Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Aarti Cooks: Fathers Office-Inspired Stuffed Peppers!

Y'all know how much the McSequeira household worships the burger and beer Shangri-La that is Fathers Office. We have our friends Andrew and Meta to thank for our obsession. A few years ago, they told us about the burger (a glorious creation topped with a bacon-onion compote, light blue cheese and arugula), and shortly thereafter, we were hooked.

Indeed, after FO opened their second branch a stone's throw from our house, I wondered whether the theory of (cue eerie whispery voice) "The Secret" could be true! Did Bren love and desire that burger so much that it manifested in his very own Father's Office 2 minutes from our abode?!

We haven't seen Andrew and Meta in way too long, so we had our reunion at you-know-where this week. It was great to see them and gobble that burger together.

Inspired by them and the burger, I made these stuffed peppers last night, built on an autumnal base of caramelized onions, apples and (oh yes please!) bacon. I added blue cheese to the mix, forgetting that I'm not a big blue cheese fan, so leave that out if you're like me. Next time, I might try Gorgonzola for a more delicate tang. Or maybe goat cheese. Hmmm.

Again, with economy in mind, this dish stretches out that pound of ground beef. Plus, since it's stuffed inside a pepper, it's easier to digest; my friend told me that we are meant to eat animal protein with some vegetable fiber so that it digests more easily (so steak and potatoes is actually a BAD idea. Steak and broccoli on the other hand is perfect).

One note -- I used Freekeh instead of the traditional rice stuffing.

Freekeh is a Middle Eastern grain as far as I can figure, probably from Syria? It's wheat that's picked early, hence the green tinge, and then dried out over coals, so the grains have an inherent smoky flavour that is just delicious. I found it at a specialty store here. If you can't find it, or if you don't WANT to find it, you can substitute with 1 - 2 cups of cooked rice, remembering that 1/2 cup of uncooked rice doubles in size once cooked.

This recipe is a tribute to Andrew and Meta, and of course to Father's Office. So without further ado:

Fathers Office-Inspired Stuffed Peppers with freekeh, caramelized onions, apples, bacon and a hint of brandy.

You'll need this stuff:

4-6 large bell peppers, big enough to stuff
1 cup freekeh, or 1 cup cooked rice
Olive oil
2 medium onions, medium dice
2 large apples, medium dice, skins on
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 rashers bacon, small dice
1 pound ground beef
Slurp of brandy or whiskey
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
1/4 cup blue cheese (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten

1) Bring a big pot water to boil, seasoning the water with salt once it's boiling. Meanwhile wash the freekeh and soak in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes.

2) Slice the tops of the bell peppers; I sliced about 1/2 inch off. Remove the ribs and seeds, saving the tops for a salad the next day. Rinse the bell peppers.

3) D
unk the bell peppers in the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes. Then, set them out to dry on some paper towel, cut side up. Bring the water up to the boil again, and add the drained freekeh, bringing the water down to a rolling simmer. Cook the freekeh for 30 minutes. (Alternatively, you can cook the rice in this water. It should only take 10 minutes, as opposed to the usual 15 minutes since there's so much water). Once the freekeh or the rice is cooked, drain and keep the grains aside.

4) While your grains are cooking, set a large skillet over medium-high heat and swirl a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in there. Once it's shimmering, add the onions and the apples. Season generously with salt and pepper. Saute until they start to brown around the edges (5-8 minutes).

5) Turn the heat down on the onion mixture. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, allowing the onions and apples to caramelize, turning a deep brown. Sprinkle the garlic on top now and gently toss. Move the onion mixture to the perimeter of the pan, and add the bacon to the empty space in the middle. Allow the fat to render and when the bacon has stiffened a little (don't let it burn!), stir into the rest of the onion mixture. Allow to cook another 5 minutes.

6) Turn your oven on, preheating to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Then turn the heat up a little to medium-high and add the ground beef. Stir, breaking up the chunks and cooking until browned and no longer pink on the inside.

7) Add a splash of brandy or whiskey to pick up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan; if you'd prefer not to use alcohol, you can use a little stock or even a little water.

8) Add the cooked grains, the ketchup and the worcestshire sauce. Toss and season according to your tastebuds; if you're going to add cheese, remember that most cheese has salt into it, so go easy salt-lovers. Off heat, add the cheese and the egg.

9) Place the bell pepper shells in a baking dish. Fill to the brim with the meat mixture, patting it down. You can top with some cheese if you like, but I like it bare. If you have leftover meat mixture, you can make a little freeform meatloaf on a foil-lined cookie sheet.

10) Roast for 25-30 minutes until the bell peppers have taken on a little color and the meat is browned on top. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, and then serve immediately! A simple salad with a slightly sweet dressing goes really well with this. And so does a nice beer.

What do you think?

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Anonymous said...

that looks so yummy!!! i must make it!-karen

Anonymous said...

omg andrew and meta not only got blog time but one of your yummy dishes dedicated to them! I am so jealous. I think more so that I didnt get to go to Father's Office.
xoxo Tara

ashley said...

I am hungry!

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