Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Charred Tomato Sauce

Serves 6

The charred sauce is also good with huevos rancheros and steak.

12 piquillo peppers (see Note)

The tomato sauce:

2 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded, and thickly sliced
2 large tomatoes
1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

The stuffing:

1 1/4 pounds hanger steak or skirt steak
2 tablespoons olive oil and more if needed
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
3/4 cup diced peeled tomato
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground toasted cumin seed
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Remove piquillo peppers from can or jar. Drain in colander and pat dry.
Set aside covered in refrigerator. For the tomato sauce: Toast the dried
chiles in a hot dry skillet over medium-low heat. Press with a spatula. Do
not toast more than 1-2 minutes. You want the chiles to soften a little
and give off a whiff of chile fragrance but not darken. Set aside. Use the
same skillet to toast the garlic, onion and jalapeno until caramelized and
blackened on edges.

Char the tomatoes over a gas flame using a long fork or under the broiler.
They should be completely blackened. Cut the tomatoes in half. In a
saucepan, place the guajillo chiles, blackened tomatoes, garlic, blackened
onion and jalapeno. Add 2 cups water, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 15
minutes. Cool the sauce, then pour into a blender and puree until smooth.
Taste and adjust for salt and pepper as needed. Set the sauce aside while
you prepare the stuffing.

For the stuffing: Using a very sharp chef's knife, mince the steak.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add steak and saute until
caramelized and browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add onion and garlic and
lower heat a little to cook until the onion is translucent. Add the
tomato, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes more
so the tomato releases its juices and the steak is tender. Chill the
stuffing for at least 30 minutes so it will be easier to work with.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 375 .

The piquillo peppers tear easily, so handle them carefully. Hold in the
crook of your hand between your thumb and forefinger, like an ice cream
cone. I like to use my fingers, of other hand, to carefully place stuffing
into the pepper. Use about a rounded tablespoon per pepper. Lay pepper
down on flat plate and press a little. As you fill the peppers, lay side
by side.

When ready to serve, spread a half cup of the charred sauce in a heatproof
dish and lay the filled peppers on top. Place in oven for 8-10 minutes
just to heat the peppers. Return the rest of the charred tomato sauce to a
saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Spread a few tablespoons sauce on
each plate and top with 2 stuffed piquillos. Garnish with a sprig of
cilantro.

Note: Piquillo peppers are sweet and rich Spanish red peppers smoked over
wood fires. In the United States, they are available only in jars or cans.

Per serving: 255 calories, 22 g protein, 14 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat (4 g
saturated), 49 mg cholesterol, 719 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

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