My Stuffed Bell Popper is the bomb. Green bell peppers stuffed to the shoulders with ground meat, spicy pepper jack cheese, and creamy mashed potatoes are good enough on their own, but drape it in smoky bacon glazed with red pepper jelly, and it is otherworldly.
This stuffed bell pepper is a take on the ever-popular bacon-wrapped, jalapeño popper that has become ubiquitous in Cajun country meat markets and backyard grills. That particular dish is a cross-cultural import from our Tex-Mex neighbors, but my dish substituting the larger homegrown sweet pepper that is the centerpiece of every Cajun trinity brings home the bacon with a South Louisiana pantry of flavors.
I decided to make this dish the minute I set foot in my neighborhood Fresh Pickin’s Produce Market and saw the stack of bell peppers. These were fresh-picked bells that had that high-gloss sheen that signaled the care and attention that tended them to the peak of growth. And grow they did! These peppers are the largest I’ve seen in any local market, and with their wide girth, the perfect vessel for stuffing.
Wrapping food in a package with a surprise or two hidden inside is a particular culinary quirk I have and a common theme in many of my recipes. This tasty Stuffed Bell Popper is no exception. I like how the combination rolls up a complete meal—meat, potato, and vegetable—in one easily baked entrée.
And this Stuffed Bell Popper recipe is easy to make ahead, even a day or two ahead. In fact, giving the ingredients a bit of time for the flavors to mingle only enhances the final product. But, there are a few keys to this recipe: first, you must source extremely large bell peppers; green is best, but red or yellow will work, too. And be sure to mix the ground meat equally between beef and pork for the fat content that will bring added flavor to the dish. And the spike of Ro-Tel with jalapeño-infused jack cheese, and the red pepper jelly glaze brings just enough pepper to the popper.
- 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 extra-large green bell peppers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup diced yellow onion
- ½ cup diced green bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 (10-ounce) can mild diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained, such as Ro-Tel
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 medium egg
- 1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 4 slices pepper jack cheese
- 8 strips regular smoked bacon
- 3 tablespoons red pepper jelly
- In a large pot, add the potatoes. Fill with water to cover the potatoes and lightly season the water with salt. Over high heat, bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the water from the potatoes and using a potato ricer, process the potatoes until all lumps are gone. Return the shredded potatoes to the warm pot and stir in butter along with a grind of black pepper. Cover the pot and keep warm
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Slice the bell peppers lengthwise from just above the stem to the end. Remove these caps and dice them for use in the stuffing mix. Using a paring knife, form a deep cavity in the pepper by removing the inside ribs and seeds. Shake out any remaining seeds.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, diced bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté just until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the drained tomatoes and continue cooking until the flavors come together, another 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool (optionally, place the mixture in the refrigerator to expedite cooling).
- In a large mixing bowl, add the ground meats along with the cooled vegetable mixture. Break the egg into the mixture and add the bread crumbs. Using your hands, combine the ingredients so that they mix evenly.
- For each bell pepper, add enough of the mashed potatoes in the bottom to cover. Spoon some of the meat mixture to come almost to the top of the pepper cavity, and place pepper jack cheese on top. Next, mound enough of the remaining meat mixture to encase the cheese and create a dome on top. Lay strips of bacon on top.
- Place the peppers onto a foil-lined baking tray with just a bit of water to create steam. Cover the tray with the peppers with a sheet of foil closed tightly. Place in the hot oven for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, add the pepper jelly to a microwaveable dish with just a teaspoon of water; microwave on high for about 15 seconds, or until the jelly melts. The glaze should now be brushable.
- Remove the stuffed peppers from the oven, and uncover. Brush the bacon and the top of the meat with the pepper jelly glaze. Return to the oven for another 30 minutes, or until the bacon crisps, the glaze sets, and blackened bits begin to appear. Be careful not to burn.
- Remove the peppers and serve on individual plates.
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