Monday, August 31, 2015

Hatch Chilies- Put That In Your Sandwich And Stuff It

It's Hatch chili time again. Last year I roasted them, peeled them and made salsa. This year I want to do something different that really puts the pepper right out there to enjoy. I heard the Hatches were back in the big grocery stores so I went on a quest to find them. I struck out at the first store, where I had got them last year. Darnit. I was afraid I might have waited a couple days too long and was going to miss out. A quick plea to my friends on social media connected me with the right locations and Hatch chilies were acquired. Whew!

I'm not just playing with these guys though. I stopped at the local farmers market a couple days ago and snagged a nice bag full of gorgeous hot banana peppers- some yellow, some red. I love these guys! I have some great memories of banana peppers- my dad always grew them in the garden, my mom always made fried peppers and onions with dinner in the summer, and from my waaaay back years I remember getting a nice butt-paddling after overhearing my dad call the peppers in a neighbor's garden "bananas" so I went and picked them. All of them. Oops.

Of course no pepper experiment would be complete without America's favorite pepper- the jalapeno. To use them in this recipe I had to hunt down really good sized ones, and even at that, I'm going to tell you guys- don't bother with jalapenos. The banana peppers were thin and pliable and super easy to clean. Same with the Hatch chilies, but the jalapenos and their thick "meat" were really tough to get in there and get all the membrane out. If you REALLY must, they are delicious, but labor intensive. 

Growing up, one of Mom's summer specialties was the good old stuffed bell pepper. She made a simple stuffing- hamburger, rice, onions, tomatoes, some diced pepper, seasonings, piled into bell peppers and draped with slices of cheese, then baked until the cheese was browned and delicious. Nothing gourmet, but just really good and homey. I loved them. So as an adult I find myself experimenting with not only new pepper types and heat levels, but often revisiting those classic dishes and recipes and making them more "me" and more my cooking style. 

If you're not an Iowan you will never understand the deep rooted love we have for our Graziano's* Italian sausage, although I'd be willing to bet you have your own local favorite. For us Grazi's is the Holy Grail of sausage, for pizza and pasta and for fantastic Italian sausage sandwiches. We love our Grazi's cooked, draped with marinara sauce and cheese and served on crusty bread. I'm swooning just thinking about it. Many people like to pile theirs with grilled onions and peppers. All these flavors seemed to be speaking to me as I pondered what to make with the peppers I have, and then it hit me. Why not take that sausage, add some breadcrumbs, cheese and a little of my homemade habanero pizza sauce, squish it until it's meatloafy (yes folks, that IS a professional culinary term, I promise) and stuff it in those peppers? Genius! I couldn't just do a stuffed pepper though- that's too obvious and every day, and I wanted to do something completely different and that, my friends, is how Stuffed Pepper Po Boys became a thing.

Simple ingredients, you choose the heat level you like in your sausage, in your sauce. I used homemade habanero pizza sauce, but marinara or regular pizza sauce works just fine. Add crushed red pepper to any part of this dish- the meat, the sauce, sprinkle it on top. Use hot Italian sausage or mild, it's totally up to you. It is going to be delicious.

Stuffed Pepper Po Boys

1 lb Italian sausage
3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1 egg
1/4 cup minced onion
1 cup shredded mozzarella
10-16 peppers
additional marinara sauce
additional cheese
crusty baguette bread

Prepare the peppers- use a sharp knife and cut the stem end off. Carefully run the knife down the length of the pepper on ONLY one side- do not cut the pepper in half. Spread the pepper open and remove seeds and membrane and set aside. 

In a medium bowl combine the sausage, marinara sauce, egg, breadcrumbs and cheese. Mix well with your hands.

Again, spreading the peppers open with your fingers, stuff the meat mixture into the peppers, mounding slightly. Spoon a little additional marinara sauce on top of each pepper, spreading it out a bit. Place on a baking sheet and pop in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes.

Remove from oven when done and turn on the broiler. Sprinkle each pepper liberally with shredded cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese melts and starts to turn brown. Remove and let rest a few minutes.

Cut your baguette into sandwich size pieces and split in half. Spread with softened butter (garlic better is awesome) and broil until toasted and starting to brown. 

The stuffing stays so juicy- yum! You can serve with additional
sauce for dipping if you like, but it's not needed.
Top each baguette bottom with stuffed peppers to fill the sandwich. Top with the upper piece of bread and enjoy.

You can add any additional toppings you like, just like in the sub shop. I prefer to keep mine simple so I can enjoy the fresh peppers and that incredibly delicious Graziano's sausage. 

* I realized as I was writing this that we have not had an official Foodie Field Trip to Grazi's yet- so look for that in the very near future! Graziano's is an old old neighborhood grocery store with an incredible selection of Italian products, fresh meats, marinated olives, fresh baked breads and pasta.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you found the Hatches! This sounds and looks good.