Sunday, September 14, 2008

Goat Cheese Stuffed Peppers, Round Two

Round Two of my quest for the perfect goat cheese stuffed pepper, or rather for the perfect recreation of the bite-size stuffed peppers I had my last night in Barcelona at the excellent El Xampanyet, took place a few weeks back. To refresh your memory, the first round of peppers was tasty but was too heavy on the garlic and, due to the use of peppadews instead of bell peppers, a little too peppery to pair with the subtle goat cheese flavor.

So, with Carrie coincidentally in town to help out with my next attempt, I next opted for a jar of fire roasted red peppers, also packed in brine (not necessarily the brand depicted here, but something similar).

I was delighted to find that the jar contained several whole, peeled bell peppers (I was prepared for pieces); soon after removing and draining the peppers, however, Carrie and I realized that filling these peppers whole and intact would result in an alarmingly large quantity of goat cheese per pepper - much more than any mouth would want to take on. (Just think of what a ripe bell pepper looks like, and imagine the interior capacity - quite a mouthful!) Instead, I ended up halving each of the roasted peppers lengthwise.

I used the same ingredients, in roughly the same quantities, as before: about 7 ounces of goat cheese, a minced garlic clove (minced by hand this time rather than with a press), and several finely chopped black olives (despite the fact that Carrie's not an olive fan, she actually didn't mind these once they were safely masked in the goat cheese), plus salt and pepper. Because I knew I'd be using the Ziploc trick to fill the peppers, this time I went ahead and put my ingredients directly into the bag for mixing. This requires significantly more kneading/mixing than does the deviled-egg filling (you don't want anyone getting a huge chunk of garlic in a single bite), but is achievable, and it saves washing a bowl. Then, as before, I snipped a corner off the Ziploc. With the halved pepper lying open on the plate, I squeezed about a 3/4" diameter log of the goat cheese mixture along its length, then folded, or rolled, the edges of pepper half up around the goat cheese. After doing this for each pepper half, I put the plate in the refrigerator to chill until dinner - about two hours.
When it was time to serve, I sliced each pepper/goat cheese log into pieces of about 1 1/2" in length. If serving these as hors d'oeuvres, you might want to secure each segment with a pick; this would ensure that the pepper remains secured around the cheese but would also allow guests to avoid handling the slightly slimy peppers. For our casual dinner, though, I left them as is. We thought they were delicious. The goat cheese mixture stood up well against the more subtle red pepper flavor, and the balance of garlic against goat cheese was just right as well. I think this may have had to do with avoiding the garlic press; the slightly larger, and less juicy, bits of hand-chopped garlic result in a subtler flavor (in my opinion at least).

The pepper strips were a bit messier looking and messier to eat than the tidily self-contained peppadews, but in general we were happy. I would say if you're looking for more goat cheese flavor than pepper flavor, this is your best option so far.
Lesson learned:

#1 Mixing the goat cheese mixture in a Ziploc bag works well and saves washing a bowl. (Apologies to the environment for the whole disposable plastic bag thing.)

#2 Hand-minced garlic results in a subtle garlic flavor that provides a better balance with goat cheese than does pressed garlic.

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