pepper you have EVER had, this is one super vibrant, seriously souped-up version that is fearlessly fresh, flavorful and full of verdant veggies.
Not that I have anything against good old-fashioned sleepy stuffed bell peppers (you know what I’m talking about, ground beef and rice drowning in Campbell’s tomato soup?, haha yeah, I love those too), this particular rendition, with its yum-worthy mushroomy sausage filling tucked inside a slightly spicy poblano; is topped with a puckery pickled-pepper pico that is so astringently invigorating it will have your taste buds doing the pachanga!
Start by slicing 4 poblano peppers in half length-wise and removing the seeds and membranes. If you are unfamiliar with this kissing cousin to the ubiquitous bell pepper, check ’em out! Heart shaped, thinner fleshed and generally smaller than a bell pepper, these slightly wild members of the pepper family pack the tiniest amount of heat, giving just about anything you stuff them with (like lasagna filling, perhaps?) a whole new depth of flavor, without going spicy crazy.
Lay them out in a glass baking dish, and add a tiny little teaspoon of water. Cover this up with saran wrap and let them spin around in the microwave for five minutes. You want them nice and tender without having to spend hours in the oven, and this little pre-game steaming action will do the trick. While that’s happening you can get on with the stuffing.
Start by browning up some sweet Italian sausage, and you really don’t need much, to get a whole lot of flavor. This is about 1/4 pound, or two sausages, obviously out of the casings. It’s sticky and wants to fight, but just flatten it down with a spatula or back side of a spoon to create more contact area with the hot pan, and then break it up as it browns.This is more about the mushrooms than anything, so once the sausage is cooked add in 10 ounces (about 3 cups) of chopped mushrooms. Give this a pinch of salt and cook and stir until those beautiful shroomies start to shrink down and get a few shades darker, it won’t take but a minute or two. Now this may seem like a WHOLE LOTTA FUNGUS, but these guys will reduce in volume by about half as they cook. No worries.
Now plunk in 2 diced tomatoes. Let this cook for another minute or so.
Next to the party will be a cup of cooked quinoa and a half a cup or so of grated pepper jack cheese. OR, Asiago cheese, or whatever cheese you like. You can leave the cheese out, altogether, if you want to (but whhhhhyyyyy????). I get it, it’s your call.
Get everybody mixed and mingled together. Give it a taste. Need some salt? A grind of black pepper? Make it happen.
Now scoop up that mushroom mixture, and spoon it into (more like on top of, since they will get pretty soft and sorta lose their shape) those pre-cooked (and well-drained) poblanos. No doubt you’ll have lots of stuffing and major fall out and THAT IS A-O-KAY. Into a 350° oven these go for 25 minutes. This gives you all sorts of time to get your puckery pickled peppers prepped.
Say THAT three times fast.
Yellow bell pepper, red onion, tomato, jalapeño, cilantro. Is this blindingly beautiful or what? Give each of these darlings a delicate dice. It is oddly important to have all the players in this compote neat and compact like edible confetti. It just wouldn’t be the same if the tomatoes were mangled and the pepper all wonky and good grief big chunks of raw onion are NEVER welcome anywhere I know of…………
So keep it pretty……baby. Combine this perfect palette for your palate with some red wine vinegar and a touch of olive oil, a smidge of salt, a grind of pepper…….
And you will be rewarded with a pungent, crunchy, refreshing riff off the classic pico de gallo. Schloop this briny blend with abandon over one of those baked poblanos, hit it with a creamy smudge of sour cream, and dive in.
Peerless pretty pickeled pack of puckery peppers plated over a mound of mondo mushroom merit.
ANd that’s a mouthful.
(This one is for you, Jen H.)
RECIPE BELOW: From start to finish this will take about 30 minutes of your time, maybe a little more, depending on your knife skills. The worst part is all the chopping and dicing, which I find strangely therapeutic but I know for some people – not so much. A super sharp knife makes this chore much less so, and even a little fun! Each pepper half counts as one or two servings…..sooooo…..how hungry are you? What size is the poblano to begin with? So many variables!!!! But count on all this serving four pretty easily, all things being equal. Leftovers are AWESOME….just be sure to put the stuffed poblanos away in one container, and the relish away in another. That pico is really good with chips too….not that you’ll have any left, but just sayin.
- 1/4 lb. fresh sweet Italian bulk sausage (or two sausages, casings removed)
- 10 ounces (or about three cups) roughly chopped raw mushrooms
- 1-2 plum tomatoes, chopped (the amounts are really up to you, remember you will need another couple of tomatoes for the relish as well)
- 1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese*
- 1 cup cooked quinoa**
- 4 poblano peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
- Salt and pepper to taste
- OPTIONAL (but not really...) Sour Cream
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 2 plum tomatoes, evenly diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and membranes removed, finely diced (careful with this one....some jalapeños can be scorching hot so let your tastebuds be your guide when you are deciding how much to use)
- 1/4 red onion, finely diced
- 1/3 cup (approx, no need to get crazy) chopped cilantro
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Get that quinoa cooked. 1/2 cup of dry will give you 1 cup of cooked quinoa, just follow the instructions on the package (one part quinoa to two parts water and a little salt, boil, cook, done, boom!) OR.....leave the quinoa out altogether.....this is nothing if not forgiving.
- Place the poblano pepper halves into a glass baking dish and add a scant teaspoon of water. Cover tightly with saran wrap and into a microwave oven for 5 minutes. Let this sit in there to cool down as you make the stuffing.
- Preheat your oven to 350°. In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat, breaking up with a wooden spoon or spatula, until browned, about five minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms and continue cooking, until the mushrooms brown and reduce in volume, another five minutes. Mix in the diced tomatoes and let this cook another minute. Add in the cooked quinoa and cheese and give everything a stir, combining all the ingredients together. Give it a taste ..... and add some salt and/or pepper! Perfect!
- Make sure to drain any remaining water from the pan of poblanos, you want them nice and dry. Spoon the mushroom mixture in and over the poblanos, there will most likely be more stuffing than poblano, and fallout is no problem! Place the stuffed peppers into the preheated oven for 25 minutes, uncovered.
- In a medium bowl, combine the yellow bell pepper, chopped tomatoes, red onion, the desired amount of jalapeño, cilantro, red wine vinegar and olive oil and give it all a toss. Taste for salt and pepper. This will be super vinegary and sharp and puckery! And that is just what you want to offset the richness of the mushrooms and sausage.
- Those poblanos won't look a whole lot different coming out than they did going in, but everything will be piping hot and good to go! Pop one (or two) poblanos onto a plate and give it all a dousing of the yellow pepper salsa, as much or little as you like. Garnish with a plop of sour cream if you want. ANd who wouldn't want THAT?
- Yum! This is so good, the yin from the earthy mushroom stuffing and the yang of the briny bell pepper relish along with the soothing coolness of the sour cream........ So good.
- * any cheese will work for this.....you'll notice the dish isn't covered in it, it just makes a little showing as sort of a binding agent.... add more or less as you prefer!
- ** Once again the quinoa adds bulk to the stuffing. You can use black beans or even spinach instead or leave it out altogether. I really like the texture it provides, tho.
- If you want to keep this meatless......I would suggest replacing the meat with a finely diced yellow onion, well sautéd in some olive oil, and then proceed with the mushrooms. Delish!