Thursday, October 6, 2011

Crocktober: Bell Peppers Stuffed with Rice, Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe from the Crock Pot

This dish is a great use for leftover rice and/or sausage, and besides maybe a side salad, it can be a complete meal in itself. I used white rice and sweet Italian turkey sausage, but you could use any kind that you like. I think wild rice with hot sausage would also be a good combination. You could also use leftover ground turkey, chicken, or beef. There is probably no reason that you couldn't use pork sausage or ground pork, I just wouldn't tell you to because personally I think it's gross. Couldn't tell you why.

I purposefully made extra stuffing, which cooked outside the pepper in the crock pot, for lunch the next day. (My expensive education at work, people!) Also in hindsight, I might add a tablespoon or so of lemon juice just to brighten up the bitterness of the greens. Still, yummy.
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 large bell pepper, any color
1 small carrot, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon butter, softened or diced
2 cups cooked rice (2/3 cup before cooking)
1/2 bunch broccoli rabe (leaves, broccoli bits and thin stems only - toss the thick ones), coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth or stock
2-3 cooked sausages, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds and casings removed
1/2 onion, diced
Salt and pepper
Cooking spray

1. If you haven't cooked your rice, do so according to package directions. Ditto on the sausage.
2. Spray the inside of your crock pot insert with nonstick spray. In a large bowl, combine rice, sausage, broccoli rabe, garlic, salt and pepper, carrot, butter, broth and onion. (You might want to use your hands).
3. Cut the top out of the bell pepper, like you would a pumpkin. Discard seeds and pale inner membranes. If necessary, cut a thin slice off of the bottom so that the pepper stands up on its own. Spoon rice mixture into the pepper, pack until it's stuffed, and rest the lid on top. (I snapped my lid, by accident. Don't do that).
4. Place the pepper (or peppers) in the crock pot, and spoon remaining stuffing (or as much as possible) into the space around the pepper. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or on high for 2-3. Dinner is ready when the pepper (and optional carrot) are tender.
5. Carefully remove the pepper from the crock, and serve with extra stuffing on the side.

Here's the thing. This recipe probably makes enough stuffing for at least 3 peppers, and even with filling in the space around mine, I still had some left over. Not that I'm complaining, since I am the queen of the Leftover Lunch, but... full disclosure, if you're dining solo, have some Tupperware handy. I used chicken broth, so the stuffing was a lot like solid chicken soup (plus sausage), which was definitely not unwelcome.
 I feel like if you're using white rice, or another kind that cooks fairly quickly, you might be able to just cook it with the stuffing and not beforehand, with the addition of more broth or water. But I didn't try that soooo I can't promise you that that will work. As a matter of preference, when I use cooked sausages in dishes like this I like to remove the casing before adding them, just because I think sometimes they interfere with the texture, but that's totally up to you. 

You could make this deliciously Mexicaney using corn, black beans (canned or previously cooked), tomato, and some chorizo if you felt like it in with the rice, served with shredded cheese. Or you could use mushroom & barley risotto and pine nuts on top. Or big, soft garlic-bread croutons and shelled fava beans. Or shredded cheddar and broccoli. And now I'm giving myself a headache. You get the idea.

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