Let's Eat!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Another Buffalo staple

Buffalo’s Stuffed Hot Peppers

In a city where spicy chicken wings and Italian food rule, stuffed hot peppers are high on the list of favorites. They are served as appetizers, snacks, and entrees in restaurants, pubs, pizzerias, bistros, bars, and taverns as well as Buffalo's Annual Italian Heritage Festival. They are even featured in submarine sandwiches and as toppings on pizzas.

Buffalo Chef Andy DiVincenzo was famous for his award winning stuffed hot peppers, and indeed, he may be responsible for creating the dish as it’s known and loved in Western New York. DiVincenzo, who died unexpectedly in 2004, served the peppers at his restaurant Billy Ogden’s, so named because the restaurant was located at the corner of William and Ogden Streets in the Lovejoy neighborhood, at one time a bastion of wonderful mom and pop eateries featuring locally renowned Italian fare. Chef DiVincenzo even represented the Buffalo Bills at the Annual Taste of the NFL in 2000, cooking and serving his stuffed hot peppers alongside such culinary stars as Todd English (representing Boston), Rick Bayless (Chicago), Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel (San Francisco), Vincent Guerithault (Phoenix), Bobby Flay (New York), and Susan Spicer (New Orleans).

Not all Buffalo stuffed hot peppers are created equally so of course, some are better than others. They are usually based on the banana pepper, also known as the yellow wax pepper or banana chili that ranges from mild to moderately hot. Stuffed hot peppers are also made with Hungarian wax peppers, similar to the banana pepper. For a definitive explanation of the differences between the two peppers, we recommend a visit to  HYPERLINK "http://www.melissas.com" http://www.melissas.com maintained by Melissa's/World Variety Produce, the largest distributor of quality specialty produce in the United States. The peppers are served cored and whole, allowing for the stuffing to be inserted from the top, or they are slit down one side and served open faced with the filling mounded on top. Hot stuffed peppers are also stuffed with a variety of different cheese fillings, and sauces range from plain old spaghetti sauce to creative meat-based toppings.

After much experimenting, Chef Rob settled on the following formula for hot stuffed peppers that deliver moderate heat enhanced by the deep, lusty flavor of the Italian cheese filling and meat sauce.

Buffalo’s Stuffed Hot Peppers

Meat sauce:

1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
2 ounces grated Romano cheese
2 ounces grated Asiago cheese
8 ounces ground pork, sautéed and drained well of all fat
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

10 -12 banana peppers or Hungarian wax peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ cups grated provolone cheese

Meat sauce:  

Filling: In a bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing well.

Peppers: Leaving the top intact, slit one side of each pepper lengthwise nearly to the bottom. Starting at the top about ¾ inch away from the beginning of the first slit, make another lengthwise slit that meets at the lowest point of the first, creating a triangle. Remove and discard the triangular piece of pepper that has been cut away. This creates an opening through which the peppers are stuffed. Evenly divide the stuffing mixture among the peppers. Place peppers on a platter, cover and refrigerate until stuffing is firm, about one hour.

In a wide 12- to 14-inch skillet over medium low heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 5 or six peppers, stuffing slit side up, and brown the bottoms, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place peppers on a baking sheet. Adding one additional tablespoon olive oil to the pan and repeat with remaining peppers.

Top each pepper with grated provolone, evenly dividing it among the peppers, and place them under the broiler until hot and golden brown. 

Meanwhile, reheat the sauce. Serve the peppers with a generous dollop of sauce for each one. Plan on 1 or 2 peppers per person as an appetizer or side dish.