As long-time Karmic Kitchen readers know, I am not a pepper fan. Not spicy, not mild, not even pickled. The only way my mom could get me to eat them as a kid was to stuff them with meat and then cover with a tomato sauce. Even then there would be pepper carcasses left on my plate. So I got to wondering if I could trick myself into making peppers more palatable ? But how to do that? Stuff them, yes, good idea, but with what? Of course, my go to comfort food, mac and cheese!
So the challenge I set for myself was to make a tasty mac and cheese stuffed pepper. First the pasta. The interior of a pepper is not huge. The pasta I would normally use seemed too large for my purposes. Luckily there are some mini-pastas out there that would work better. The two pieces of pasta in the middle are a normal size while the surrounding are minis. I decided on the mini-shells. Next I had to choose my peppers.
I could of gone normal size but I really like the size of the mini-peppers. They seem sweeter, less pepper-tasting than the full sized. Oh yeah and NO GREEN PEPPERS. Sorry green pepper lovers. Find your pepper porn somewhere else. So I've got my peppers and pasta, time to put it all together. I decided to try Cook's Illustrated Classic Macaroni and Cheese recipe. I've never had the need to test their recipe out because I like my own mac and cheese. However I was intrigued enough to give theirs a twirl. We all know what a CI geek I am but when it comes to mac and cheese, the good folks at the Test Kitchen seem to be lost in a sea of cheese. They can't seem to find their way to a truly classic mac and cheese. It's not their cheese choices or their béchamel sauce but it's their insistence to not bake the final dish, opting only to broil the topping for 3 minutes. What you're left with is a much more soupy dish than the classic pasta casserole. I have no idea what they ate as a kid but it wasn't my momma's mac and cheese.
Still I stuffed my peppers with it because once you get started on a creation, you should finish it. I had par-boiled my peppers to make them a little more pliable in the final dish and topped each with butter toasted Panko crumbs mixed with finely chopped bacon bits. You really didn't think I was going to leave out the bacon did you? Silly rabbits....
The taste was pretty good, the contrast of the rich cheesiness and the distinctly sweet pepper flavor was actually kinda fun. Here's what I discovered with the leftover mac and cheese that didn't go into the peppers. Put it in a baking dish, put on the same crumb topping, put it in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes and it came out much better than the stove top only version. Still needs a little more cheese flavor but I'm still taking it for lunch tomorrow.